So far in this Online Book we have written about two best bower (primary anchor) types and sized them. With that out of the way, what's the second anchor we should buy?
Let me answer that by telling you a story.
The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site
So far in this Online Book we have written about two best bower (primary anchor) types and sized them. With that out of the way, what's the second anchor we should buy?
Let me answer that by telling you a story.
Previous: Specifying Primary Anchor Size
This agreeing with you so consistently is getting a little old, but once again, from my point of view, I feel you have nailed it.
On my Valiant, a Fortress FX 37 has been lashed to my bow anchor platform (fore and aft aligned so it presents the least profile to oncoming seas and wedged into the anchor platform for security) for the 15 years we have sailed her. The Fortress is backed by 12 feet of 5/16 inch ACCO G4 and 300 feet of 5/8 inch nylon braid. (Braid because the rode may be called upon to work with a drogue or parachute.) In a fire drill, two swipes with a knife drops the anchor straight into the drink (or dinghy) or, with time, a few minutes of untying.
We have used the kedge to bury our portlights in the sea in a successful midnight effort to get off a grounding (a “rocking” actually) on a falling tide (rode to mast head as you describe) and also in the more common rowing the kedge and rode to windward. Come to think of it, I do not believe I have had to do this since we switched to a Spade bower 7 years ago.
You emphasise an area which, again to me, shows you have been there and done that, and which many writers either miss or neglect to mention. That is the likelihood of getting injured in a fire drill such as you described down in Bequia. The longer I hang in there in this cruising life, the more I shift toward asking myself, at the beginning of some sort of fire drill, “How do I stay safe?” rather than flying to the rescue. Do I need pants, shoes, gloves, light etc etc.? And making sure the essentials are ready at hand whenever the boats is commissioned?
I suspect, if records were taken, that the majority of fire drills have left me with an injury of one kind or another and feel fortunate that none have stayed with me in any permanent fashion. I actively attempt to slow myself down, to move slower and think more, and find things go just as well or better.
Next you are going to say that a Valiant should have an 80 pound Luke in the bilge, especially if she lives in hurricane country or goes wandering in the higher latitudes.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
We are going to have to stop agreeing like this…people are starting to talk.
Seriously, good to have your real world experience on the “AAC Test boat” to confirm that my findings on MC scale properly.
Also, I really like your points about thinking and preparing before we rush in, and most of all the benefits of slowing down, great advice that we should all take aboard.
Thanks for the great article and yes I would like to see an article on anchor testing.
Dear Phyllis and John,
Just a short – “confirming comment” from Denmark.
In three years (2011 – 2013), I have been sailing up and down the Norwegian coast, well assisted by the NCG (!).
I used to have a 10 kg SS Bruce in the bow (was delivered with the boat – an X-342, 34 ft., 5,2 t) with 80 m of 8 mm SS chain. Some years ago, I bought a F-23 Fortress as my “reserve/kedge anchor” – mounted in a special made SS bracket on the boat’s stern/transom (easy and fast to prepare, but does not look nice or pretty …) with 6 m of 8 mm chain and 30 m anchor line of rope with lead inside and 50 m “Ankerolina” – ready at the pushpit.
During these “trips” (> 6.000 NM), I did a lot af single hand sailing and spend many nights at anchor, some at pretty rough weather – and I learned a lot – the hard way … :
In several situations, the Bruce could not hold my boat when the wind or sea increased and had problems resetting when slipped, and the Fortress was absolutely useless, when the bottom was covered with thick weed …
Now, I have mounted the “Mud Palms” on my Fortress anchor, and – based on your thoughts and arguments – I have bought the SPADE S-100 as my new bow-anchor – double weight (20 kg), but now with 50 m of 8 mm chain (to compensate for the increased weight in the bow) plus 30 m. nylon line.
This year I have signed up for the flotilla sailing “Baltic Rally 2015” visiting 9 countries in the Baltic, during which, I’m anxious to test my new anchor. Thank you so much for your on going inspiration. I really enjoy reading your thoughtful articles plus instructive comments, but often, I find it hard to express my gratitude as my English writing skills and experiences are limited. So thank you very much to both of you. I’m really looking forward to your future articles.
Flemming Torp – S/Y Gimle – Helsingør – Denmark – http://flemmingtorp.blogspot.dk/
PS – If the language or grammar is bad, your are most welcome, to make corrections
Thanks very much for the real world confirmation and you very kind comments, much appreciated. And your English is great. At least a 100 times better than I ever managed in Norwegian after two years in the country!
