In the first three chapters of this Online Book we defined which anchors we like for our primary anchor (SPADE) and kedge (Fortress) and how big they should be.
These recommendations were pretty straightforward, with little ambiguity, and I'm very comfortable with them. But now, as I look at what anchors we should carry in addition to the best bower and kedge, the whole thing gets murky, with a lot of variables.
Let's give it a go:
I reached a very similar conclusion on our third anchor when I was going through this. We have a Mantus primary, a Fortress secondary and a Manson Supreme as the backup that is 1 size smaller than the primary. I bought the Manson as a backup anchor for a previous boat that used a Rocna primary so it was a different size and since we are not headed as far away from civilization as you at this point, I feel fine with this difference. If I were to buy my third anchor from scratch, I would buy an identical Mantus to our primary as it would fit the anchor roller well, it would stow well and we have found this to be the best performing anchor we have ever owned.
I am curious as to what your thoughts are on getting a 120lb Spade up on deck? It has been several years since I have handled a Spade but if my memory is right, the fluke has most of the weight so disassembling doesn’t help as much as it would with an anchor that doesn’t a lead tip and therefore has more equally weighted parts that can be carried up separately. I guess it might not be a huge deal as you would rarely need to do this.
I have over 1000 nights on fisherman style anchors and there are things that I really like and really dislike about them. Most of those nights were either with a 500 or a 750lb version so it may not scale all that well to cruising yachts. The anchors set really well and worked incredibly at short scope but the holding power was low for the weight and the chain tended to foul on the stock. If someone does plan to use a fisherman a lot, I would recommend looking at how traditional sailing ships carried them. For calm weather, they would use a combination of a cathead and lashing the fluke to the rail. For rougher weather, it was traditional to pull the flukes inboard and lash them flat to the deck with the stock sticking vertically over the side which could be a practical option for a cruising boat provided that adequate protection was put to prevent damaging the deck or topsides. This is a very secure arrangement that has no issues with wave impacts and allows the anchor to be deployed and retrieved in a reasonable amount of time by first lashing the head in place with the anchor vertical and then lifting the flukes into place.
Thanks for the recommendations and confirmation on the fisherman type anchors, very valuable in that today, other than Maine schooner crews, so few people have actually used a fisherman.
Funny you should ask about handling the SPADE fluke. Phyllis and I were talking about just that last night over dinner.
The two of us can just manage the fluke in a back-safe way, but it’s a close run thing. So our recommended strategy is to get it under the fore-hatch and then use a halyard to bring it on deck to assemble.
Having said that, we are fortunate in that the triangular locker shown in the photo is right under the fore-hatch, so no need to lift at all.
For those that are not so lucky, I would recommend installing a lifting ring in the deckhead above the locker or hatch into the bilge where the fluke is stowed. That way a tackle could be used to lift the fluke out onto the cabin sole and then it can be slid on a piece of canvas until it is under a hatch.
I think that you are 100% correct here.
I carried 75lb Paul Luke aboard for 16 years, and never used it in anger. The one time that I did use it in a trial, convinced me of its difficulties re launching and recovery, especially single handed in a blow. Imagine how far you would drift while assembling, hoisting and swinging out a Luke, and the drama if it had to be recovered so that one could leave, if a wind shift made that necessary. I subsequently sold it, and made myself a 2 piece “Rocna”. The stock is a T section where it passes through the fluke, (so it can never fail), and is held in position by a bolt. It stores well in the Vee of the bilge, and is easy to carry , using the roll bar as a handle. It can be assembled very fast. Peter Smith did make a similar, 2 piece Rocna, but it was never produced commercially. My anchor inventory is 25kg Rocna, a Fortress, and the 40kg, 2 piece ” Rocna” , as a storm/ spare anchor. Jenain is 11m long, and displaces around 12 tons.
Hope all is well. Good article, thank you. Needless to say I was pleased with your choices. We’ve been using a 30kg Spade as primary for years and have 2 Fortress’ as back ups, a 37 and a 55. I like your idea of the 2nd spade.
