The Right Anchor

JHH5II-12146
Nothing like steady storm force winds in Greenland to make us glad we have the right gear.

Note that in March of 2019 we published an updated version of this article with substantial changes. We have left this version up, primarily because of the great comments attached, but you should not act on this older version, particularly since a dangerous weakness has been revealed in one of the anchors recommended below.

In the mid-90s a revolution occurred in anchor design that dramatically improved anchors. We can’t emphasize too strongly that the anchors that resulted from this revolution are the only ones you should use for your best bower (the anchor you normally use)—changing to one of these anchors is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your anchoring experience.

So let’s dive in and look at which anchors we recommend—including a couple for special situations—and which we don’t. Don’t worry, it’s simpler than it sounds.

Anchors We Recommend

SPADE

This anchor was the first of the new designs, invented by a French engineer and sailor. He came up with a number of design innovations including weight concentrated on the digging part of the fluke, a sharp chisel-like point, concave blade design and a hollow stock to improve the anchor’s balance, thereby facilitating fast setting.

How fast? In our early days with the SPADE we often dove on it to make sure it was set and we never saw it drag more than its own length prior to setting. Now we have such confidence in the SPADE that we don’t bother to dive on it at all.

We have anchored hundreds of times from the Bahamas to Greenland since buying our first SPADE in 2002.

We have never dragged a SPADE once set, and we have only failed to get a SPADE to set half a dozen times. Even when it has failed our setting torture test (more on that coming in Vol. 2), the SPADE just drags back very slowly with no tendency to skip.

The SPADE changed everything and even now, nearly two decades after it first appeared, it is still the best anchor you can buy for certain usage profiles. More on that later.

Rocna

Update September 2016: We now have new information about problems with the Rocna resetting after a wind shift. While we still feel it’s a good anchor, we are no longer recommending it for a best bower on a voyaging boat. See this chapter for more.

The Rocna was designed by a New Zealand sailor a few years after the SPADE and uses many of the same innovations but in a simpler design that is easier and cheaper to build.

The Rocna we own is at the end of the offshore lines that hold Morgan’s Cloud off our wharf here at Base Camp and it does a great job without budging, even when the wind blows hard from abeam—an anchor holding torture test if ever there was one.

And based on extensive interviews we have done with other voyagers that have used Rocnas for years, we are confident in saying that it’s a great anchor.

During 2011 Rocna was embroiled in controversy when it surfaced that they had moved manufacturing to China and in the process started using a lower grade steel than that advertised on their web site. It is not clear that this actually caused any real problems, but customers were justifiably upset.

Late in 2011 Rocna licensed a Canadian company that has pledged to fix the problem and replace the lower grade anchors for free. As I understand it, both have now been done.

Rocna and a SPADE, a Comparison

JHH5-13426-Edit.jpg
Here is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Rocna Advantages

Short Scope

The SPADE is not great at setting in difficult bottom types on a scope of less than about 4:1 in relatively shallow water. (Interestingly, at least with a chain rode, the SPADE has no problem setting on 3:1 scope, even in rocky and weedy bottoms, once the water gets deeper than about 75-feet.)

The Rocna will reliably set on 3:1 scope in just about any bottom type and any water depth. (We still recommend a minimum 5:1 scope.)

One Piece

The Rocna is made in one piece and so there is no bolt holding it together to worry about, as there is on the SPADE.

Having said that, despite the well publicized loss of a boat off New Zealand some years ago, we don’t believe that there is any real danger of a SPADE coming apart in use since the bolt is not load-bearing and it is secured with a split-pinned aircraft nut.

Projected Area

We have had occasional problems setting the SPADE in very thin mud, like that in some parts of the Chesapeake Bay, particularly on short scope. The Rocna will do better in these conditions due to its larger projected area for a given weight.

Re-galvanizing

The Rocna is made entirely of steel and so can be easily re-galvanized, whereas the SPADE has lead poured into the tip that will have to be melted out before re-galvanizing and then replaced after—not a big deal but still a bit of a pain.

SPADE Advantages

Stowage

JHH5-13428

The SPADE is much easier to stow than the Rocna since it is smaller for a given weight and has no roll bar. Also, it can be disassembled into two pieces to stow below.

More Streamlined

The SPADE is much more streamlined when stowed on a bow roller and therefore subjects the bow roller assembly to lower loads in wave strikes. Don’t underestimate this issue: The loads that a big Rocna is subjected to when the bow of the boat is driven hard into green water are pretty impressive.

Resetting

We have never had (or even heard of) a SPADE fail to reset after a wind shift.

On the other hand, we have now credible information indicating that  Rocnas can fail to reset after a wind shift.

We believe that due to its shape and the weight in the tip, this simply can’t happen with the SPADE.

No Roll Bar

Rocna tout the roll bar as an advantage. We are not at all sure about this. The fact is that any roll bar anchor can be fouled by a rock or other debris and, if that fouling is bad enough, said anchor will be useless until it’s hauled, cleared and reset.

On the other hand, the SPADE has always worked very well for us in hard bottoms full of rocks and weed, and we have anchored in that stuff a lot in the high northern latitudes.

Strength

As far as I know, there have never been any questions about the steel SPADE’s strength and I can personally attest that we have abused ours horribly without any damage, right up to using the full power of our big engine, with the chain rode up-and-down, to tear it out of snags.

And the SPADE’s fabricated construction, particularly of the stock, which is made of three pieces of steel welded in a hollow triangle, is intrinsically stronger, weight for weight, than any other anchor we know of.

Kelp
Even with this much kelp our SPADE regularly burrows through to the bottom and holds.
Even with this much kelp our SPADE regularly burrows through to the bottom and holds.

We have first hand experience using the SPADE in very thick kelp with great success. It just burrows through to the bottom, pretty much no matter how thick the weed. The Rocna has more trouble here, due to its larger fluke area and roll bar—just more to get hung up or fouled in the weed.

Aluminum

The SPADE is available in aluminum which, while we don’t recommend that material for a best bower (main anchor), is a great solution for a secondary anchor since a comparatively large aluminum SPADE can be easily handled and even set from a dinghy. (More on that in the next chapter.) The Rocna is only available in steel, galvanized or stainless.

Other Factors

Ultimate Holding

You will notice that I have not mentioned ultimate holding load, that number beloved of anchor testers. This is no accident. We believe that either anchor, properly sized and set, will hold through just about any storm.

