When Anchors Don’t Drag . . .

. . . we thank God with our whole hearts!

Our last night on the water before returning home yesterday was in the location where we have consistently had difficulty getting an anchor to set.  The bottom is so soft, and the soft muck so deep, that it’s like trying to set an anchor in Kleenex.

Up Mill Creek in Solomons Island there are many beautiful anchorages surrounded by lovely homes and gorgeous boats. The entire waterway is a sight-seer’s paradise, but we always have anxieties when we anchor anywhere in this long, winding creek or any of its branches. Let me just say now, that we we’ve never dragged. No, that hasn’t been the problem. Our problem is always getting a “feel-good” about the anchor set. We’ve tried as many as four times for one set, then been nervous all night that we would drag. In the past, we’ve never had weather that truly tested the set. Monday night was a different story.

Red arrow marks our anchorage.

Red arrow marks our anchorage.

I deployed the primary anchor, and we took the set very gradually.  We probably took ten minutes to deploy and back down on it, gradually increasing the engine rpm to 2500 in reverse. We deployed the second anchor 90 degrees to starboard of the first, paying out lots of scope for both, allowing the second anchor to hang by itself, gradually backing down on it up to 2500 rpm as well. Then I balanced the length of the rodes so that each would pull evenly.

What happens after deploying two hooks is that the boat oscillates, swinging from one rode to the other. There is still a doubled safety factor, as it is much more likely that one hook will hold if the other drags, each one acting as backup for the other.  However, I do not get the effect of two evenly holding hooks because with my current gear, I cannot shackle the rodes together and pull from both concurrently. I am going to look into this, though, as it seems to me that pulling on both anchors with the same force would offer more security at anchor.

However, Monday night I was confident with the set of both anchors. . .  until midnight when a series of lines squalls blew through the area. In minutes, the wind had gusted to at least 40 mph and was exerting much, much more force on the ground tackle. I went on deck and secured the bimini, tied off a couple of halyards that were slapping, then watched the motion of the boat and carefully noted our location in the anchorage, visually measuring against fixed points on land. All seemed secured. Throughout the storm I rose and checked our position, and was assured each time that we were holding our own. Finally the squall abated, and I went soundly to sleep, rising about 0700. In the morning light, I noted that our position was perhaps 30 feet down-wind of where we had anchored, so we did indeed pull through the anchor set, but not by much. Both anchors were still holding, though the lines were nearly parallel now – separated by perhaps 20 degrees instead of 90. Had the storm lasted all night, we might have been in trouble, eventually dragging down onto a bulkhead, pier, or undeveloped part of the shore. But we were okay. It’s worth noting that the strong winds died off after a couple of hours, but the breeze never failed completely: we still had 8-10 mph in the morning, and the hooks were holding fine.

For our ground tackle I have two 13 lb Danforth anchors with 20-foot chain leaders and 100-foot half-inch line. My second anchor stows in the cockpit locker, and it’s rode stows beside it in a canvas bag. The primary anchor stows on an anchor platform with the rode stowed in the chain locker below. It is possible that 10 – 30 more feet of chain (total of 50 feet) would improve holding on the primary rode, and I’ve given that a fair amount of thought. This is impractical with the secondary anchor due to the stowage and transport from stern to bow. It’s awkward enough with only 20 feet of chain due to its weight. 50 feet of chain would be unmanageable unless I reconfigured the stowage to launch from the stern. This would involve creating another chain locker in the transom, installing another hawse-pipe and thinking through a launch-and-retrieval system for the hook. It is also probable that a different kind of anchor would be more effective than the Danforth, although these anchors are often praised for their ability to hold in soft mud.

Finally, I need to develop a means to shackle both rodes together at a single point, then attach a snubber to that point and lead it to the bow cleat through port and starboard chocks. The challenge is to develop a system that is quickly deployable, quickly retrievable, and completely secure.  Sounds like a study in knot tying is in the future for me.

Please feel free to comment on any ideas you have about deploying two anchors on three-strand rode, shackling together, and leading a snubber to the bow.

    • Thanks Bob, I have been aware that he was doing tests, but haven’t kept up with my reading lately. I’ll take a look.

  1. Sounds like an interesting anchoring approach.

    Have you ever considered trying one of the new gen anchors? We have great luck with our Manson Supreme. A friend just bought a Mantus and seems to really like that so far.

    Fair winds,


    • Jesse, I’ve thought about them quite a bit, and I’m very impressed with the Rocna. The videos are really impressive.

      And this article from followtheboat.com is fairly interesting as well: http://followtheboat.com/2009/05/06/raving-about-our-rocna/
      Just thought I would post this and see what sort of comments or recommendations I would collect as a result. More information is always welcome.

      Thanks for your suggestion.


  2. Brian said:

    I spent five days at anchor in Back Creek when I went south two winters ago. My Rocna held through all wind directions with no apparent dragging. Getting it back out when it came time to leave was not easy. Same kind of mud as you encountered I imagine.

    • Thanks for relating your experience, Brian. I need to change something in my anchoring plan or gear, and the Rocna is looking better and better.

  3. Rick,

    I think you will find that the performance of all of the new generation anchors will be about the same. When I bought my Manson Supreme there were few options; really it came down to Manson, Spade and Rocna. I went with the Manson because I got a really good price. Now there are more options. The advice I give friends is to stick with the new generations as a primary. Go online and get the dimensions of several and make cardboard mockups of the shanks. See what looks to fit best on your bow. IIRC the Watkins doesn’t have a ton of room on the bow.

    I would also keep the danforths as backup. But I am a little anchor crazy. On our 31-foot sailboat I have 4 anchors. The oversized Manson Supreme on the bow, a 25-pound danforth in the anchor locker (Catalina built a holder for this anchor right into the locker), a Fortress FX-11 on the stern rail for kedging and stern anchor and a 50 pound folding fisherman’s anchor in the locker. But our boat is our house and I want to make sure I can be secured even in a hurricane.

    Good luck and fair winds,


    • Thanks Jesse. Hadn’t thought about dimensions or bow roller fit, so that was well-timed advice. Just watched vids of the Manson anchors, and of course they out perform all others in their trials, just like Rocna did. They both look so similar, but I think you are right about both being superior to any of the older style anchors.

      I’m a bit anchor crazy too. There is nothing that gets my anxiety going like a windy Anchorage, or a line sqaul at midnight. Bottom line – we’re just looking for a good night’s sleep once the hook goes down. Our current gear doesn’t give us that confidence, so a change is in the future.

  4. Oh, and don’t forget to check for sponsors. Mantus has been sponsoring a lot of sailing blogs. So has Rocna. I have heard from others you can get 10-50% off based on how you negotiate.

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