I’ve a Fortress on a weighted line that I mostly use to hold my bow into a swell, burying in the beach for a line ashore, or occasionally for a quick “bows to”. It used to have a bucket’s worth of chain, but lumbering the bucket up and down the deck while holding the anchor in one finger eventually put paid to that. Its now great in the dinghy, but I suspect it would set better with a few metres of chain added back to the rode.
Its useful for such light duty, but we’d no longer bet the boat on it – we’ve a perfectly good Rocna for that, and a (steel) Delta for more serious kedge duties.
On a couple of occasions we’ve been surprised at the Fortress’s holding power. Inevitably, we find it’s fouled under a rock. So I would dispute one of your claims – it can perform great on a rocky bottom!
I couldn’t agree more.
I’m very impressed by Fortress’ business model. They have a light anchor that can cheaply ship anywhere in the world. They also have found a niche that they completely dominate.
If I walk around a yard with serious cruising boats in it, there will be many different bower anchors on the bows. The best bower is hotly disputed and thousands of words are slung around the internet on endless arguments about bower anchors.
Nobody disputes the best kedge, though. All those same cruising boats will have a fortress strapped securely to the pushpit, just like ours does.
We’ve only used our Fortress once. We were stern tied in marginal holding with a potential for a beam-on wind. I rowed the fortress to windward and slept much better for having it there.
My outlook is somewhat different.
Kedge anchors include emergency situations, possibly including a dinghy or swimming-off with anchor wrapped up in life jackets for flotation. So it must have the following characteristics:
Small, for ease of handling & mobility
Light – 30 pounds max, depending on the person’s strength. It has to be easily & quickly handled in various & difficult conditions. The emphasis being speed & mobility.
Highest reliablility possible
Steel to penetrate weed better
The Fortress is unreliable for setting (sails thru the water) and it is fussy about bottoms – two fails right there.
Best all around is Spade & Rocna.
My kedge is a Rocna 33 pound – easy for me to handle – I move lighly & quickly carrying it. Next size down would suit too, may be even better, being smaller & lighter, giving more mobility & speed.
Aluminum is a pretty good alternative. In most cases, though, the increased fluke surface area of an aluminum anchor is not needed, and it is a lot bigger than the equivalent weight in steel – can be clumsy.
Also, I use all rope rode except when chain needed. Its faster, easier, lighter.
I loop the rode through the shackle 3x then put in a bowline.
Thanks, again John et al. All good stuff and food for thought.
We carry a plastic bin with 100m of 19mm nylon flaked into it with a ‘tail’ hanging out to shackle the anchor/chain to. This is ready for use at any time. It cannot get tangled in the bottom of the dinghy or get caught on something.
Only once have we been seriously aground. We were side on to the shore and banging on rocks with about 1 metre high waves in around 40 knots.
Don’t ask me why – it’s too embarrassing.
Once the kedge was out to windward I put 4 turns round the anchor windlass and then back to a sheeting winch where I could tail it from the relative safety of the cockpit using the remote. The relatively thin line stretched and stretched as the load came on and all that energy was stored ready for a slightly bigger wave to lift us momentarily. When it did the bow swung about 3 metres, the hull lifted off the rocks and we were able to continue hauling her clear. This is the beauty of nylon: it’s both strong and stretchy. 19mm seems about right for our 12.5m / 9 tonnes boat.
The poor old girl ended up with quite a few significant dents in her 12mm bottom plating but no sign of any weld fractures. Tough stuff aluminium.
What a scary story. There is nothing that frightens me more in sailing than the thought of ending up on a lee shore like that. And thanks very much for sharing the story and the lessons. Not easy I know—I have done plenty of embarrassing stuff—but infinitely useful to us all.
Rowing the kedge out must have been quite an experience. One meter sea does not sound like much, but when you are in a dinghy it must have been more than enough!
What kind of anchor did you use?
Also good tip on the plastic bin. We now carry our kedge rodes and shorefasts flaked in bags ready to throw in the dinghy and go—same idea.
Yes it was scary rowing out but it’s amazing what a good dose of adrenaline allows you to do. And it was pumping!
As to the type of anchor: a 45lb CQR (genuine).
I know you’re a big fan of the Spade and I have no doubt you’re right and will be getting one (or a big Rocna) before we head off again. Spade’s are even more expensive in Australia!
I thought about using the Fortress as a kedge and agree that they are great but the bottom was stony over hard mud. The CQR did a good job and I managed to handle it. I was younger and stronger then!
Thanks for the update. This kind of real world experience based information is priceless.