In our own case we have repeatedly rode out full storms and, on a couple of memorable occasions, hurricane force winds with multi-directional gusting—once on just 3:1 scope in 100-feet of water—while securely anchored by our SPADE.

So, frankly, we think that endless discussions of the ultimate holding numbers of the two anchors, derived from tests, are a waste of time.

Expense

The SPADE, because of its fabricated construction, is intrinsically more expensive to build than the Rocna and therefore often priced higher. But that should not enter into your decision until all other issues have been ticked off. We are talking about a piece of gear that can save your boat or even your life—this is no place to put price ahead of other considerations.

Which?

If you are heading for the high latitudes, we recommend a SPADE as best bower (primary anchor). The advantages in weed, rocks, and resetting in the kind of multi-directional gusting you get in the high latitudes are just too compelling to make any other decision.

On the other hand, if you will primarily anchor in places with very thin mud—for example the Chesapeake Bay—then the Rocna is the winner, but be aware of the reseting issue.

Other Recommended Anchors

There are two other anchors we feel comfortable recommending.

Luke

Scanned With Provia Profile

This is, in our view, the best implementation of the traditional fisherman type anchor and has the additional benefit of being built in three pieces, making it easier to stow and handle. Because of its configuration of a heavily loaded fluke being driven in to the bottom by the cross bar and its massive weight, it always sets in any bottom.

However, it has very poor drag resistance in soft bottoms because of the relatively small fluke area and it is a huge pain in the neck to launch and retrieve.

Up until the invention of the SPADE, we recommended this anchor for anyone going to places with rocky and/or kelp covered bottoms (common in the high northern latitudes) because the other anchors of the day were simply useless. We still have our massive 150 lb (70 Kg) Luke, but have not used it once since buying our SPADE.

Now we only recommend buying a Luke as a backup to a SPADE or a Rocna and then only if you intend anchoring somewhere with an extreme kelp problem, like the East Coast of Greenland or Baffin Island.

Fortress

The Fortress is an aluminum anchor, based on the old Danforth pattern. Where it really shines is in ultimate holding, particularly in soft mud where other anchors may struggle.

Note that to get this good soft mud performance you must install the mud palms and change the fluke angle to the course setting.

A Fortress anchor.

Don’t buy a Fortress as your primary anchor since it is near useless if there is any weed on the bottom, or in rocks. It is also subject to bending if the fluke tip gets fouled on something and you have to really yank on it to get it free.

And Don’t set a Fortress on an all chain rode. Unlike most anchors, which set best with as near horizontal a pull as possible, the Fortress needs to have the stock lifted off the bottom a bit to set. This is easy to do with a rope rode, even with a small chain leader, but difficult with all chain.

So, with these caveats, why are we still recommending the Fortress?

The design has three big benefits:

  1. It’s light and breaks up into several easily stowed pieces so you can carry a really huge one, even on a small boat, that could save your boat in a really bad blow.
  2. Its lightness and shape mean that you can easily set it from a dinghy. In fact, our Fortress has saved our bacon on two occasions in just this way.
  3. It could save the day in very, very soft mud.

Summary

Just four anchors make it to our recommended list and two of those, the Luke and Fortress, only for specific conditions.

We know there are other good anchors but these are the only ones that we have enough reliable experience with to recommend without reservation.

Anchors You Should Not Use

You need to know about the problems inherent in these still popular anchors:

CQR

Dead CQR

This was our primary anchor before the SPADE and we can tell you categorically that using one of these will give you endless problems that will make you doubt your ability to anchor and negatively affect your sanity.

The CQR is difficult or impossible to set in many different bottom types including hard sand, weed, and shell. Even when it does set, it only does so after dragging some way, which increases its chances of fouling.

It does work well in the thick glutinous mud of the English East Coast (the CQR’s home turf), but then so does just about any anchor.

If you have a CQR, get rid of it or you will never be a happy anchorer. Ours is now a lawn ornament in Norway.

By the way, if you think a genuine CQR is a poor anchor, the copies are truly useless.

Bruce

Up until the wide adoption of SPADE and Rocna this was the anchor for many experienced long distance voyaging sailors, mainly because it sets very quickly in most bottom types.

Some of these same experienced sailors will tell you that it’s still the best. But that’s only because they have not tried a SPADE or a Rocna.

The Bruce has three dangerous failings:

  • Ultimate holding is very poor. Most users compensated for this by buying a massively oversized Bruce, but even then the holding does not measure up to the Rocna or SPADE.
  • When a Bruce breaks out under load it tends to skip across the bottom, resulting in a very fast drag rate.
  • The Bruce can also foul with round rocks or even, as one friend of ours found out, conch shells. When fouled in this way a Bruce is about as effective as a concrete block.

Delta

The Delta is probably a reasonably good anchor when compared to the CQR, but it does not hold a candle to a SPADE or Rocna, so why trust your boat to one when there are much better alternatives? The bottom line is that no plough shaped anchor is ever going to hold as well as one with a concave holding surface.

Others

It seems like every year some inventor claims to have come up with “the perfect anchor” many of them strange shaped or with weird “features”. If you want to test one of these, fine, but we only recommend anchors that we know work well.

We also see a lot of thinly disguised copies of the Rocna, and most lately the SPADE, on the market. These may, or may not, be as good as the original, but since their usual claim to fame is a lower price or some dubious, at least to me, feature—the rock slot in the stock of the Manson Supreme comes to mind—I wouldn’t bet my boat on it.

Again, our recommendation is to stick with the originals and forgo the copies.

Having said that, as the son of an engineer who was repeatedly ripped off by copies of his patented inventions, I do have a visceral dislike of products that copy the breakthroughs of others, rather than actually moving the technology forward through innovation. The point being, you should be aware of my prejudices (we all have ’em) as you read the above.

Comments

If you have had great results from an anchor not mentioned here, or poor results from one that is, by all means tell us about it, we are always interested and there is always more to learn.

Disclosure

I really liked and had a huge amount of respect for the late designer of the SPADE—we bought our first one directly from him—but then I also have huge respect for the designer of the Rocna, so that’s a wash.

We paid the same price as anyone else for our Rocna, Fortress, Luke and our first two SPADEs. But then five years ago the North America distributor for SPADE gave us a brand new bower to replace our battered and rusty old one, which, by the way, is, I believe, still doing sterling duty on a teaching sailboat.