While at the catamaran show in La Grand Motte there was an anchor there, from Turkey, called the Ultra. They have an interesting “upgrade(?)” on the Spade concept. They demo’d their anchor along with the Spade and Fortress and CQR in a small sandbox. It was impressive. They also had a unique swivel that stops twist. The downside is they are expensive. I wondered if you had researched the Ultra and if so, what your thoughts are?
Ciao from Sunny Sicily.
You will find my thoughts on the Ultra and their sandbox in this comment.
I also don’t like swivels.
The bottom line is that I’m extremely sceptical of claims of improving on the SPADE. The only way I would be converted would be to use the aspiring anchor for some years in many different places since I don’t believe that anchor tests are of much use—article coming on that.
Hi Rick, Bill and Eric,
Thanks for the conformation of my thinking based on your own experience.
When I have come up with a piece like this that contradicts a lot of accepted wisdom I always worry that I might have missed some factor that makes my thesis wrong, or worse still, dangerously wrong.
Sanity checking is just another area where the “AAC Brain Trust” adds so much value to the site.
It seems that Rocna have released a new anchor called Vulcan that does not have a rollbar. Looks very similar to the Spade. Would be interesting to see how these compare.
Yes, he Vulcan is interesting. Having said that I’m not convinced that an anchor without a roll bar can be made as effective as the SPADE without using the same fabrication build (rather than casting) method that SPADE uses. This method allows them to build a hollow stock and to weight the tip with lead, resulting in the highest percentage tip weight of any anchor made. Having used a SPADE for 20 years, I’m pretty sure this is the secret of the anchor’s success and versatility.
SPADE themselves have tried twice to build anchors without these expensive techniques and failed miserably.
I know SPADE, SPADE is my friend…and Vulcan, you are no SPADE. 🙂 Apologies to Lloyn Bentsen.
Having said all that, Peter Smith, the designer of the Vulcan and Rocna, is a smart guy and I could be wrong and just exhibiting familiarity bias.
Great Article , Thanks
Just a small thing, in your second paragraph of the Fisherman anchor section, you mention thick kelp being the exception in the high latitudes rather than the norm. I believe you may have got your jumper on backwards.
Woops, thanks for catching that, fixed now.
Of course the idea that duplicating your main anchor as a spare is logical for reasons not stated: 1) Buying two of the same anchor may net you a volume discount or at least some sort of chandlery consideration. 2) Anchors can be lost or even stolen. There are situations in which one must part the bitter end, and it may not be possible to retrieve even a prepared (buoyed) anchor. How nice would it be to have a spare that also can effortlessly become the new best bower? Most passagemaking boats have more than one full-length of chain and a multitude of properly sized shackles fit for purpose, so you can be up and running out the ground tackle if you have best bower Number 2 stowed.
As for the fisherman’s, I’ve used mine exactly once, in a very weedy bottom. I won’t be bringing one with me, as aside from forearm tattoos, I truly believe it to be a design well superseded by newer models, at least on small yachts.
O.K., I’m convinced. Let me know when you want to sell that 66-lb Spade!
In my not-so-humble opinion, there is no other anchor that has been as battle-tested for storm anchor use as the Fortress. Our factory has been located here in south Florida since our inception in the late 80s, and we have shipped anchors all throughout the Caribbean, Gulf, and east coast USA since then for use aboard many power & sailboats as the “ultimate storm anchor” for hurricane conditions.
The stories we have heard from those boats which have survived horrific storms during that time frame while hanging on a Fortress have been nothing less than epic!
One such story occurred during Hurricane Andrew, when a 42-ft Silverton had three anchors out in preparation for this category 5 storm. According to the owner, two of the anchors broke free during the 140+ knot winds, which left this 25k lb boating hanging on a single 21 lb Fortress FX-37.
Afterwards, the boat owners had to mangle the FX-37 and bend the flukes to finally break it free, which we replaced under warranty, and it is now sitting triumphantly in our lobby.