John & Phyllis, I very much appreciate your take on stowing your Fortress on your cabin-top. Any chance you could post a picture of your stowed rig so we could better see how you dealt with the chocks and also the accompanying rode. We currently stow ours in our lazzerette but of course it always finds its way to the deepest, darkest, reaches of the hole so we’d like to find a new home for ours which allows us more immediate access. Thank you for all your insights. Best, Jackson
Sure, I will take a shot and add it to the post.
I have added a shot to the post showing how we stow our Fortress on the aft cabin top. We stow our spare rodes (two of them that can be joined for a total of 600-feet) in bags in the lazaret.
Hello John, Thanks so much for adding the photo- Its true about the picture being worth a thousand words!! What a very clever way to not only secure it in place but to also lock it as well. As always, you’ve provided good food for thought for us to adapt something similar and “fittable” for our boat. As I always enjoy and share your perspective regarding simplicity in a system, it takes on added meaning for us when it comes to safety issues. Having much more ready access to our kedge is in that category so many thanks for the ideas!! Best, Jackson
While the protocol of setting for the Chesapeake Bay was not perfect by real world conditions, it was controlled, repeatable, and transparent – as every anchor in the 60 tests was pulled using the exact same starting scope and was pulled the exact same distance, speed, and time, and in a very close geographic area. Initially, and during preliminary testing, we tried setting the anchors at a typical scope, but the 81-ft Rachel Carson was too powerful, the bottoms, too soft, and the anchors too small (other than the 32 lb / 15 kg FX-55) to achieve consistent tests, so we resorted to using the state of the art Dynamic Positioning System aboard this research vessel and the aft winch to do the pulling. While other anchors might have benefitted from a different setting protocol, there is no reason to believe that the Fortress would not have also benefitted as well, so we stand fully behind the results, as do the boating media members who were aboard to witness the tests. Regarding which is the best kedge anchor, this story below from a sailor is a real world testimonial: From: “moc.liamlias@4506BDW” Date: 06 Apr 2004 23:30:00 -0000 To: “moc.srohcnassertrof@nairb” Subject: Testimonial TESTIMONIAL – FORTRESS ANCHOR I was sailing into Conch Cut leading into Georgetown, Exumas in the Bahamas. Just as I was passing over the reef bar, I switched off my autopilot to hand steer over the bar and into the deeper channel when I heard a “pop” and my wheel steering spun freely. I had the full Genoa out, and without rudder steering, the bow fell off heading straight for the nearby island of Channel Cay. I immediately diagnosed the problem of a failed steering cable and released the jib sheet and cut the motor. In my horror, I realized that my boat, an Irwin 37foot ketch, my only home, was completely out-of-control and headed for the rocks in just seconds. As a matter of routine I always keep at least one anchor ready to go, but in 30 years of sailing experience I had yet to do an emergency anchor deployment. I raced forward, terrified as the island cliff was rising before me, and immediately released my Fortress FX-23 with 50 feet of new stainless steel chain and about ten feet of 5/8″ nylon rode that was already secured to a cleat. As the chain was rapidly running out I said a quick prayer that the anchor would bite first time, there would be no time for a re-set before the impending shipwreck disaster! My heart was pounding! I gripped the bow pulpit and braced, watching the rapidly approaching cliff which was now a mere 100 feet away, as the chain ran out. Suddenly all 22,000 pounds of my sailboat came to a stop and executed a 180 degree turn in 2 seconds. We were now safely at anchor in 15 feet of water in a 3-4 swell with the stern of my boat JUST 30 FEET FROM… Read more »
I agree entirely, as I said in the post, that your test showed the Fortress to be an exceptional soft mud anchor, probably the best available in that bottom type.
My objection to the testing is that the setting protocol was flawed and bore no resemblance to the way an anchor is actually set in the real world. I’m guessing that the key being that single fluke anchors like the SPADE and Rocna need to be “worked” through the very soft mud at the surface to get down to something firmer.
But even if I’m wrong about that guess, the real point is that the results of your testing were so far different from the results obtained by myself and other experienced voyagers (including Nigel Calder) over thousands of sets in soft mud that something was clearly wrong with the protocol. We can argue all day about what that something was and get into a duel of experts, but to me that’s a waste of time.
The point being that as the son of a scientist I learned early on that when your testing results in the lab differ markedly from the real world it is good scientific procedure to doubt the lab protocol, not the real world.
Therefore drawing the sweeping conclusion from the testing that the Rocna and SPADE are not safe in soft bottoms and that the Fortress is a better all around anchor, as some did from your testing, is simply poor science.
