The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Helping a Member Choose an Anchor

Member David asked an interesting question that really got me thinking.

Some of my answer is a rehash of things that I have already written in our Online Book on anchoring, but I still think that applying this to a specific usage case is a worthwhile exercise.

This article also includes some changes and updates to my thinking that have not yet made it into the Online Book.

And I will be interested to see how you members address David’s needs in the comments.


[Lightly Edited]

New member today. My sign up purposes are to explore hoop-less [no roll bar] replacements for my Rocna 33kg.

Watched all of Steve’s great YouTube’s (before aware / subscribing to your site) and [read] all your articles with words SPADE, SARCA, Vulcan in them as I do my best before merely asking for answers.

ALL this driven [by] my goal of getting that asymmetrical [spinnaker] tack out on a pole and clear of railing.

But, each time I’m about to pull the trigger: to a Vulcan, SPADE, then to an EXCEL, that last ten percent of research always reveals a shocking downer.

I’m in the Chesapeake bay until I fully retire so my aperture is wider than Chesbay but soft mud remains a big part of the calculus.

(A 30k lb displacement 46 footer that ends up “thunderstormed” on the beach before/during retirement has a way of severely narrowing ones aperture).

Vulcan: This quickly became least favorite despite local love because holding in harder stuff down the road can’t seem to match the other two and, primarily, it fits in the platform so poorly. Even if the anchor retaining pin did allow that giant french curve of a shank to rise enough to allow that elbow to get to the roller, it still seems like a giant pendulum under the platform just waiting for the bow to plunge. Not terribly secure.

[Spade:] Despite Steves valid concerns of “what’s going on inside that hollow shank” and lead, and price, and rust….seems SPADE is super everywhere but where I am…soft mud where it turns into a great field tiller near the mud surface. Read accounts of LONG overnight drags in Ches and US southeast “plough mud”.

SARCA Excel: Yes…The holy grail (for my situation)! Maybe it doesn’t set quite as fast but possibly because it keeps deep diving until I’m not trying to hold in soft mud. Steve tests even demonstrably rates it the highest for the soft stuff.

But wait, AAC newby here reads August ‘21 update….chain wrap! Aughh. Sure, maybe I’m suffering a little paralysis through analysis but I prefer to accept the risk of a very low probability of occurrence when the consequences are not so catastrophic.

Your thoughts (Preferably not to include give up the bowsprit or the Ches Bay).


Hi David,

Yours is a great question because it highlights the difficulty of zeroing in on the best anchor, or even the best anchor for each of us.

So the first thing to do is to recognize that the whole process and its associated information sources are fundamentally flawed, or at least limited in accuracy, and what those limits are:

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Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
A word about retaining pins for anchors: often off-handedly mentioned in anchor talk: it was in the recent article.
Anchors are often the first thing to tap a dock or wharf if you overshoot a bit (especially in the Med when stern anchored where you try for closeness to the wharf but not wanting to touch when things heat up). It does not take much of a tap from a moving boat to point load the pin and give it just enough bend to preclude pin removal without a hacksaw. I have once lent a hacksaw in an anchorage to a skipper who had not noticed the bend and seen others struggle to pull the pin out. He could not anchor till the onerous task of cutting the pin was accomplished.
Other down sides of pins: 1. sometimes/often hard to get the holes lined up (some manufacturers drill their holes for favorite anchors and favorite weights, often CQRs and lighter weight), 2, if it lifts the anchor at all, the anchor rattles when it swings, 3. Causes the crew to reach out and put the pin in at the very pointy end of the boat (not always easy to line things up- or safe- when things are boisterous), and the sometimes-slick retaining device at the pin end gets corroded and difficult to move/remove- anchors should be quickly available.
That said, securing an anchor is wise. It only takes one incident of a loose anchor flailing about to bring that home. For securing, it is just as easy to slip a piece of rope through the holes in the cheeks of the roller and through the bale/hole on the anchor and tying off. If you do not wish to do this out exposed there are numerous other methods of securing one’s anchor that do not include pins.
Finally, although a windlass can bring an anchor up tight on the roller, a windlass should never be considered the method for securing an anchor: far better to have a chain lock as has been recommended in these pages. And securing an anchor is one area where a belt and braces approach might be wise.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Nice article.
I think it wise advice to concentrate on reliability and to flag those areas where skippers sometimes focus unwarranted attention. I will add another area I believe the be unwarranted: the ability to set with short scope. Many seem to make a big deal of this attribute.  
It is rare that I even consider an anchoring situation where a short scope is required and it is usually the case in cruising widely to have an anchorage where ample scope is easily possible. Short scope was often used in the crowded East Coast US anchorages that were often crowded. Now, my tendency is to anchor deep on the outside of the fleet where I am usually happier anyway. Too much can easily go pear shaped by attempting to tuck in cozy in small spaces.
An observation about reliability: I had decades and many thousands of sets, storms and wind shifts with my CQR and I might still be using a CQR if I could have gotten it to set reliably: once set well, I found it quite reliable. My Spade is reliable in both realms.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi David, I also think there is very little down-side and a lot of up-side to buying an anchor that is bigger and heavier than previously recommended or considered. The difference is exponential (my take). My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