The same distributor has long been a corporate member at AAC.

I assure you that none of this influenced what I wrote above…the price to corrupt me is way higher than that! 🙂

Finally, the fact that I always write SPADE in caps is not some devious attempt to influence you. The reason is that SPADE is an acronym, although I have to confess I don’t remember what the full name is.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Learn About Membership

Subscribe
Notify of
95 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Colin Speedie

Hi John

excellent and very fair assessment.

One small point – the Fortress is a great anchor, and well worth carrying (I’ve had one since the early 90’s), and it can be made to hold well in thin mud. The proper Fortress (NB not the Guardian they also make) offers two settings for the flukes, 32 and 45 degrees. It’s a faff to dismantle it and change the setting but it really works in soupy mud at 45 degrees (normal setting is 32 for all other bottoms). Changing to that setting makes more difference than the mud palms, useful though they are.
Great anchor as a kedge, too, as it’s so light, and in a straight line at least has excellent holding power. Ideal for boats like ours as a stern anchor when taking the ground.

Best wishes
Colin

Marc Dacey

Colin, this is also my experience with the Fortress set to 45 degrees, plenty of holding in loose silty stuff unto it slips out at 1:1 with an easy tug. I freely admit my experience is not in the same league as yours and John’s.

I welcome any talk of anchor discounts for members, by the way. The difference between “good enough” and “fit for purpose” often comes down to cost and perception, which is why there are so many Bruces and CQRs still rusting on rollers.

pat synge

I agree about the Bruce being a good one to avoid.

We were fooled by the hype back in the early ’80s and bought a big beautiful Bruce and designed the bow roller arrangement to suit.

It dragged consistently – even in fairly good holding ground. It would skip across the bottom of firm mud rather than penetrate and sometimes I brought it up with a boulder firmly held between its flukes: as if they were designed to do so. We got rid of it.

I have yet to find an anchor that sets when you lower it into a sunken supermarket trolley. Any ideas?

Matt

The Bruce was originally designed for oil rigs, ships and other very large applications. It works very well in those sizes (hundreds or thousands of kilograms). The design doesn’t scale down easily, though. I think the main reason you still see a lot of them is that they’re very cheap to make as one-piece castings, as long as you don’t care too much about strength / quality.

Erik de Jong

Hi Matt,

I agree with your observation. A Bruce of less than 30kg (66lbs) is close to useless. I do however have extremely good experiences with Bruces of 30, 50 and 80 kg on various boats over the past 30 years (OK, first 10 years as an infant, but none the less). An estimate is that I spend about 2000 nights/days behind those anchors, including 3 hurricanes, and the times that my hook let go or couldn’t get a grip can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the honest truth. I think that is a pretty darn good track record, as I doubt if a modern anchor would have saved the day in those situations.

One of the things often done wrong with a Bruce, and partially the cause of allegedly being the worst anchor available, is the setting technique. A Bruce likes to be dug in with a scope of no more than 1:2 at a very slow speed, followed by engine at 50% power, increase scope to 1:3 and rev engine up to full power. If done in this order, a Bruce will not let go. But one of the great features is that you can very often safely anchor on a scope of 1:2 or 2.5, great for snug anchorages, often eliminating the need for shorelines or stern anchors as you require much less swinging room.

I do agree with John that a Bruce needs to be sized bigger than a modern anchor to get the same holding power, but in my opinion, modern anchors are heavily over priced and per kg of saved weight not worth it within my budget.

Any steel structure should not come in at higher than $10 per kg manufacturing cost. But still, a 50kg anchor of modern type is going to run you $2000+. So instead of a 50kg Spade or Rocna, I opted to get an 80kg Bruce (again) as replacement for the anchor I lost this summer while off Ellesmere Island. A 30kg weight saving would have been nice, but would have come in at $50 per kg.

A long time ago, I calculated that a weight saving in the top of the mast was allowed to cost $100 per kg, half way the mast $50 per kg, at deck level $18 per kg, and under the waterline no extra costs justified going with lighter weight. This all to protect a limited budget available to build an equip a boat. I did not want to make any concessions to quality, so weight saving had to be achieved by smart design rather than expensive gear.

As long as my Bruce’s keep on treating me the way they have over the last three decades, and other anchors remain heavily over-prized, I will probably not consider upgrading to a modern anchor, unless I win vast sums of money at some point.

Colin Speedie

Hi Erik
I’m largely with you on this one. When I was first working in Scotland in the early nineties, there was a steady move to the Bruce by the bigger boats in the charter fleet, largely because it was a good all-rounder and dealt with the wide variety of seabeds up there pretty well. But these were all big anchors, say 50 -80kg as you suggest.
I used one personally for a few years, but it was only 15 or 20kg (I can’t remember) and it was the most capricious anchor ever – held well one day, dragged the next. I’ve since used one on a charter boat up there (20kg knock-off) and the result was the same.
I’m intrigued by the method you use to set the anchor, and am glad to say it’s close to my own technique with the Bruce!
But to sum up – I wouldn’t touch one less than 50kgs, and I don’t like the look of most of the knock-offs – the original Bruce was a quality item, and most of the ones I’ve seen since are very inferior offerings, by the look of them. And I still believe that the Spade and Rocna are far superior all rounders (in my experience) and at far more manageable weights for the average boat.

Best wishes
Colin

Stephen

Hello John,
While the Rocna holds well in all your described seabed types, I can attest that its not very effective at all in coral seabeds as we are experiencing now in the Maldives. We have a 40kg one attached to our 16Te cat and slowly lay out 1:3 to 1:4 before tightening up and end up with a 50% chance of it dragging, quite often very easily, across the seabed, only to retry again and again. Any other type of seabed and Im very pleased. Coral strewn seabeds are likely better held with a fisherman type if a coral can be found strong enough to hold the boat. Its what fisherman here use along with grapnal hooks.

What is a good coral holding anchor?
It would seem a matrix of anchor type vs material type would be useful to evaluate ones needs.

PS: im not an advocate of putting my hook onto a lovely coral seabeds however the Maldives haven’t yet embraced the benefits of moorings for their enviroment and this has been the subject of a few meetings Ive had with local authorities.