John, I appreciate your comments. While I cannot attest to the holding power capacities of the Spade and Rocna other than what I witnessed firsthand during the 8 full days of pulls aboard the 81-ft Rachel Carson R/V in the Chesapeake Bay, I can say that what we saw is, in fact, fully supported by science. Bob Taylor, who spent over 45 years with the US Navy as an anchor design and soil mechanics expert, and who served as a consultant for us on this project, was not in the least bit surprised that the holding ratios (anchor weight divided by holding capacity) of all of the old & new generation anchors fell off to only 10-15x in soft mud. Bob, who has a very impressive resume which includes patents for anchors and anchoring systems, and who has conducted extensive work in the offshore industry, has stated that anchors which are designed and optimized for harder soils will oftentimes have only a fraction of that holding capacity in a softer soil, which is EXACTLY what we saw in the Chesapeake Bay. This is obviously the clear reason why large anchor manufacturers such as Baldt, Bruce, the US Navy, and Vryhof all make anchors with a wider shank / fluke angle for improving anchor holding capacity in soft mud, as does Fortress with our exclusive and patented adjustable 32° hard soil & 45° soft mud – shank / fluke angles. Regarding “real world” anchoring experiences with the Rocna and Spade in soft mud, I suspect that many sailors dramatically oversize their new generation anchors so that, in essence, there is a huge factor of safety built-in with these anchors, and in turn, failure is uncommon. I will never state that the Fortress is the “best all-round anchor” as there are bottom conditions where the two massive, sharpened, and precision-machined flukes of the Fortress might have difficulty penetrating, such as in grass, weeds or rocks, as opposed to a very heavy dense steel anchor that has only a single, narrow fluke. But on the flip side, in the most common sand, mud, or clay bottom conditions, a properly-sized Fortress anchor will bury so deeply and perform so superbly once loaded up in high wind conditions that the problem will be retrieval, and not the anchor breaking free. As an example, I would put the 70 lb / 32 kg Fortress model FX-125, which currently serves as the primary anchor aboard the USCG 154-ft Fast Response Cutter (FRC), up against any new generation anchor which weighed 2x more in any sand, mud, or clay bottom condition. In addition to its “high efficiency” anchor design, the huge physical surface area advantage of the Fortress will absolutely insure its superior performance. In real world tests, one of which was conducted by the US Navy in sand & clay, the FX-125 held from 15,000 – 20,000 lbs (7,000 – 9,000 kg) and in 18 years with Fortress, I have never heard of a competitive steel anchor… Read more »
As I said in my last comment, I really don’t see the benefit in getting into a “war of experts” on this. All I know is that the results of the Fortress sponsored testing of the SPADE and Rocna are dramatically different than we experienced voyagers are seeing in the real world, even with anchors than are not oversized. So, as my old Physics teacher was want to say “it is therefore obvious” that the testing protocol was flawed. I think I know where the problem lay, but that’s for another day.
By the way. I do not believe that multiple anchors should be set in storm conditions. Generally, based on my not inconsiderable experience of winds of storm force and above, one large anchor you trust is the way to go. More on why here.
Having said all that, no argument, the Fortress is the top anchor in the ultimate holding category, particularly in soft mud. Just as the SPADE and Rocna are, in my experience and that of many others, the top anchors in the versatility category, with slightly different strengths that I have detailed here.
Thanks for your comments. Only a fool argues with success, and based upon your extensive experience regarding what has worked well for you and others you know, whether it be the anchor brand or the type of deployment, then that is perfectly fine with me.
At the end of the day, we all want to achieve the same result, which is boater safety, and how that is accomplished is secondary.
All the best,
With regard to Fortress anchors, my earlier email is evidence of how much I value it as a kedge. As a bower however, I want an anchor that not only holds well, but one that resets when tripped by a wind shift. That is one area where anchors of the Danforth/Fortress design fall short in my experience. Direct straight line holding, such as a kedge is often needed for, the Fortress is great. In hard bottoms, in weedy bottoms, or to sleep well when the wind might shift, I will go with my Spade any day. As for it being used on a military vessel, I would sleep well on any vessel where I knew there was a 24/7 awake watch.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Thanks for your comments. Based on both independent and our own extensive testing, and on the experiences we have heard from Fortress owners, particularly from our hurricane region here in south Florida, it is our firm contention that a properly-sized and well-buried Fortress anchor is not more likely to break free from a sea bottom than other anchor types.
As evidence of this, years ago the Sailing Foundation conducted straight line, 90° and 180° angle pulls, and after they loaded up a 21 lb FX-37 to 4,000+ lbs (the maximum) during the straight line pull, this anchor would not break free from the other two directions when it was pulled to the max as well.
