While there are plenty of boating accessories the recreational enthusiast can do without, an anchor is not among them. This unassuming little hook not only allows you to stop and explore relatively quiet or remote backwaters, but it also serves as a vital safety device to arrest your boat and keep it out of harm’s way in the event of a mechanical breakdown. Plainly then you need an anchor, but the trouble comes when you attempt to buy one…

Choosing an anchor top tips

  1. When picking an anchor, most guidance charts refer to your boat length as the key consideration. But don’t forget your boat weight and windage or you may well end up with an anchor that is too small. Instead, it is best to play it safe and buy an anchor a size or two above that recommended for your nominal LOA.

  2. A poorly secured anchor in your bow locker can cause damage, particularly in a small GRP craft, so make sure it’s placed in a bracket, against a rubber matt and strapped down with bungees

  3. Don’t forget your anchor line. Nylon is a particularly good choice, as it is non-buoyant and enjoys a useful degree of elasticity. Depending on your boat and usage, you may also need a length of chain.

  4. Get more line than you think you will need, as you may have cause to anchor in deeper water than you expect. Add 20 or 30 metres to the length required for your regular anchorage and you have some leeway for emergencies

  5. When you anchor up, take a good fix on the objects around you. If you then start dragging, you should be able to spot it early and reset your hook.

Group of powerboats at anchor

Choose the wrong anchor and it can be very embarrassing, not to mention dangerous.

Like a propeller, an electronics suite or indeed the boat itself, there is so much choice (and so many conflicting opinions) that it can be difficult to know where to begin. But the basic issues the average recreational boater needs to consider are actually very simple. Will it fit on board your boat comfortably and enable you to use it without awkwardness? Will it provide effective holding for your boat in the seabed material you most commonly encounter? Will it position itself correctly and will it hold or reset itself if the boat rotates? If the answers to these questions are all positive, then it is time to turn your attention to that simplest (and most compelling) consideration - price.

Anchors for sale

A Boat Jumble is a good place to look for anchors, but there are a range of different designs.

Anchor types

The range of boat types, boating applications and seabed materials is enormous and the broad range of anchors available reflects that. But one of the most popular types is the Danforth, which uses a horizontal anti-roll bar and provides fierce holding power despite quite modest weight and accessible pricing. It is, however, quite bulky and awkward to stow, particularly in the traditionally tapered bow of a planing powerboat.

Fortress anchor

A Fortress anchor.

So how about the Fortress Anchor? It uses a pair of long, pointed flukes on a swivel, which are designed to drive into the surface or to catch an edge. You also get the flexibility of adjusting the weight settings to improve its performance, plus fairly lightweight construction and the ability to dismantle it and stow it very neatly in a compact carry bag.

The Bruce or Claw Anchor meanwhile is a favourite of the more glamorous powerboat brigade. It uses a single fluke, which is designed to enable it to nestle into a soft surface and stay secure, even if the boat rotates. In its stainless steel guise, it can look fantastic poised on the bow of a boat, but its holding power is relatively limited in relation to its weight.

Grapnel anchor

A Grapnel, or Spider anchor.

So what about the Grapnel or Spider Anchor? It is a simple, lightweight unit with three or four prongs, each of which can be folded upwards, creating a small, easily stowed package that looks rather like a bashful squid. The trouble is that only half the prongs are able to come into contact with the bed at any one time and as a result, they rarely have sufficient grip to serve as your sole anchor if conditions get a bit testing.

And that brings us nicely to the Plough Anchor. With broadly effective holding in most conditions, it has proven itself as a very effective compromise. The CQR (Clyde Quick Release) hinged version of the Plough can be neatly stowed over a bow roller and it boasts an excellent ability to set itself when it falls on its side. While the original version was used during WWII as an affordable general-purpose military anchor, the modern CQR is a sound selection for a great many recreational applications. Just watch out for your fingers in the apex of that hinged shank.

CQR anchor

The CQR anchor is a sound selection for many recreational applications.

Green anchoring

There are around 80 non-native invasive species in UK waters and they can have serious detrimental effects on our ecosystems. They are often carried into the UK in the ballast water of tankers and they can easily get transported around our coastline by small recreational boats. In order to stop these invaders hitch hiking on your boat, give your anchor a good wash down before you leave your anchoring spot.

Anchor stowed on boat

Match your anchor to your boat, a poorly stowed anchor can cause damage.

An anchor is an essential, not an accessory!

An anchor is not the marine equivalent of fluffy dice. It is a vital part of your skipper’s inventory, so assess what you need for your boat, take advice on the best type for your local area and make the investment.

Some useful places to look at anchor and anchor stowage and handling options include Boat Jumbles as well as companies like Lewmar, Force4 and Mailspeed Marine

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.