Svein Lamark

HI John,
Like you I am a fan and user of Spade anchors. However it should be mentioned that both spade and Rocna are a modern variations of the older Bugel anchor made by Rolf Kaczirek, Germany. The Bugel has a sharp pointed fluke and a roll bar and much the same holding power as the modern versions. The advantage with the Bugel is the price, it is cheaper. German expedition ships (such as Dagmar Aaen and Olav Trygvason) often prefer the Bugel. They can have bigger anchors and more anchors since the price is low. A Bugel can be a good alternative to the expensive Spade.
If you study the anchor list at the worlds biggest supplier of anchors
http://www.sotra.net you can see a lot of other types of anchors. Bruce is a good offshore anchor when 2000-3000 kgs. The small yacht seize Bruce is not good. The only offshore anchor I know that works good when made smaller fitting a yacht is the D`Hone. Sometimes my D`Hone even beats my Spade!

Svein Lamark

Hi John,
My point when mentioning the big anchors from the offshore industry is just that cheap, small and light copies of well respected big anchors, do not work good. I often se this problem in Norway. We have a lot of cheap copies. The only small copy I have seen working well is the D`Hone in 39kgs. As Eric Klem tells the Spade can fail on grass. My 20 kgs and 55kgs Spade have both failed on grass, but the D`Hone has not. On the other hand, grass bottom is getting very rare in Northern Europe (Probably also the reason why the fish eel is getting so rare).
The Fortress anchor I hate. I had one and it made many problems and bad nights and I am happy I lost it. I stick to the Spade, but I still think price is relevant. Since the Bugel is made in Germany I suppose it is more relevant for European sailors than to sailors on other continents.

Marc Dacey

John, your anchor is really the 55 kg and not the 55 lb. model (S200 vs. S120 model in SPADE’s tables)? I know you have a big boat, and I agree in principle with the “one size up” rule of thumb, but that the size SPADE recommends for an 82-footer!

Matt

Re. the “100 pound magic”.
I’m reasonably convinced that this is related to the pressure on the leading edge of the fluke as it cuts into the soil. That pressure increases with anchor weight – if you double the weight, the area of the leading edge goes up only slightly, particularly if the edge is sharpened a bit.
Consider a garden shovel. Its own weight is not enough to penetrate the soil. So you step on the trailing edge of the blade, and it penetrates a bit deeper, but not by much. As you gradually apply more weight, all of a sudden you exceed the bearing capacity of the soil, and it slides right in.
You want enough pressure on the leading edge to reliably cut into all types of seabed using the anchor’s weight alone. 40-ish kg against a leading edge span of 50 cm or so gives about the right cutting pressure for the anchor alone to be able to exceed the bearing capacity of most common seabed materials, and therefore to slide in cleanly rather than dragging across the surface or repeatedly skipping out before fully setting.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

In general, I think that your recommendations for anchors are very good and they match my own experience with the anchors (~350 nights on our Rocna and ~50 nights on the SPADE). The only place we have struggled (and it wasn’t much of a struggle) with either was setting the SPADE is heavy grass and I suspect the difference in our experience from yours may be due to anchor size.

I do still think that there are specific places where other designs are superior to those recommended so if one is going to sail exclusively in that area, they may do better to get a more specialized anchor. Higher up in the comments, the example of a coral bottom was given and I have also heard that “new gen” anchors can struggle in Chile. An example that is probably applicable to more people that I have a decent amount of personal experience with is the pacific northwest. Many of the most beautiful and secluded anchorages require anchoring on insanely short scope where I still think that the Bruce (and maybe the Mantus but I have never used one there) is superior despite disliking it for our home waters of the US east coast for many of the reasons that you state. As this website is geared towards people who cover a lot of ground, I think your recommendations are spot on as they represent the best all-around options but for people who stay local and have challenging local conditions such as really short scope, I still believe that there can be specific anchors which are better suited.

As you know from my report in one of your other anchor posts, we have been quite happy with our Mantus for the 1 season we have had it so far. I believe that it has slightly superior performance to the Rocna, specifically in terms of short scope and not loading up material against the roll bar. To me, the question is whether the designer pushed the trade-off between performance and strength too far but I am unaware of any real world problems (ignoring 1 bent shank from when they were still made of mild steel).

Eric

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Thanks for the response. I don’t want to defend the Bruce too strongly as I feel that there are much better options available but it is better at short scope than anything I have used with the exception of the Mantus and a 500lb fisherman even at small sizes because it actually sets which most anchors simply won’t do in this situation. I shouldn’t admit how small the anchor we were using in the PNW was but it was a 33lb genuine Bruce and had an incredibly high set rate at only 2:1 scope with a mixed rode. There were a decent number of Rocnas last time we were there and we had multiple occasions where people struggled to get them to set at the short scope right next to us with what looked like reasonable technique. I still have another 33lb Bruce sitting in my shop which was very happy at short scope on the east coast provided that there wasn’t grass. We used to have a 4lb? Bruce dinghy anchor which I manually dragged around the beach a few times (and it dragged alarmingly easily) and I came to the conclusion that it actually worked better at shorter scope as it was more likely to roll flat whereas at long scope, it tended to stay on its side.

You point about people being very happy with what they have and not realizing that there are better options is definitely true. When I first watched the videos from Yachting Monthly on Pelagic, I had the same reaction as you of being stunned that they use a CQR. I just re-looked up the testing reported by Evans Starzinger in Chile which was one of the references I have heard to problems with roll bar anchors there and I noticed that the failures they saw were all with a knock-off of the Manson Supreme so the real problem may have been a poorly executed knock-off rather than the anchor type. It is good to hear that the Barnes have had good luck with their SPADE there.

To me, the bottom line is that unless you stay very local, the recommendations made in the post are probably the best option. While they may not be optimal in every single bottom, checking the set can catch almost all of these issues leading to dragging being very unlikely although you may need to find a different place very occasionally. I honestly think that the biggest improvement to my stress level in cruising in the last 10 years is due to anchor design and not chartplotting or anything else.

Eric

Steven Schapera

As always, there is so much to learn from the writings here. Thank you. On my Shearwater 45 I went from many years of a problematic CQR to (now) two years of a never-fail SPADE. Admittedly all my anchoring has been in the Med, mainly around Sardinia and Corsica, but a wide range of bottoms and weather conditions. With the “safely anchored” box ticked, I have one less thing to worry about at night. And certainly I am not worrying about what I paid for my anchor!