No other heavier steel anchor came close to achieving this result, and after wards the testers commented:
“The Fortress set so deep that the rode had to be hauled in to 1:1 and significant power applied to rode by the 83,000-pound tug to break it free. It is doubtful that a sailboat would have windlass power to break it out. Perhaps large primary winches or a rising tide might be adequate.
However, it is also doubtful that a sailboat could have set the anchor that deep in less than a full hurricane.”
With all of that noted, we will readily acknowledge that sailboats oftentimes do not have the engine power to back down hard enough on the more massive Fortress anchor to bury it deeply, and therein lies a key issue in how it performs (or not) during off-center loads.
In this case, a large heavy plow type might serve your sailboat better.
Brian, I would say that “sailboats oftentimes do not have the engine power to back down hard enough on the more massive Fortress anchor to bury it deeply, and therein lies a key issue in how it performs (or not) during off-center loads” is a nuance not always appreciated, just as the somewhat out-of-favour Bruce style seems to prefer a series of tugs to get it well in (if I’m remembering correctly). My point is that each anchor style has “optimal” setting methods that, if the skipper is not aware of them or cannot due to limitations of engine or experience provide them, any given anchor might not display its full holding potential.
Of course, no anchor maker wants to necessarily advertise these nuances of handling, because of the implication that said anchor is absolutely fantastic in every circumstances. That said, if there’s a better way to handle an anchor style, I wouldn’t mind hearing it from the manufacturers rather than anecdotally from other sailors, although that has great value in the long run, like the “half-choke” method of starting almost all Honda motors!
Thanks for your input. I agree that anchor manufacturers can and should do a better job of discussing nuances with their products, Fortress included.
As an example, in our Safe Anchoring Guide we discuss power-setting the anchor by backing down hard on it to insure that the anchor is well-set and buried, and we include a chart to help boaters determine how much of a load they can generate on the anchor based their Shaft HP and hull type.
However, I don’t think that it is clear or thorough enough, and it does not take soil conditions into consideration. For instance, it is certainly going to take much more engine thrust to bury an anchor into a harder versus a softer soil.
Additionally, in this guide we mention that in soft mud the Fortress should be set initially at a 2:1 or 3:1 scope to insure that the heavy weight of the chain does not sink the shank below the flukes, which will then point upwards instead of downwards and into the bottom.
During the Chesapeake Bay testing, we did not follow our own setting advice until after 48 tests were done, and sure enough during a couple of those first pulls when we used a long initial starting scope (8:1), the Fortress just flat-lined right across the bottom, which led me to wonder whether a nearby bridge was high enough.
Permanently installing the Mud Palms (included) should prevent this from occurring, but as we learned in the Chesapeake Bay, not in every case.
Just took a look at the bollard pull table in your guide. A very useful resource, thank you. When I get a moment I will read through the whole guide, looks like a lot of good stuff.
Brian, sometimes an attribute is neither a “problem” nor a “feature”. It’s merely a characteristic. If my anchor needs a short-scope tug to initially set in mud…no problem. All I need to know is which situations require which remedies. Strangely (to my mind) no anchor sellers are ever that frank or thorough to supply “you might wish to try tactic X in bottom Y” information…and yet it goes right to the heart of claims of “best all-around anchor”. This is possibly a reason why there are so many CQRs and Bruces still working fine: their owners have figured out their “little ways” enough to not really need a better holding anchor.
Very well-stated. To further your point, during my time with Fortress I became acquainted with two noted and respected technical boating writers here in the USA, Tom Neale, who with wife Mel lived along aboard their boat and cruised 3-5,000 miles per year from 1979 until recently, and the late E.S. “Mac” Maloney, the long-time former author of Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Small Boat Handling.
Both of these gentlemen used the CQR for decades and as I recall from our conversations, they were very pleased with its performance during thousands of deployments while anchored in a wide variety of wind and bottom conditions.
I have heard similar accolades from long-time Bruce owners (arguably the strongest pleasure craft anchor ever made) which I have to respect as well.
So yes Marc, maybe with time and experience they simply learned how to best utilize the characteristics of their anchors, and in turn were well-satisfied by their performance.
Hi Marc and Brian,
While you are right that an experienced person can learn to use a CQR in cruising grounds with muddy bottoms, I would not want the impression left that the CQR is anything other than a very poor anchor.
I used a CQR for years before the SPADE was invented and can tell you categorically that it was simply useless in many areas such as Norway, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Greenland and marginal at best in the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean.
And I’m not talking a bit of irritation that could be overcome by learning the anchor’s “little ways”. I’m taking down right dangerously dysfunctional. That’s why so many of us that cruised anywhere with even slightly challenging anchoring conditions in those day carried a fisherman with of the attendant problems.