P D Squire

Mounting the anchor to one side will leave room for the assy pole on the other side. Then you could have any anchor you wanted.

You’d be in company if you did this:

You need to use a nylon snubber to avoid chain-wear on the bow, but you’d probably want to do that anyway.

Chris Daly

I had similar requirements to David. A strong dislike for roll-bar anchors; interference with assy prodder plus no resetting when choked with mud/weed/rocks. Swapped my 33kg Rocna for a Sarca Excel. I did consider a Spade, but no dealer in Australia and 3x cost to import. Cannot fault the Excel where I cruise.
Chris Daly
Discovery II
East coast Australia and Tasmania.

Michael Albert

For mostly the Chesapeake, and also coastal mid Atlantic and southern New England (so far) – the Mantus has been superb for me. I think it’s the best for soupy mud of Chesapeake of the new gen anchors. My opinion is this is due to large surface area and large rollbar which self rights better and clogs less than its “relatives”
I am sure structurally it could bend in rocks etc. And to the point of cost/value- for another 500-600 you can pack a spare which incidentally fits in a flat box which is a bonus!
But if the anchor performs well and fits (and probably that’s why the original member can’t use it), why the negatives against rollbars? It’s no different than putting extra weight in ballast like the Spade- it’s material that helps the anchor self right but doesn’t add to holding…

Stein Varjord

Hi Michael,

I’ve never tried the Mantus, but I see many like it. Probably a good anchor. The reason for disqualifying a rollbar in this case was that it will not fit on that boat. The normally mentioned main additional arguments against rollbars:
– More resistance to digging deep.
– More items to collect debris, which will disturb resetting.

Those are good points, but in my opinion, this is yet another example that sometimes even good points aren’t necessarily what should make the decision, since several rollbar anchors seem to work quite well in many situations. I have a preference for SPADE, but that’s because of its behaviour, not because of the lack of a rollbar, or any other technical spec.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

I also find Steves videos very interesting and did notice the comments you mention about concave anchors tending to stay oriented tip down after a release, as opposed to convex ones. Pondering that a bit makes me wonder if this is actually related to the fluke shape, as its presented to be, or if something else causes it. It could be that the concave anchors he tested have a better tip weight, or that their shank arc is better at keeping them upright. I really don’t know, of course, but find it important to be careful with connecting dots too early.

I totally see why a concave anchor should be better at staying dug in and just rotate on the spot when the direction of pull weers, but when the anchor has broken out completely, I don’t understand (yet) how the fluke shape can influence its orientation.

William Balme

It’s nice that I have the exact combination of anchors on Toodle-oo! I’ve never had to deploy the Fortress off the bow – the Spade has worked everywhere (including the Chesapeake) but if ever in trouble, I figure the Fortress is about as different as one can get from the Spade – which has to be a good thing in the event the Spade doesn’t work.
Primarily I have the Fortress as a stern anchor for when trying to set the boat into any swell – it’s also a good kedge…

We also have a third anchor (Manson Supreme) but it’s likely to get sold this winter!

Curious John – have you ever bothered to re-galvanize your Spade? Seems like a bit of a waste of time and money to me, but interested in your thoughts…

Outbound 44
Full time liveaboards, currently in Cadiz, Spain.

