One of the more common questions people ask us is, “Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to pay for a dock every night?” They are a little surprised to find out that we almost never go to a marina, in fact, we once went for 18 months without ever even touching a dock for any reason. Our boat is very self sufficient. We make our own water with a desalination system. We make all of our electricity, 90% of our power generation comes from solar and wind, the other 10% from either the boats engine or our little Honda generator. We sail where ever we go so our diesel engine is used very little. We use about the same amount of fuel in 1 year as we used to use in our vehicles in just a couple of days back in Montana. But even with all of that self sufficiency, perhaps our greatest freedom comes from anchoring out.
With a good anchoring system a cruising sailboat can safely turn any protected harbor into a new home. There are no dock fees or mooring fees. There are no permits (some places do require anchoring permits if you stay in one place for too long, just pull up the hook and move if you don’t want to pay them.) There is no one to come around writing down your electric and water usage so they can charge you for that later. Best of all the boat always turns up into the wind and the fresh ocean breeze blows down through the open hatches cooling the boat. The swimming right off the boat is almost always great, and usually the company of other boats is pretty cool too.
We have used a 45lb Bruce with all chain for years as our main anchor. We have only had two experiences where we dragged, however I believe that the deficiencies in our anchor were compensated for with a lot of chain and a longer scope in many conditions. Today there are a lot of new modern anchor designs that are FAR more efficient than the Bruce. After looking at independent tests and talking to many real life cruisers we have upgraded our main anchor to a 55lb Rocna anchor. This anchor far out performs all of the anchors tested. After 8 years on the hook we have eliminated our 45 pound CQR anchor completely. It is my belief that in any conditions which will cause the 55 Rocna to pull out and drag the CQR would not even hold at all. We now have a 35 pound Danforth at midships in a deck holder that is ready and available for kedging or for a stern anchor if needed. It is not our intention to ever use it as an actual secondary anchor.
Our final anchor is a HUGE FX-37 Fortress Anchor. This is our emergency storm anchor and don’t let the light weight fool you, this Aluminum, take apart anchor has some of the most consistently high break out power of any anchor tested. It’s right up there with the Rocna.
|Fortress ready for stowing down below|
The beautiful thing about the Fortress though is its ability to break down into a small package. We have had a bag made to store it and an extra 10 feet of chain with its shackles. The whole thing is stored down below, low in the boat. The Fortress will be used in severe weather, hooked in tandem with the Rocna rather than out on its own rode.
I have heard the common saying, “You can’t have too many anchors!” To that I say, “Bullshit.” In my opinion, a sailboat is small enough, and it is difficult enough to store everything you NEED for everyday living. There is NO place on our boat for things that will not be used, especially VERY heavy things, again I will harp on WEIGHT. Cruisers are always complaining about the poor performance of their boats, they lament the poor sailing abilities of their over weight full keel boats with CRAP piled high all over the decks and HUGE anchors and 300 feet of chain up in the bow locker and a couple of other unused anchors buried in crap somewhere else on the boat. After all of these years I cannot think of a situation where if my Rochna failed I would be better off digging out my old 66 pound Bruce from deep in the hold hooking it up and using it, or throwing the 45 pound CQR off the bow and assuming it will somehow do a better job than the Rocna and the Fortress did hooked in tandem.
|All three anchors, Rocna, Danforth, Fortress.|
I believe you should have three anchors. Your main anchor should be up to the task, by itself, of holding your boat in conditions up to Tropical storm force and you should have a Storm anchor that you can store deep in the boat to tandem with that anchor if conditions are forecast for greater than storm force. (And I ask you... why are you and your boat sitting there in the path of a hurricane? I digress...) You also need a versatile light anchor that can be used for a stern anchor or kedge. This anchor needs to be light enough to deploy from your dingy. For this we recommend a smaller Fortress or a Danforth. We chose the Danforth just because it was about half the price of the Fortress. I will discuss how we hook this anchor up in the section discussing Chain and Rode.
The Shackle or Swivel:
The problem for some boats, with not using a swivel is that the constant turning of the boat at anchor puts turn after turn into the chain and the rode. If you have a small chain locker it can pile up in such a way that it forms knots in the chain itself. Also when you bring up the anchor the chain holds all of the energy from these twists and can become so badly twisted by the end that it actually fouls your windlass, slips off and dumps itself into the ocean in an unstoppable freefall. A swivel allows the chain to turn without getting twisted and makes it very easy to bring up and store the chain in the chainlocker.
The problem with using a swivel is that most swivels, at least the less expensive versions are really nothing more than two shackles connected by a bolt in the middle. The shackles turn on that bolt and that bolt alone becomes the weakest point in the whole system. The bolts used in most of these cheap swivels is not rated as high as the chain used. I do NOT recommend these swivels and suggest you immediately remove them if you have one. I do recommend the Wasi swivel, to my knowledge it is the ONLY swivel that is actually rated with a breaking strength. We have successfully used one for six years and the only problem we faced was that at the end of the sixth year it became almost impossible to remove. I do recommend that you remove this swivel every year to inspect it of weak spots inside or corrosion.
There is also a lot to be said for a plain old high test galvanized shackle. Do not use a stainless steel shackle as they are notorious for the pin working its way out. (This is the type which backed out even though it had been seized with wire. It wiggled itself enough to break the wire and we caught it right before it completely let go!) A galvanized shackle will seize itself in salt water, but still you should make sure to back the pin up with wire.
On a side note: We have seen many ways people mark their chain over the years and have tried about all of them, paint wears off and needs to be redone all the time, markers fall out, zip ties break quickly. For the past five years we have done a simple thing that works great. We take a brightly colored polypro line (the kind you use for pulling water skiers), we pull these strands apart into three small lines and cut them into one foot lengths using a rope cutter. If you take these and feed then over and under through your chain at the spot you want to mark it works great, the color stays for years, they do not foul your windlass and you can even use different colors for different points on your chain. They can also be braided right into your Rode itself in the same over and under fashion.
Well this might have been a little to technical for those of you on land but I hope it helps some of you new cruisers who are going about the process of selecting your ground tackle and anchor system!