And the poor performance of both the Bruce and the CQR are why setting shore fasts became so popular with high latitude voyagers.
The bottom line is that we put up with these poor anchors because that was the best available then, but now with many better anchors these is simply no justification for using a CQR.
I am a huge fan of the fortress anchor as a kedge and back-up, but have had bad experiences with danforth style anchors fouling in a wind shift.
In one case, I had the rode wrap around the stock while drifting around in low wind (rope rode). Once the wind picked up, it plucked the anchor out and away we went.
In the other case, a rock jammed between the fluke and shank. We were fine because we were using the anchor in a unidirectional fashion, but if we were using it as a single bower, it couldn’t have reset if flipped on its back by a 180 wind shift.
In most cases, using two anchors when a shift is expected is neither practical nor desirable. An bower, when set with a typical sailboat motor, must be able to reliably handle a wind shift. I’m just uncomfortable with using it as a bower in any situation with a potential wind shift.
Thanks for your input. I can’t say that I have heard of a rope sliding around a stock and dislodging the anchor, since if it was well buried then it would be difficult for the light rope to slip under the stock.
Obviously, a stockless anchor would have a 0% chance of that occurring, a benefit of that anchor type.
I have certainly heard of and seen objects getting lodged in the crown (center piece) which prevented the shank and flukes from moving, as well as objects (like oyster shells) getting stuck on the ends of the flukes and impeding penetration.
Clearly, this can occur with any anchor that has a sharp fluke tip.
You’re right, Brian. The stock clearly wasn’t buried despite setting at near full reverse rpm for a minute or two.
Obviously, an anchor’s capability of burying deeply into a sea bottom, plus its physical size are key performance components.
This is why we sharpen the fluke edges and taper the shank so that the Fortress has a razor-like effect once it hits the bottom. However, there is a potential downside to this, in that it can get stuck in tight spots (ex: between rocks) which might not occur with other anchors that have much duller edges.
Which reminds me of the old adage: “There is no such thing as the perfect anchor.”
I would hope that the Fortress would slice its way deep into most common bottoms after a “near full reverse rpm for a minute or two,” as you described, but with its large physical size and in a hard bottom, possibly not.
Have a great day,
I would agree. We have never had our SPADE fail to reset, even when anchored in a tidal inlet for several days when the current reversed at each tide change. By the way, if you absolutely must set two anchors to limit swing room in this situation, Colin has written a really good chapter on how to do that well.
Thanks for your additional comments. It sounds like the case that a Fortress dug in the way you describe with the amount of power your test vessels had to bring to the task allowed the Fortress to continue holding when the direction of pull changed. A very little bit of my experience, and a fair amount of anecdotal, leads me to understand that, once this style anchor is tripped, in everyday anchoring, it has a harder time resetting itself. It sounds like your tests had the anchor buried so deep that it never really “tripped”.
I personally do not know of any voyaging boat that uses a Fortress (or Danforth) as their bower (although I am sure there are). I have been interested in seeing that most voyaging catamarans and tri’s seem also not to use the lightweight anchors when, for them, weight is far more of an important consideration. I do not know why people have made the choices they have. I would hope there are those who anchor regularly with a Fortress among the readers who might talk about their experiences. If there is not, that is telling also as Fortresses have been around a long time.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Thanks again for your comments. Our late company founder/owner, who was a lifelong and very adventurous boater with a 1,000 mile trip up the Amazon River, several Atlantic crossings, and a circumnavigation on his resume, said that “once an anchor breaks free from a sea bottom, it is oftentimes no longer an anchor….it is a massive ball with no remaining sharp edges in which to re-penetrate the sea bottom, and in this case re-setting is not possible.”
Whether a Danforth-type, or a concave/shovel (Rocna or Spade), or a convex /plow (CQR/Delta) is more prone to holding sediment in its fluke (or flukes) once it breaks free from a sea bottom, and then not re-setting is certainly up for debate.
During the extensive Chesapeake Bay soft mud testing, it became crystal clear that NO anchor was going to reset if it broke free after it had held to any real serious tension, as once this sticky soil became compressed on the anchor, then the anchor was going to have to be dragged through the water or brought aboard to wash the sediment off.
This is one of the reasons why we note in our “Safe Anchoring Guide” literature that if you are expecting a wind or tidal shift, then its a good idea to set two anchors for maximum safety.
Why was the DANFORTH hi-tensile left out in this discussion? The bolts and nuts on the FORTRESS sometimes gets loose. And sometimes, in tropical weather, the FORTRESS is corroded and those bolts and nuts get loose. I had to replace those bolts and nuts with stainless steel and put pressure rings. Any reason not to consider the DANFORTH?