Eric Klem

Hi John,

I understand your thinking on the reliability once set but I have never been totally comfortable with that alone although it may just be ptsd from growing up experiencing issues with CQR, Danforth and Fortress anchors. My thinking is that even a perfectly set really good anchor will sometimes run into something causing it to unset occasionally, I think that Drew has also mentioned this but I can’t remember the specifics. At this point, resetting becomes important but before the object is ever encountered, setting distance is important to minimize the frequency of these interactions. Steve also observed that with a hybrid rode, anchors tended to do backflips in a sharp reversal so for people using a hybrid rode, resetting is likely even more critical. So if it were I, I would put resetting up there with performance once set and also pay attention to the setting distance. Once we switched to new gen anchors, we actually went to a 1 strike and you are out policy on an anchorage, if we don’t get a set the first try, we move, at least to another section. Of course, we are trying to make anchor purchase decisions with very limited info so actually making this actionable is tricky. I will be curious to see if any of your thoughts on the Spade change once you start cruising with a small one.

Do you have a procedure or set of criteria of when you would set a Fortress to the 45 degree setting? I have personally never used it mainly because I don’t know how to decide when to use it(frankly, the Fortress very rarely gets pulled out and readied let alone wet). Do you take a core sample with the main anchor first then do a really hard set on the Fortress? If using it for heavy weather, do we know that if it will take a hard engine set, it will reliably set deeper if the weather loading is higher? I am a little cautious on this as I have witnessed multiple examples of people failing to get Fortresses to set in the 45 degree setting in otherwise easy to set bottoms. Also, as a kid we had a Danforth knockoff on a skiff that was really hard to set and when I got older and realized that it had too wide of a fluke angle, a small bit of welding completely transformed the anchor.

I can think of 3 times when people advocate using a Fortress, as a kedge, for really soft bottoms and as a storm anchor. When kedging where holding power matters, time is usually of the essence and you should be setting the anchor in deep water so I don’t know that it is practical to figure out if 45 degrees will work. For really soft bottoms, I suppose you may know as your main anchor failed but if you upsize your main anchor, you are unlikely to have the engine power to drag it until you get to a storm anchor type use. As a storm anchor that is put out once things are really howling and your main anchor is dragging, I would generally not want to take the risk of a failure to set and I wouldn’t want to take the time to change the angle. A storm anchor does raise the possibility of figuring out the bottom beforehand at least. I hope that I have explained my confusion appropriately and if you have thoughts on when you would use it, I would definitely be interested as otherwise the 45 degree angle is nothing more than a party trick or marketing gimmick to me in non home turf anchorages. By the way, what I decided to do years ago is that a Fortress 2 sizes bigger than recommended has rated 32 degree soft mud holding >1.5X the loads I would expect on the boat at 60 knots and the size is still reasonable to be a kedge. However, for a larger boat of say 50′, it starts to become a really big anchor to handle as anything other than a storm anchor so you likely either need 2 sizes or utilize the 45 degree setting on a smaller anchor.

I apologize if this is too off topic.


Steve Goodwin

I’ll add that a Fortress FX-16 configured at the 45 degree angle was unable to set in the “soft mud” seabed where I have done many tests. The anchor sets and holds brilliantly here when configured at the 32 degree fluke angle.

Instead of labeling the 45 degree setting the “soft mud setting”, perhaps Fortress should call it the “soupy mud setting”.


Steve Goodwin

John, yep, mud palms were installed during that failed “45 degree fluke” set.

Steve Goodwin

12 feet of 5/16″ chain + Nylon. Scope 5:1. Depth 20 or 25 feet. FX-16.

Eric Klem

Hi Steve,

Thank you for the memory jog, I went back and found the video and rewatched it, very helpful. For anyone interested, it is #101 .

My uninformed interpretation of the video does show a couple of interesting things.  