Marc Dacey

There are very few boats I’ve envied in terms of function meeting beauty. The Shearwater 45 is one of them. Nice to see the owner of one here.

Nick Kats

Rocna just came out with a new anchor design, the Vulcan. This was in response to the complaints about the roll bar. It is very similar to the Spade. I expect that the Vulcan probably acts like the Spade in piercing heavy kelp.

Brian

I spoke with the USA Spade distributor at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show this past November, and he was of the opinion that the Vulcan is a copy of the Oceane that they manufactured years ago, but discontinued due to its poor performance.

There is a discussion and image of this anchor at the link below:
http://kb.rocna.com/kb/Spade_and_Sword_anchors

Ted Tripp

Any thoughts on the new Rocna anchor, the Rocna Vulcan?

Ann

We bought a 30kg. steel Spade last year based on the recommendations on this site and we were impressed. It has set first time every time, except in two cases of very heavy kelp in Greenland where we had to give up and move on. We were very grateful when we didn’t budge an inch anchored during a frightening F9 when other boats around us were dragging. When we raised anchor (with difficulty) the shank looked like a banana. We were worried that trying to straighten it may affect the strength and as we had only used the anchor <10 times we contacted the manufacturer. Although their warranty doesn't cover shank bending, they were kind enough to send us a replacement for just the shipping cost. Unfortunately this was $400 to our current Arctic location, but, now our anchor is like new again and we will continue to use it with confidence.

Ann

I think it’s bent in both planes, more of a twist. The wind was probably more than I said (steady 50, gusts to 60), the bottom was mud with a bit of gravel in it. Our all-chain rode’s scope was about 7:1 (couldn’t put out more due to close boats). We bought the S140 (manufacturer recommended for 65 ft., 44000 lbs) which is one size up for our 15ton, 13metre boat. Based on our experience, it’s true that maybe now we wish we’d gone two sizes larger.

Ann

No, there was no sea running in. We had two, 10 metre, 3/8″, 3-strand nylon snubbers which broke (not chafed) one after the other (we’re now using 12 metres of 5/8″). I don’t think there was a crevice, but, the depth of the set may have acted like one? The anchor was really hard to get up, but, it was mostly bottom suction from being so deeply buried which just took us time to work it loose.

Marc Dacey

Hm. Now I’m wondering if I should go up two sizes as well. Not that I plan on quite the Greenlandic latitudes of you explorer types, but we have a 15 tonne, 41 foot steel pilothouse with windage at the stern. But I’m probably anticipating the next “chapter”, aren’t I?

John, the 3/4″ snubbers make sense for your boat, just as 7/8″ dock lines make sense. I have 3/4″ dock lines with rubber snubbers and heavy springs and I’m at the end of a dock beam to the prevailing wind. I’ve never regretted it in a blow, and I’ve seen less tied-down boats come free.

Richard

Hmmm, I wonder why Mantus Anchors were not mentioned?
They set better than Rocna in hard packed sand with weeds

Colin Speedie

Hi Richard
I think the reason for that is because John & Phyllis have based this advice on what they know – i.e. real world experience over many years in tough areas of the world. If I had written the same article I’d have based it what I know, which would be nearly ten years of anchoring with Rocna anchors. And, as John has quite openly stated, we all of us learn from the wealth of experience amongst our readership to help us all get a handle on what’s out there beyond our own experience.

But your comment about the Mantus raises a good point, and it’s one that John has referred to in the article, and I wholeheartedly agree with. Most of the ‘new generation anchors’ have some small advantage over the others, which might be highly valuable in the area you cruise. If you have to anchor on short scope all the time, the Mantus may (I don’t know – I haven’t tried one, but several people I respect say so) have an edge over the others that would persuade you to buy one – and why not? It would make perfect sense.

What’s more important (in my view) if you’re going long haul is the best all rounder, unless you have the space to carry a variety of anchors, and have a full wallet to afford to buy them!

Lou and I have enormous faith in our Rocna(s). In three years of commercial sailing in places like the Outer Hebrides through to living aboard much of the time since then we have never dragged anchor once, and reckon that we can remember almost every one of the times when we’ve failed to achieve a solid set first time. The Rocna’s have saved our bacon on several occasions.

So I’d be amazed if there were to be a new design that could do much better as an all rounder – but I’m perfectly ready to concede that each design may have an edge in certain circumstances. They’re all good in my view, and as Eric quite rightly states above, these anchors have made the greatest difference to cruising ‘peace of mind’ in a generation.

Best wishes

Colin

Fuss

My Bugel anchor shank bent about 10cm horizontally. The situation was 40 knots with a 180 degree windshift and then 40kts again holding 27 tons. It wasn’t very deep so there was some waves I suspect that it jammed at 90 degrees in a crevice as I had problems to get it out later. (came out with a bang). The shank is 20mm thick, which is thicker than many but it is just normal steel I think. I just bent it back in a press. Its my spare now as I move up to 60kg.
I imagine all anchors would bend in marginal conditions if they did not rotate fully in a windshift.
If you look around the yards, then you will see that the thin shanked ones seem to sometimes get bent.

Brian Sheehan

A few quick comments about the Fortress:

– We recommend permanently installing the Mud Palms, which are a set of two metal plates that we have included inside the box with every Fortress anchor for the past 20 years or so. The Mud Palms will lift the back end of the anchor up so that the flukes take a more aggressive angle into the sea bottom, and they will help the setting performance in any type of bottom.

– It is ok to use the Fortress with an all-chain rode if you simply follow our advice to set it initially with a shorter scope to insure that the heavy weight of the chain does not sink the shank below the flukes. The Mud Palms will usually prevent this from happening, but a just to be sure.