Hi Manuel Jose,
The reason I did not look at the Danforth is that I’m specifically discussing kedge anchors in this post, and, as I say in the post, a kedge needs to be aluminium to be light enough to handle in a dinghy.
And I don’t recommend Danforth anchors for general use or best bower because they don’t work well in rocks and weed and are also susceptible to fouling in a windshift.
Besides my concern for the bolts and nuts which come with the FORTRESS anchor, I have used this anchor extensively with great results, except the fact that every time we drop anchor, the chain goes down first and some times we need to drop it slowly in order to set the anchor properly, otherwise it gets tangled with the chain. MY MAIN CONCERN IS THE QUALITY OF THE BOLTS AND NUTS AND THE FACT THAT THE NUTS ARE REGULAR NUTS AND NOT SECURITY NUTS WITH THAT PLASTIC INSIDE THEM TO PREVENT FROM GETTING LOOSE. Please comment on the hardware of the FORTRESS.
Hi Manuel Jose,
I have never had a problem, or heard of one, with the bolts on the Fortress coming loose. Having said that, using aircraft nuts does sound like a good idea except for one problem: aircraft nuts should, at least in theory, be replaced every time they are loosened, which would not work well on a Fortress that must be taken apart regularly to store or change the fluke angle.
I’m going to guess that the bolts on the Fortress don’t come loose because the clips they attach have some spring and act a bit like lock washers.
Having said that, if you are concerned, and I can certainly understand that, you could put a couple of drops of Blue Loctite on them and sleep well.
Perhaps Brian from Fortress would like to comment?
Hello Manuel Jose,
As an additional safety measure, we use Nyloc nuts with our anchors, even though the stock (narrow round rod) and clips (which hold the flukes to the stock) are not subjected to significant vibration during typical anchoring use.
So once properly tightened, there should be absolutely no concern that these Nyloc nuts will ever work their way loose.
Manuel Jose, I used Loctite 262 on my Fortress’s bolts. It seems prudent, although I did apply sufficient torque to keep everything attached: http://alchemy2009.blogspot.ca/2015/04/upsizing-old-tackle.html
Thank you so very much for your kind comments. I will go back to the original bolts and nuts of the FORTRESS and put some blue loctite. Do you know where can I buy the bolts and nuts from? I lost the originals when I replaced them with pressures washes and security nuts, which I believe are of inferior grade now.
Hi Manuel Jose,
Your welcome, glad it was useful. Fortress are very good at customer support. I’m sure if you contact them they will supply you with new bolts.
Please e-mail me your Fortress model number and address, and I will send you the nuts and bolts.
My email address is: moc.srohcnassertrof@nairb
Thank you very much for your kind reply. BRIAN already offered to send the bolts and nuts I need. I am going to put this great anchor back into use as my secondary anchor. I have a ROCNA as my main anchor for years and a DANFORTH HI-TENSILE as my secondary. I do not have a sailboat. I have a sport yacht of 36 feet. Your site is excellent. I particularly enjoyed the book on anchors and rodes. OUTSTANDING.
My very best,
Hi Manuel Jose,
Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.
Thank you very much for your interest. The FORTRESS anchor I have is a FX-16 and I lost all nuts and bolts. I would like to put his anchor back to use as my secondary anchor. I will appreciate if you could provide all nuts and bolts and ship them to my address in Miami. Please let me know the cost and I will arrange payment as soon as you provide your banking coordinates to me or I can send a money via WESTERN UNION or any other means suitable to you. My address is:
Manuel Jose Berrocal
7801 NW 37th Street, Doral (PTY-8236)
Miami, FLORIDA 33195-6503
Tel (305) 735-8551
Manuel José Berrocal
Good day John
I’m a new member; Thank you for some great material!
Ok, so I have my brand new SPADE anchor sitting on my bow.
I now have:
My CQR – yes, I’ll give it away, don’t worry!
My Stainless Delta – came with the boat; honest!
My Danforth – from my first boat.
My question is; Will my Danforth work well as my Kedge or should I get rid of it in favor of the Fortress? Obviously I would love to hear “of course Carlos, no need to spend more money on a Fortress when you already have a solid Fluke-Style anchor!”
But seriously, your feedback would be greatly appreciated.
First off, thanks for joining and welcome to AAC.