  • When the Danforth lands in the first underwater clip, the tips appear to be sitting slightly proud of the surface just like people discuss in soft mud. As soon as there is any tension in the rode, it looks to me like the back end rises up and the tips immediately dig in and it sets.  
  • My hypothesis is that since the anchor set just fine at 32 degrees, the scope issue is a red herring. Watching the Danforth, while it sat tips up, it was articulated to some point relatively in the middle of its range no where near the stop. I would find it hard to believe that the Fortress could invert to 32 degrees let alone 45 unless it really was soup as you say and not soft.
  • On the Fortress at 45 degrees, the mud on the anchor in both trials is really interesting as it is accumulated relatively close to the tips. I personally doubt that this is from the flukes inverting and the anchor dragging along. My hypothesis is that the tips start to dig in, the anchor stands up and starts packing mud on the tips but the fluke angle is too steep so doesn’t convert enough of the rode tension into force plunging into the seabed and instead rips them through the mud. When a Danforth stands up like this, the angle the fluke presents to the bottom is much steeper than the fluke to shank angle as the shank is no longer horizontal so instead of 45 degrees, the bottom might be seeing an angle of 60+ degrees. On our knock-off Danforth that we had on a skiff growing up with too wide a fluke angle, we would see this behavior a lot even in really soft sand. I have also seen it on Danforth’s with the correct angle but in hard sand. In hard sand, they tend to start to boogie back and forth in a consistent but jerky manner as they dig in a few inches then break out. This sort of behavior in hard sand can be seen in this video around the 1:10 mark (sorry for linking to a competing manufacturer video, it is the easiest I could find).
  • At 32 degrees, the Fortress had great holding power for a 10lb anchor. You could scale your needs to a cruising boat and still end up with a reasonable anchor sized on this.

I echo John’s comment on dislikling how fiddly using the 45 degrees setting would be and that assumes one could even get it to set with some magic technique. Frankly, I think that if the technique shown in the video doesn’t produce a set, then I don’t want to mess with it. You followed all the manufacturer recommendations and I can find no other technique faults, the notion of setting at really short scope first seems like it would only work in a few situations and is really problematic anyways. Thanks for the video and all the others too.


Drew Frye

This. Same experience, many times, several wizes. Yes, mud palms.

I find the 45 degree holding power interesting, but you never really know what is down there and the 32 degress setting is nearly 100% reliable. The holding is somewhat less, but even in very soft mud, it is enough. I often used my Fortress kedge (F-16–not large), in combination with a 35-pound bower, to stabilize my cat so that I could drag drag other 25- to 35-pound anchors using winches.

Some of these tests (and 45 degree setting failures) where at or very near the same Solomons Island test site Fortress used. Note that in those tests the 45 degree setting failed 40% of the time. The 32 degree setting failed 20%.

I don’t know of anyone who uses the 45 degree setting. Too fussy.

Drew Frye

Yes, I used many different scopes and know the Fortress tricks for setting is soft mud (lift the shank).

FYI, use very light (high grade) chain and high strength shackles on the Fortress in soft mud; heavy chain can pull the shank below the flukes.

Eric Klem

Hi Drew,

Thanks for adding your thoughts on my question, nothing like info from a knowledgeable person in the area known for its soft mud. Your point on the Fortress anchor test is really interesting too, it shows how poor memory can be at retaining test data and how important some form of summary test log is. I had remembered mainly the headline that Fortress “won” those tests as they had produced by far the most holding power but failing to reliably set hardly seems like winning in most situations.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

The one strike policy may be a bit harsh but it is based on the theory that if I can’t get a good set the first time, what are the chances of a good reset if we get a sharp reversal. The caveat on this policy is that if it is obviously an operator issue and not a bottom issue, I will try again. We started this after a little while of having a Rocna and occasionally moved as a result but that was really rare. We had a few operator error issues with it when we would have a thermocline so the depth sounder wasn’t giving the real depth and we would try to set at shorter scope and have issues, of course the amount of rode out gave away this issue. Since we switched to a Mantus M1 8 years ago, we have only had 2 failed sets in 500+, every single other one has set and then held our setting force. The first was early on with a guest on the windlass who was too concerned about not piling the chain on the bottom so dragged the anchor at short scope for a while and a bottom that I had read was really hard to get a set. After dragging for several feet, we hauled up, pulled the huge amount of grass off the anchor and moved 1/4 mile getting a good set. A little while later, friends of ours came along with the exact same 65lb Mantus and haphazardly dumped a bunch of chain then backed down quickly and powerset to the full thrust of their 75hp engine with max prop right where we had been. We have since anchored there a handful of times in settled weather and I believe that it was a combination of a tricky bottom and poor technique, either one on its own would not have prevented a set. The other time we had a failed set was in a pocket anchorage where we dropped under sail and only let it drag maybe 20′ because the shore was getting quite close and when we pulled up, the chain was just lightly under one of the roll bar bolt heads. A quick push on the anchor and it was unfouled and we did re-anchor there as it was not bottom specific and we have anchored there numerous times.