If you check point 8 in the Safe Anchoring Guide below, you will see an image of what I am referring to.

http://fortressanchors.com/downloads/Safe_Anchoring_2013_F.pdf

Safe anchoring,
Brian

d

Dear Ann,
How good to hear from you. Not near thawing out yet, I suspect.
Thanks for the field report.
I am interested in the broken pennants. Were both pennants set to share the load (with their stretch characteristics, I suspect they had to)? You said they broke one after the other, but did they break at the same gust? (The time I worry about our single small pennant is when we have pulled far upwind in a lull giving the ensuing gust a lot of time to get the boat moving fast and then fetch up on the pennant hard.) Can you tell me where they broke? At the knot? You said there was not chafe. Was there evidence of heat build-up internally that might have occurred over a roller or through/around a chock?
I am curious as there is a reaction toward larger pennants which I think may be a questionable response to your report. 3/8ths is certainly small, but NE Ropes gives 4,000+ pounds breaking strength for 3/8ths and you had 2 of them.
I also would suggest that you inspect the length of chain for link elongation. It will be a pain (I mean with a caliper), but the kind of damage to your shank suggests that some impressive shock loading may have occurred, likely when the pennants snapped and the chain was essentially 2 blocked end to end. I believe chain is particularly vulnerable to that kind of abuse and may be left with far less strength. Those with real knowledge in this area please help out here.
My best to you and Glenn,
Dick Stevenson, Alchemy

Ann

Hi Dick,
Still hovering in the -30Cs here, hoping for some letup soon. The snubbers weren’t sharing the load, one was tied as a backup to the first. Both were brand new, so no prior heat/chafe damage. The first broke underwater about a meter from the knot. The second broke at the waterline. We’re not sure of the time interval between breakages. Our chain is also brand-new, but, it sounds like a chain inspection might be in order, thanks for pointing that out.

Matt

Shanks, on most anchors of the last 40 years, are twenty to forty times stiffer in the up-down direction than in the side-to-side direction. The buried anchor is supposed to pivot (and dig in deeper) as the load changes. If the anchor receives a strong pull or shock perpendicular to the shank, and is not able to pivot to follow the load direction, the shank WILL bend.

It’s worth noting that, when this happens, a good anchor continues to hold even with the bent shank. The metal’s allowed to yield, but not to break. Bending is a Good Thing – it means that a crucial piece of gear has been severely overloaded in extremely difficult conditions, and nevertheless continued to perform its safety-critical function until the crisis was over.

If you want an anchor that doesn’t bend when loaded in this manner, its shank will be three times thicker than current ones, and the anchor will weigh and cost at least 50% more with no real increase in holding power. Plus, it’ll no longer fit on most existing bow rollers.

Dick Stevenson

Dear John,
I have some concern that there is a knee jerk reaction to larger pennants. With anchors, few cruisers lament a larger anchor, but with pennants, larger is not always safer and a balance must be found between strength, length and stretch and conditions expected.
In the following I am looking at everyday anchoring choices by which I attempt (on Alchemy) even on predicted calm nights to be ready for things to unexpectedly deteriorate to Near Gale (30 knot) conditions without being concerned or making changes to my anchoring set up.
You did not specify, but your wish to go to ¾ inch nylon 3 strand sounded like an everyday anchoring decision. You mention that stretch can always be had by adding length, which is certainly true, but handling a good length of ¾ inch is not easy. Just tying on the 2 in-line rolling hitches you espouse goes from easy in a smaller pennant to real work in ¾ inch rope. Further, I suspect that ¾ inch will not give much bounce, especially in shorter lengths in everyday conditions.
Chain and anchor are fixed, but the snubber is easily changed. In everyday anchoring, I would suggest a smaller snubber. In tight quarters, I still get real bounce with only 6-8 feet. As the wind rises into gale conditions, it is very easy to bend on a new larger snubber and cast off the old leaving it on the chain.
For context, Alchemy (40 foot, 16 ton) has used a single 7/16 inch NE Ropes 3 strand nylon pennant of about 35 foot length for a decade now in our every day anchoring. It is easy to bend onto the chain with a rolling hitch and flexible (use short or long) for everyday anchoring and has provided good service into gale conditions with regularity. Sustained gale conditions we either bend on a 5/8 inch 40+ foot 3 strand dock line or (rarely) our storm bridle.
My best, Dick Stevenson, Alchemy

Marc Dacey

Dick, just to be clear (and also because coincidentially our boats share not only a name but are similarly sized), you use a single snubber of 7/16″ of some length up to gale strength. Do you use this single snubber from the waterline at the stem? I am inferring this from your mention of your bridle, which typically runs from bollards/cleats through fairleads down to the chain with either chain hooks or hitches. May I ask what size is this storm bridle and in what respect do you find it superior to a larger single snubber? Thanks.

Geoff

Hi John, Marc & all, we’re interested in the SPADE S100 (less than 52′ and 26,450lbs). Our 38′ Morgan 382 is 17,000lbs. and loaded around 20,000lbs. In your opinions should we go up to the S120 (less than 59′ and 35,270lbs) or do we look in the ballpark? We know this is just an opinion. Thanks

Dick Stevenson

Hi Ann,
That is interesting to me. One would expect the break at the knot or where the rope changes direction. It is hard to understand a break where you describe. Do you know who made the rope? Some manufacturers (as I understand it) do not use continuous strands which can make for some weak points. Seems like a stretch, but I have seen some pretty shaky feeling rope out there.
I am sure that you and Glenn are already on board with doing this, but I will mention this for others who may be reading along. When gnarly conditions occur I often back up our single 7/16 pennant with a line as back up to ensure that the chain is never 2-blocked, but always make it a larger line.
Minus 30C eh, stay warm.
My best, Dick Stevenson, Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
From my point of view, I would think the stainless steel construction (regardless of other construction attributes) of the Ultra would preclude it from consideration for anything other than deck decoration. Or did I miss an earlier comment to that effect?
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

John Burton

As a 15 year user and devotee of my Spade anchor I have read the Spade vs. Rocna debate with great interest. Nothing has persuaded me to change allegiance. Imagine my surprise then to read that Rocna are now producing a new anchor named the Vulcan which can be viewed on the Rocna website. The similarities to the Spade design are breathtaking. I’ll await reviews and testing results with great interest.

Chris

Hi Manuel,

I have a lot of respect for the Mantus. The bolts are massively over-sized for the loads. I wouldn’t worry about that.

In my opinion, one of the coolest anchoring resources on the net today is this thread on Cruisers Forum. It’s hundreds and hundreds of underwater photos of actual anchors “in the wild.” You’ll never buy another CQR or Delta.

The photographer has a Mantus and there are many photos of his sets. They are all excellent, even in substrates where most other anchors are struggling. He used to have a Rocna and liked it very much as well, but feels the Mantus is a bit better, perhaps due to wider “ears” and a sharper edge.