As long as the anchor in question is a true Danforth and not a knock off, and is sized appropriately for the boat (see post above) you should be all good and not need to upgrade to a Fortress. The old true Danforths are very good anchors (I used to have one). That said, of course with the Danforth you will be dealing with a much heavier anchor than the Fortress so the final call depends on the state of your back and the size of your boat. Also, the Danforth does not have the two fluke angles and mud palms that come with the Fortress, so if you think you may be faced with anchoring in very soft mud, an upgrade to the Fortress would be worth it.
Yes, mine is a true, appropriately sized Danforth and Yep, it is quite heavy!
That said, I’m glad to hear it’s an acceptable alternative and will hang on to it for a few more years. I think the final decision to replace will be based on how much trouble it is to stow and retrieve (both weight and size) from it’s home in our port Lazarette.
I think I read somewhere that the Spade you have on Morgan’s Cloud is the 55kg model. What size fortress do you have on her?
FX 55, that said, you should use the guide lines above to size yours, not copy what we did. The one we have was the storm anchor on our old boat and so was not selected using the logic above.
I have a Farr 50 Pilothouse which is somewhere around 40000lbs. Using many internet resources, including yours, I’ve decided to get a Sarca Excel #9 (50kg /110lb) as my best bower. This seems to line up proportionally with Morgan’s Cloud’s 55kg Spade. My boat came with a Fortress FX-37 for a kedge/stern anchor, and I’m wondering if eventually I should upgrade that to an FX-55 (either to replace or supplement the FX-37), since the boat is at the upper end of the range for the FX-37.
I do plan on getting an aluminum backup anchor, either an Excel #8 or Spade A200 (I’m not sure yet, because Sarca does not make a #9 in aluminum, but I’ve heard aluminum Spade shanks are prone to bending).
What would you recommend, in regards to sizing my Fortress anchor option? Thanks!
As a scalable example of something similar, we have a 40 foot steel pilothouse cutter weighing about 30,000 pounds/15 tons at half-load, and we have a 30 kg. SPADE main anchor, an FX-37 as a secondary/lunch hook/spare and an FX-21 as a kedge/stern, and a 15 kg. Bruce for the rare situation in which that anchor might be the best choice. We are going to 10 mm G43 or G70 chain this winter, probably about 80-90 metres or so. Our SPADE has been very effective so far, save that retrieval has been made complex by the sheer volume of the bottom we raise with it! There are worse problems, I suppose.
The FX-37 replaced a 20 kilo CQR and performed well in the Great Lakes with the added benefit, prior to the installation of a 1500 watt windlass, that I could bring it up by hand without too much grunting. The Fortress line are generally reliable enough that I would never get rid of ours…they fold flat and are light enough to stow in a lot of places.
I would ditch the Bruce. There are no situations where I can see it doing any better than a SPADE or Fortress and the Bruce has one of the most dangerous dragging modalities of any anchor—it skips and is also prone to fouling. The Bruce was a good anchor at one time, because it set faster and more reliably than the CQR, but only in very large sizes since it sucks in terms of ultimate holding, but its day is long passed. If you want a third anchor, I recommend using the space and weight for a safer modern anchor. More on how to make a good third anchor choice: https://www.morganscloud.com/2015/06/10/third-anchors-storm-anchors-and-spare-anchores/
The Bruce is largely ornamental at this stage and as you’ve pointed out, a lighter “spare” is faulty logic. We have yet to feel the need for a third anchor, but maybe I can trade the Bruce for a better extra anchor, like another FX-37 and then consider a second SPADE as insurance over somehow losing the one we have been using, successfully.
The poor CQR was unsellable, even though it was a good condition “made in Scotland” one. So I gifted it to the Sea Scouts.
I try not to get into making that kind of call for people. My approach is to write as clear a chapter as I can to layout how to make those decisions and then get out of the way. Bottom line, you know your boat and your plans and you have a my recommendations on how to choose, so it’s your call.
That said, if there is something about my guidelines in the online book that’s unclear, I’m all ears.
One other point, not sure where you heard that the SPADE shanks were prone to bending, but that’s unlikely since the fabricated triangle section of the SPADE shank is intrinsically stronger than any shank stamped out of flat plate. Maybe you are thinking of stainless steel, SPADE shanks that are more prone to bending because that material has such low tensile strength, but only in comparison to SPADE galvanized anchors. Assuming the same material, the SPADE shanks are always the strongest option, by far.
Thanks Marc and John,
I meant that the aluminum Spade shanks are prone to bending, from what I’ve read.
I think I may eventually take a cue from Marc just use my FX-37 and if I feel that I need a larger one get an FX-55 and keep both Fortress anchors. There’s not very much weight or size penalty with these anchors.
Yes, the aluminium SPADE is more prone to bend than a galvanized steel SPADE, but less prone to bend than any other aluminium shanked anchor.