This is probably all allowed by this being by far the most aggressive setting anchor I have ever used, I thought the Rocna was aggressive and then I got used to this and it is a lot more. Steve has also mentioned how quickly it sets in his comments. It has been over a decade now since I have spent time with a Spade so I can’t remember well enough to say how quick that was but I think it was pretty quick except for the times when we struggled to get it to set in grassy hard sand. I am convinced that something that sets aggressively is safer but at some point, the return may become marginal and I don’t know how much weight to give it once you get to the very good setting performance of pretty much all new gen anchors. There is also the enjoyment factor which is afterall why we all do this, having the confidence to anchor under sail in relatively tight places has added a lot of enjoyment, previously we would only do it with tons of room to drag or with the engine already running. Short scope capabilities are similar, I would only consider anchoring on short scope with weather coming in real deep water but the ability to anchor at short scope in settled weather can really increase enjoyment. For example, 2 weeks ago we anchored in 25′ of water with the 50′ mark on the chain on the bow roller for an hour in a real tight spot because the kids were getting restless and it was too rough to safely dinghy in from where we had been anchored. In the PNW, probably half of our favorite anchorages required less than 3:1 and maybe half of those required 2:1 and the Bruce was the only thing that we could find at the time that allowed us to access those places. This is not to say that enjoyment competes with safety in any way just that these features are bonuses.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Thanks for the thoughts on the Fortress at 45 degrees. Based on yours and Steve’s comments, it seems to make sense to stick with how I had been sizing one and planning to use it. To me, it highlights a lot of what we already know is important to anchoring being an oversized bow anchor that is of a good design and understanding that bottom is still important. For settled weather, you can get away with a lot but when there is real weather coming, knowing your protection and knowing the bottom is super important. I do see a spot for a Fortress in our arsenal but it is narrow and in certain locations, I could see an argument for just having 2 new gens provided the boat was small enough that they could be handled from a dinghy.

I too have had a Fortress or Danforth be critical but I have also had several areas where they failed to do anything useful. I am so glad the days of always having one ready to go whenever there was anything forecast are gone now that we have good primary anchors. And also that I don’t anchor on fisherman anchors anymore which love to drag in sand, there is nothing like dragging 2X 500lb fisherman anchors and thousands of pounds of chain then putting down a single FX-55 and having no further issues,.



I’ve just logged in and found this post. It is incredibly timely for me as I’m about to head to the Chesapeake for the next year. I’m reassured as I am currently carrying a brand new spade anchor, and a Fortress. Well, my third anchor is an old CQR, but what can I say, it came with the boat and I’m not throwing it out yet…


Wilson Fitt

Hi John

Years ago in a smallish boat I relied on a Danforth anchor with about 15 feet of chain and the rest nylon line. With very few exceptions that combination worked well in the mostly soft bottoms between Nova Scotia and the Bahamas. In those simple days we had a 10 hp motor and an offset prop so the notion of backing down to ensure a set never occurred to us. I would tug on the anchor line until it seemed solid and call it a day. I don’t recall ever dragging although it may have happened.

Now, in the days of chain rode and aggressive backing down, I think the problem in getting Danforth style anchors to set may be that the weight of the chain pulls the shank down below the surface of very soft mud leaving the flukes oriented in the up position where they hydroplane along the mud/water interface. Since chafe is not an issue in those circumstances, abandoning the chain in favour of an all rope rode would help to keep the the shank up and the flukes down. That combined with a gentle approach to setting may produce better results.

I have now passed through the mid-life CQR phase and rely on a Spade and a half mile of chain, but I still have a Danforth aboard and on the rare occasions that it gets wet I only use rope for the rode. It is still a great anchor in mud.