The new Mantus shaft is also made of the same high strength alloy the Rocnas used to be made from before they went to China.

Manuel Jose Berrocal

Hi again, can anyone explain to me why the SPADE has to have a lead tip or point and I hollow shank? So that the point can be heavier and the shank lighter and be able to sink in the bottom better?

Matt

These features are to ensure that the anchor’s centre of mass is in the right spot relative to its geometry.

They don’t affect ultimate holding, but they make a huge difference to how the thing rests on the seabed when you first drop it and are trying to get it to set.

If an anchor’s balance is wrong (and it doesn’t take much for it to be wrong), it’ll end up on its side, or skidding along the surface, without digging in.

Dawn Martin

Thank you! It appears the savings will be equal to several YEARS worth of AAC membership. Bonus!

Eric Klem

Hi Manuel,

We have owned a 65 lb Mantus for 2 seasons now and have just shy of 150 sets on it with our Canadian Sailcraft 36T which we have had weighed with empty tanks at 17,000 lbs. At the end of the first season, I posted my experience in the comments to the post “Rocna Versus SPADE, Strengths and Weaknesses”. Our experience this season was very positive as well and included a few more high wind events bringing up the statistical significance slightly. Keeping in mind that our sample size is small and comes entirely from New England and Nova Scotia, it has been the best performing anchor I have ever used and this includes Rocna, Manson Supreme and SPADE. Keep in mind that I have never dragged any of these anchors but I have had trouble setting them in certain conditions, especially really short scope.

The bottom line for me is that if we lost the Mantus tomorrow, we would go out and buy the exact same model. Also, if we didn’t already have a Manson Supreme as our backup primary anchor, we would have an identical 65 lb Mantus anchor as a backup along with our Fortress.

Eric

Pope Barrow

I use a Rocna as my primary anchor because my sailing grounds are often shallow water (Chesapeake Bay mud, Bahamas sand). With 4 years of experience, I sleep well, most of the time. However, if I buy another anchor, it will be a spade. Why? In 2014 in the Bahamas after a 180 degree tide shift, the Rocna turned and started to reset, but it reset into a large live conch which got caught in the roll bar. This prevented resetting, and we found ourselves leaving the anchorage for Portugal at 3 am. Portugal was not our destination.

Marc Dacey

I like the sailorly understatement! All I’ve read here is persuading me to go to a Spade as well.

Nick Kats

Pope & Marc – check the new Rocna, called the Vulcan. Much like the Spade – no roll bar.

Plus when the Vulc hangs downwards as it leaves the bow for the bottom, it looks like it will cut thru kelp much more easily. Whereas the Roc with its roll bar, hanging down, catches kelp on the way down. See videos or youtube clips of anchors you are interested in, in action, on their way to the bottom.

Stan Carlyle

The SPADE sounds like a wonderful anchor but the truth of the matter is that in the Pacific Northwest it is impossible to see one, never mind try to see if it will fit on my existing bowsprit. I have talked to the sole British Columbia distributor as well as the sole Washington State distributor and neither one has inventory but would be pleased to order one from the factory. I have been to many British Columbia and Washington State boat shows and have never seen a SPADE anchor on display.
On the other hand, I can walk in to almost any local chandlery and they will have a range of ROCNA and VULCAN anchors on the floor to evaluate an choose from.
I wish SPADE made it easier to evaluate and purchase their product.

Bob W

I have a Saga 43 currently on the hard in Nanny Cay. I purchased a Vulcan 25 (55lbs) anchor made by Rocna last spring and have now used it for more than 8 months from Long Island Sound to the Chesapeake Bay to the BVI’s. I anchor most of the time as I’m used to that having spent many many nights at anchor on the various boats that I’ve owned over 30 plus years. I also have a Hanse 37 in Canada which has been equipped with a standard Rocna 20 for 9 years.

The performance of the Vulcan has been fantastic. Sets quickly and does not break loose even in high winds and waves. The construction and finishing of the anchor by its Canadian fabricator is excellent as I’m sure you will see when you inspect one at your favorite chandlery. When I bought the boat it had a rusty Spade on the bow which was literally flaking apart and you could see into the shank where the welded galvanized metal was formed into a shank. I don’t want an anchor that rusts like that one did.

Rob Gill

Hi Bob,
Thanks for the real-life testimony – we have a roll-bar traditional ROCNA, and the only criticism is the performance in weed. Do you have any experience with the Vulcan in weed?
cheers,
Rob

Lachlan Callander

Hi John – it’s always good to read sensible & considered replies from you/AAC [it’s the reason that, apart from a weather subscription, this is the only sailing site I pay to have full access to 🙂 ].

The full time cruisers we are with in the Med have a friend, also a full time cruiser, who experienced a bent Mantus stock. The circumstances were that after sustaining 40-50 knot winds for a couple of days in mid 2014 (exacerbated by a katabatic effect), the stock bent during retrieval in what were adverse conditions. As Mantus have a warranty that covers bending of their anchors they contacted Mantus and were told that over the previous year the quality had been upgraded to be made of ASTM 514 steel [note: I obtained this information from the person’s sailing blog]. The performance of the new anchor has been viewed most favourably by the Mantus owner I refer to above as he has similar sized Rocna & Mantus anchors on board and they’re currently selling their yacht with the Rocna attached while keeping the Mantus for their next yacht.

While the nature of the problem is different to the problem Rocna had with Chinese manufacturing, I wonder if the quality improvement in the Mantus should be recognised in the same manner that the quality improvement in Rocna following the Chinese manufacturing problems was recognised. I didn’t know if you were aware of the quality improvement that had taken place with the Mantus. If you weren’t aware I thought this worth mentioning as it may (or may not) allay your concerns on the strength of the Mantus stock.

rgds
Lachlan

Marc Dacey

John, old thread I know, but I finally committed on ground tackle and bought a SPADE (it helped they were on sale). I got the 30 kilo S 140, which is about “one and half up” for our boat and put it on the roller today. I mention this because your opinion counted in this decision. There’s a blog post on this if anyone’s interested on the website associated with my profile. Thanks for all the measured advice on this. I truly believe getting the correct ground tackle is one of the more important decisions one can make. Another is using it correctly.