So we can discuss all day the theoretical benefit of a monstrously oversized Rocna or Spade for everyday use, which can be backed up by user testimonials, but for the worst of conditions there should be no question doubt that an oversized, yet significantly lighter Fortress, with its massive surface area advantage, is far better insurance to keep one’s boat safe.
I would agree, but with one caveat. As stated in my earlier post, a Fortress is not a good storm anchor choice if headed for a high latitude location like Greenland, Labrador, or Svalbard.
In this case there is too much weed on the bottom and the Fortress simply won’t work at all (voice of experience). In this case the storm anchor should be a SPADE or Rocna and personally I favour the SPADE, first because it has kept me off the beach in those locations in storm force winds many times and second because I think that single fluke anchors without roll bars are better in thick kelp.
I agree with all of your points. A roll bar can be a “penetration inhibitor” and the Spade should perform better in that type of bottom.
I am gradually coming around to having two Fortresses (a storm and a kedge/secondary/stern) and a two-sizes-up Spade (main) on our boat. Much of the persuasion has come out of the debate here, which, all credit to the sailors of Florida and the Chesapeake areas, tends toward the global when it comes to places anchored.
I have read a number of anchor tests using various criteria of anchoring proficiency and most all of them point to the two you prefer—the SPADE and the Rocna. I have recently purchased a 55 foot sailboat with a displacement of 50,000 pounds. It came equipped with two of the least recommended anchors on its bow rollers— a 75# CQR with 300’ of 7/16” chain and a 44 pound Bruce on a 500 foot rode. It also has a 33 pound Fortress in the lazarette. I will buy a SPADE or Rocna for the primary anchor. I’m wondering which other anchor to keep for a secondary anchor, the Bruce or the CQR. I’m not sure a SPADE and a Rocna will both fit the anchor roller, and two new anchors wouldn’t fit my budget so well either. So which one would best complement a SPADE or Rocna?
Hum, I guess I have to answer neither the CQR or the Bruce are adequate secondary anchors for your boat. Normally I would say keep the Bruce, but the problem is that it’s way too small for your boat at 44 pounds. (Bruce anchors only work well when very heavy.)
The CQR is just about adequate size wise, but it is such a poor and unreliable anchor that I just can’t feel good about recommending that you keep it.
At least you have the Fortress as a good kedge, the other two need to go.
Don’t worry too much about having a second anchor on the bow. More here.
Sorry to be a budget buster.
Thanks for the good advice, John. That’s along the lines I was thinking. And one big anchor will not bust my budget as much as two medium sized anchors.
Anyone want to buy a used Bruce or CQR? I’ve got one of each for sale.
Just to add my two cents… I spent some years as a schooner captain and once broke a big fisherman anchor, though it was a couple of years before I discovered how. We would flake the chain out on deck, then turn the anchor loose, the chain clattering overboard until it came up tight against where it was wrapped on the windlass. The anchor hits bottom, the boat is moving slowly backwards, and the 500 lb anchor goes from looking like a yard ornament to digging in and holding, which it did most of the time. We looked at a set once in hard sand because we had an ROV available to take pictures and discovered the mode of failure. Even though I had backed down hard on that anchor with both engines at high rpm, one of the arms had pierced the hard sand bottom and was holding the boat rather than a fluke. We narrowly avoided shipwreck when we broke it two years before, and I was never as confident again about it’s holding ability. I bought a high-tensile Danforth as a stern anchor, and at 75 pounds on all nylon it would hold in most bottoms better than the fisherman; sometimes we would find ourselves stern-to by morning, having dragged the fisherman around with the bow and reversing the pull on the Danforth. I’m looking for a Spade for the new boat now, though.
That’s interesting, thanks. I had never thought of that way to break a fisherman. Another reason that adds to my thinking that we now have much better options.
There are better options for sure. I could usually drag one of those anchors with the engines, even with 300′ of big chain out, so in some places I set both. If you look at any recent pictures of the S/V Denis Sullivan, you’ll see the starboard anchor has iron pipe for the stock from ten years ago.