David Somers

Well John you certainly went above and beyond in entertaining my question and it wasn’t “blather” because I read and continue to read it all more than once, including the informative comments of our clearly informed members. Particularly Bill Balm and Chris Daly, not simply because I respect their perspective on other issues on our boat owner forum, but because they seek similar answers in similar anchoring topographies on same boat. But, truly, thanks to all. I’ve been silent thus far in trying to listen (read) more than speak (type) but be assured I’m taking this all in. To clarify just a couple of small points: I do own a Fortress for reasons outlined; price is only a tie breaker at best; and my aversion to rust comes from 30 years Navy wherein I received lashings from the “cat-o-nine tails” as an Ensign over rust and preservation to the point of PTSD… I’m retired and psychologically recovered but it was Steve’s youtube point on the rust I can’t see that causes a relapse (thanks Steve). Occasional testimonies like dragging a spade through east intracoastal “plough mud” 100 yards in an overnight thunderstorm and chain fouling (both spade and excel) are likely ‘oneoffs’ that command undue attention.
Of course we all realize this is not really about getting Dave the best anchor but Dave’s honored to have my question leveraged in pursuit of discussions on applying weighted values to the proper analytics based on ones anticipated anchoring circumstances. Just compelled, since I started this, to offer that it’s down to spade or excel if I really want to fit that bowsprit. I continue to focus on the soft mud experiences but beyond that, and cobblestones, the new tech affords exponentially more piece on mind if set correctly. My best to all.

Chris M

If it helps to know… we’ve had many years of good luck on the Chesapeake using a pivoting SuperMAX anchor. First a MAX-16 on a 33′ express sportfish, and then a MAX-17 on a 42′ convertible. (Always complemented by an appropriately-sized and eventually seldom used Fortress.) It’s not so easy to determine whether one will fit your davit/bowspit… compared to being able to get mock-ups or at least patterns for Excel, Vulcan, SPADE… Happens we’re shopping for a replacement anchor on the current newer-to-us 58′ sedan bridge, and so far SPADE, Vulcan, and Excel are bubbling to the top… if it turns out we can’t hang a MAX-20 up there. FWIW, my zen (WAGs) says Vulcan tests better than Excel or SPADE in Steve Goodwin’s soft mud tests, Excel may bring up less mess when recovered, and of course John’s experience (and et al) with SPADE is reassuring. Then too, setting technique here in the occasional soft mud (aka soup, slime, ooze… very likely not exactly the same as what Steve Goodwin has encountered)… seems to trump a lot of those pesky anchor design issues. Set it well, let it “soak”, enjoy Happy Hour, set it some more, have dinner… wash, rinse, repeat… -Chris

Chris M

Not to worry, John, our “soaking” in that context would have been preceded by pretty much what you describe in your 15-steps to anchoring. 🙂 Cheers, -Chris

Brian Russell

This has been a pertinent discussion, as usual, and we faced a similar dilemma to Mr.Somers: the desire to implement a small bowsprit for our code zero on the Po roller being high on the list. We spent some time on the Chesapeake June-October 2020 and had several severe thunderstorms roll through, with 60+ gusts and wind shifts. Each time our 33kg Rocna dragged but eventually reset. (13.4m 18T high windage cutter rigged sloop). I have a Fortess in the anchor locker but deploying it is a complete pain and so never happens. Our stern Fortress is a great kedge and was useful in several Caribbean anchorages to keep the boat perpendicular to the swell.
My key takeaways for the Chesapeake mud are: 1. Anchor in the middle of the anchorage so you have plenty of room to drag, thinking about prevailing wind directions and storm patterns 2. Watch the weather carefully and be onboard when those T-storms are on the horizon. If leaving the boat for extended period consider tying up at a pontoon.
We are now in Scotland and I finally bought a SpadeS160 as our primary. The Rocna is in the locker as a spare. This summer’s experience with the spade, in many different seabed types, has been mostly positive. Setting in kelp can be tricky but the heavy tip weight, and patience, gets it down eventually. We only had one drag, in soft muddy gravel. We had backed down well, thought it was nicely set but a 90 degree wind shift caused us to drag about 15m.
Next year we head to Norway and expect to give the spade another good workout. Over the winter I will make a new bowsprit (that must be able to fit into checked luggage!) for the CCZ.
Practice anchoring as often as possible!