Marc Dacey

It looks somewhat like a steel Fortress in terms of fluke area, but also like the old “Navy” style. Interesting. I now have a 30 kilo SPADE and two Fortresses and feel well-served, but I always like to hear of a new anchor pattern. Thanks for passing this on. The video suggests it’s heavy enough to reset in a reversal situation quickly.

Seabass

Great info!
Was just about to buy a Rocna, but now I will go for the Spade.
In your experience, is the recommended sizing by Spade adequate for extended cruising?
My boat is 39ft 9ton so I’m thinking I will go for the 20kg steel
Best regards
Sebastian

Bob Buck

I purchased a Spade (S140) in 2014 and can only give it mixed reviews. On the good news side, as John and many others have attested on this site, the Spade is probably the best grabbing, burying and holding anchor on the market in almost any seabed.
The bad news is that the galvanizing is inferior and my anchor began rusting almost immediately. In 2016 I finally decided I had to do something and discovered that because of the lead in the tip, re-galvanizing isn’t practical. I have also read that re-galvanizing the shank is impractical because it is hollow. On the Spade website they sell an epoxy based goop to “fix” rusting anchors. Although I was skeptical, I decided to purchase the stuff and applied it after meticulously following their prep instructions. I even had the anchor sand blasted, which the instructions said was optional. Within a few months the anchor began rusting again, mostly at the edges of the flukes (annoying, but I suppose not serious) and on the shank (perhaps more serious). Even if the rust isn’t compromising the anchor, it is leaving ugly rust stains all over my bow roller and foredeck, which I am tired of cleaning up. I suppose the fact that they sell this goop suggests they know they have a problem.
To make matters worse, when I have attempted to contact Spade USA for some advice, I have been largely ignored. I began E-mailing them this past August and did not receive a reply until October, stating only that they had lost my original E-mail and asking me to send it again, which I did. I have heard nothing from them since, despite trying to follow up with them. This is not the kind of customer service I would expect from a company supposedly selling a premium (at least in price) product.

Marc Dacey

Add “consumer advocate” to your sailing resume, John!

Bob Buck

Well I may not have been able to get their attention, but John sure did. Thank you!!! I always thought membership in this site was a good deal, but now it’s paying off in Spades (sorry). I have sent Alex my original receipt and he has promised to ship me a new anchor. I’ll keep you posted on how things proceed from here and on the quality of the galvanizing of the new anchor.

Carl Linley

I agree on the Bruce having low holding power. That was the reason we bought a SPADE . Fantastic anchor that we used for at least 15 years. The boat was a Little Harbor Wisperjet 40 . Just a coastal cruiser but we ran her from Maryland to The Canadian border with 38,000. Nm on at the end. The new boat came with an Ultra anchor that performs maybe a little better but gets a bad rap for being stainless. The smoother refined shape seems to cut into the bottom better. I know, how could it be better than a SPADE? Anyway, enjoying the anchor talk, thanks.

Andrew Craig-Bennett

I am very attracted to the Ultra, for use with a Cromox s/s chain, but I am some way from a decision. It seems hard to find reports of this anchor. The construction, as I understand it, seems good but one needs reports…

David

Hi John,
I just joined because of your anchor article. I have a 40 kg Rocna that I use on my North Pacific 45 trawler which, displaces about 40k lbs. I cruise in the PNW. I bought the Rocna because I was consistently told that they never drag. When I first started using it I never had any problems with it setting or dragging after a tide change. I had to replace the cheap swivel and went to a Mantus. I also started using a Mantus bridle. After that I had problems with it setting and dragging. I don’t think that the change of the swivel and addition of a bridle was the reason. I think that the more time and more anchorages showed the shortcomings of the Rocna. I usually drop about a 2-3:1 scope to set then let out more chain to 4-5:1. I’ve actually been pretty disappointed with the Rocna. It’s not unusual to have it drag as much as 50′ after a tide change before resetting . Maybe it’s not just the tide change but the speed of the current that it’s having problems with. Your experiment also showed that the Rocna had problems setting at over 3 knots. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations? I think I may give the SPADE a try.

Thanks

Rebecca Childress

We were one of those advocates of the Bruce Anchors, for the most part…but we always had to take great care in setting it. We then decided to get a Manson Supreme, and it’s been a dream anchor. Even when we don’t take as much care are as we should, it sets very effortlessly, and has held us in some tremendous blows. I don’t know why we kept that Bruce for long…what a HUGE difference.
However, our “backup anchor” who also lives on the bow, has ALWAYS been terrible, and now it’s time to retire it if for no other reason than it’s bleeding it’s innards all over our deck (ie rust). But it is not easy to fit anything else on the bow!
With all the positive talk of the SPADE, and heading to southern South America after we leave Africa, where there is reportedly a lot of kelp, it may well be a good choice to switch the CQR out for an oversized Spade. The guy there…Brian… has been very good about sending templates for the sizes we are contemplating so we can make mock anchors, though it’s hard to fit the puzzle together 🙂 How have people found this anchor to fit with their Rocna or Manson Supreme “roll bar” anchors?

Jordan Burdey

Hi John, I am looking to get a new primary anchor for my boat. I am currently cruising the pacific northwest area on a 42ft, 35,000lb boat. The hopes of heading south in a few years is my eventual plan but for now I will be sailing around this area.

I am looking at getting a Spade S140(66 lb). I know you said it sometimes has trouble in thin mud, so I am somewhat re-thinking my decision if the Spade is the right route for me. Curious to see if I should look towards a Rocna(even with the issues you’ve pointed out recently)?

Martin Trumper

Hello John, I bought a Spade Anchor to replace my CQR which has proven a good choice so thank you for the research and your conclusions. We are agreeing with all that you have written, including the reference to the soft Mud scenario.

Question – hopefully in the correct section.
We are replacing our anchor chain – currently 100m of 10mm chain. We rarely anchor in greater than 10 metres when in Ireland, Scotland, Europe and so forth but we do have ambitions to go much further. I would like to cary 60 metres of chain and then 40 metres of rope spliced to the chain principally to reduce the weight – do you reckonI would regret having 40 metres of less chain basically in your view is the saving in weight just not worth the loss of advantage in carrying the greater quantity of chain.

Our Boat is a 13.1 metre Cecil Bowden Steel Hull, Cutter Rig. Long Keel 54 foot mast. 12Tn – 14 when fully laden. I would be grateful to have your thoughts on this before I proceed.
Thanks – Martin