Dick Stevenson

Hi all,
There has been much discussion on the use of a Fortress anchor, especially in the Chesapeake.
We have used it as a kedge and as a stern anchor, always successfully, but in good bottoms. We were faced with a hurricane when in the upper Chesapeake a couple of decades ago when our bower was still a CQR and we could not get a good stick and it was getting a little late to go elsewhere especially with no guarantee that conditions would improve.
In some degree of desperation, I attached the Fortress (FX37) to the CQR with (what I remember) ~~12 feet of chain. I deployed with patience easing it into the bottom and taking our time to back down. This tandem anchoring design worked quite well in what turned out to be a tropical storm with the greatest problems shore-side with extra-ordinarily high surge.
These days, I suspect I could have teased my Spade into holding.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I do not think I have ever even been tempted to do either a tandem anchor or 2 anchors “V”ed since I bought the Spade. And this was early days with the Fortress and I am sure I thought the CQR would help the Fortress set.
And agree with the Spade’s performance in Norway.
My best, Dick

Dick Stevenson

Hi Brian,
Anchors are too important to have them stowed in such a way as to make them unusable when needed. One of the attributes of the Fortress is that it is so light as to be able have it on the bow with little problem caused by the additional weight: the problem is usually how to stow and to allow easy deployment. This is usually possible, especially nowadays when “best practices” tends toward one big bower and away from 2 anchors of different styles on the bow.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Rob Farrell

A great article, thanks John. Although it has left me feeling a bit sore as someone who has purchased a Rocna in the last few years.

The following piqued my interest…
“Most boaters (I would guess at least 90%) are grossly incompetent at anchoring. That sounds harsh, but we should recognize the reality”

I’d be interested to know whether you have a list of “practices undertaken by those who are competent at anchoring vs those that aren’t” I’m assuming inappropriate scope length and incorrect anchor for the substrate would be two things on that list?

Michael Fournier

I replaced the ridiculous 45 lb CQR that was on my boat when I bought it. (I think the previous owner just kept going heavier every time they dragged the small danforth anchors I found i the original anchore locker and one in the Lazarette. In the end my choice was the mantis original with the roll bar. I sized it based on their sizing chart (which removed 20 lbs from my bowsprit) (but I more than made up the weight in chain.) my boat is always on the hook the mantis sets easily every time (mud and sand bottom FL ICW) and has held well and resets through changes in wind and current as if it was never disturbed. I would recommend the mantis as a primary anchor.

Lloyd M Van Lunen

I am a very grateful new member on your site. I am planning a cruise to western Newfoundland and Labrador this summer, and your articles have given me a huge amount of information to process to make that trip safer and better thought-out in advance.

My wife and I have been sailing J-Boats since 1997, first in a J110 and, since 2005, in a J120. We have mostly cruised the Maine coast but have also been up the St. John River once and twice to Grand Manan, and once to the south shore of Nova Scotia. In 2019, in company with another boat, I took the 120 up the Nova Scotia coast, through the Bras D’Or, to spend a week on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. The two of us are planning a cruise this summer up the west coast of Newfoundland and then up the Labrador coast, possibly as far as Nain. I have been deep in the weeds for months getting ready for this more ambitious cruise.

I am sure you have plenty of practice now with your J109, but it might be interesting to compare notes about cruising these wonderful boats. BTW, I would never jibe the way those guys in San Francisco do in that Youtube video. Their approach looks slick in the video, but is actually a cluster waiting to happen.

My anchoring question is this: I have used a 35# Delta anchor for years, with good results. I currently have it on 60’ of chain and a 200’ 12-plait nylon rode. I am pretty sure the Spade 80 will fit as a replacement for the Delta, but I have to check this with a cardboard mock-up I have made up. The Spade 100 might also fit and is the “one size larger” anchor you usually advise. However, if I am to add 9# to the bow over my current rig, I will want to shorten the chain by about 15’ to offset that weight. Should I go for the bigger anchor (provided it will fit) and less chain or should I opt for the smaller anchor and more chain? My gut tells me the first option with the bigger anchor is best. What do you think?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Lloyd,
Agreed: after design, nothing beats weight in the anchor for ground tackle effectiveness. Choose chain/rode for strength and put weight in the anchor.
Enjoy your cruise, My best, Dick stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Rob Gill

Hi Lloyd, I’ve been thinking about your situation as I am conscious about weight forward having just chopped off the front 30 metres of rusting chain – I believe we are pitching less going into a seaway, but it’s hard to be objective.

But it would worry me cruising your intended anchorages (weed over rock?) with your chain being so short that the nylon rode could end up leading around a rock during a frontal wind shift. This would cut through your rope pretty fast?

In the Pacific we have coral heads (many uncharted) so we carried 100 metres chain around the SW Pacific Islands with 100 metres of 18 mm 8 strand plaited nylon spliced on, albeit on a bigger, cruising yacht.

Recently I read about a technique involving attaching small floats/buoys and then small fenders along your anchor rode as you let it out, to keep it off the bottom when the wind drops in a lull, and the rode sinks to the bottom. The article was in the context of avoiding damage to the coral and making retrieval easier – even half a turn under a coral head is no fun.

Haven’t tried the technique yet and not keen on the added complexity. But if I chop off another 20 metres of chain it could be a part solution for us in the Pacific and you up in the North?

Has anyone tried this in anger?

Lloyd M Van Lunen

Dear John, Dick and Rob,

Thanks so much for all your helpful comments. I will need to take a cardboard mock-up of the bigger Spade aboard to check for fit, especially around the retractable sprit and under the jib furling drum. I am pretty sure the Spade 80 will fit, but not so sure about the Spade 100. The tight clearances on the J120 for anchors is a definite problem. Boreas launches in the next few days and once she is rigged I can check this out. Even the Spade 80 would be an improvement over the Delta 35.

Incidentally, I had my rigger redo the chain-rope splice and he found that the last chain link, hidden in the old splice, was badly corroded. These little details are what get you every time.

I don’t know if this is the place to discuss jibing the asymmetrical spinnaker or not. My wife and I do this all the time in winds up to 20 knots, jibing downwind just like we would tack upwind. The ride is infinitely better and a lot more fun. In the video, you see the crew just shove the boom across with all the slack left in the main sheet. That slack sheet just loves to snag on the mainsheet winches or the steering pedestal. In a breeze, you have to jibe back to clear the sheet, which completely fouls up the chute. Getting a chute wrapped around the forestay is a major problem and can easily result from flipping back and forth. We always center the traveler and bring the mainsheet in pretty tight before jibing and bringing the spinnaker around. I find that keeping the boom under control is a must, especially when the wind gets over 10 knots.Happy to discuss this more if you’d like. The retractable sprit and the asymmetrical spinnaker are God’s gift to the downwind sailor if done right.

Thanks again,


Lloyd M Van Lunen

I apologize for my long delay in relaying the outcome of the discussion above. I made a mock-up of the Spade 100 and it just wouldn’t fit on the J120’s bow. The space there is pretty tight with the sprit off to starboard and a low jib furler. Therefore, I went ahead and bought a Spade 80. Knowing that the 80 is not the optimal size will be very important going forward. We will be that much more careful in our anchorage selection and extra vigilant when on the hook. We also bought and rigged a FinDelta riding sail to reduce the boat’s tendency to sail about, which should lessen the anchor loads quite a bit. (The J120 loves to sail, unfortunately even at anchor.) So, even though I didn’t get the best anchor as recommended, I feel that this whole discussion was most helpful and thank everyone who participated for their time and expertise. We’ll be departing from Maine around June 11th.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Lloyd and all,
Agree about Newfoundland and having a good dependable anchor. Hurricanes do come and gales happen in season and like clockwork if you push the edges.
I had some thoughts on anchor weight that I thought I would share and enjoy feedback.

It is my take that weight in the anchor does more to enhance ground tackle effectiveness than weight anywhere else It is also my casual observation (in no way buttressed by facts or evidence I am aware of) that increasing weight in the anchor increases effectiveness in ground tackle effectiveness not linearly, but exponentially.
So, I had a new thought on how to think about weight in the anchor. Mine is a 77-pound Spade: used ~~10 years. My previous Spade was 66 pounds (used 8 years) making for an ~~17% weight increase which would be a nice linear increase in ground tackle effectiveness, but not dramatic. My experience (and this is the really casual observation) is that the 77 pounder is more than 17% more effective: it is exponentially better. I am not sure if there is anything in the literature to validate this (or otherwise).
I went with a bigger anchor as I anchor in marginal and remote areas. That said, even if you are not going to Greenland or the fjords of Norway, 10 extra pounds on the bow in your anchor will likely make little noticeable difference in sailing performance on most cruising boats, but might make a difference in anchoring security. 
Interested in reactions to my random thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Thanks for the url. I just read it again and appreciate how well put your arguments are. Dick

Jack Ellis

Wow, what a very interesting and, may I say, in-depth discussion! Seems like anchors and associated gear always generates the longest discussion threads. I have learned a lot and had many of my previous ideas challenged. As a retiring academic type, I love it.

However at this point, it seems like the real question is: How many angels can actually dance on the head of a SPADE fluke?

Jack Ellis