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JordanH 06-16-2011 03:54 PM

Anchoring in Lake Huron: The harbour master suggested low-tech...
Hi All,
I was doing some route planning today and called a harbour master of one place we will be visiting. He felt that in the rocky areas we plan to be, it was highly likely that we will lose an anchor. His suggestion was to forget our Danforth or Bruce and go with a 'disposable'. He says, "Fill a bucket 3/4 full of concrete, put in an eye and then if it gets stuck you just cut it loose and move on. No sense losing an expensive anchor, I've done it for years."

Since this is our first long-cruise, I don't have the experience to know if that's crazy talk or good sense. Where anchoring is concerned, I want to feel secure and want a low-risk solution but that has to be weighed against cost; If I wanted very low-risk, I could just spend the money to be in port every night. I do not want to have to buy 5 new anchors on this trip either.

Any thoughts? We'll be cruising north Lake Huron/Georgian Bay/North Channel through July if all goes to plan.

Sharing your experience anchoring up there would be greatly appreciated.

klem 06-16-2011 07:22 PM

The only type of anchor that will work in all bottom types is a deadweight anchor, HOWEVER, they need to be massive. When hooked on rock or coral, an anchor can have tremendous holding power but this is not something that can really be counted on except in very special bottoms. In all other situations, a decent approximation of the holding power of a deadweight anchor is its water weight. Using the ABYC recommendation for a storm anchor for a 30'er, you need a holding power of 1400lbs. This equates to something just shy of 3000 lbs of concrete. A 5 gallon bucket of concrete is around 90 lbs. If it gets lodged really well, it is likely to hold you through quite a blow but if it doesn't, it won't do anything and you will be dragging in any decent conditions.

Two techniques to help with this situation are a trip line and a spare anchor. Using a trip line hooked to the other end of the anchor greatly increases your chances of being able to retrieve the anchor when it is fouled. Some people rig one to a buoy but I would strongly urge you not to follow this practice. The buoy creates a hazard for everyone else and you run the risk of wrapping it up with your primary rode and pulling your anchor free at a bad time. A way to do it that doesn't have these problems is to run the line up your anchor rode with very weak pieces of twine attaching the two occasionally. This way if your anchor is fouled, you just pull on the other line. The reason for the second anchor is if you loose the first.

Gary M 06-16-2011 10:24 PM

Your harbour master was out to lunch. When you anchor any where around Lake Huron or the North channel you will be anchoring in sand or mud. There are lots of rocks up there but not where you will be anchoring. Use the same anchors here that you would use any where else for those bottoms. I have made many trips to the North Channel and most anchorages are pretty sheltered and holding is good.


SEMIJim 06-16-2011 10:34 PM

I don't know how big your boat is, but she looks to be much bigger than Abracadabra, and I'd never in a million years trust a bucket of concrete to hold her.


JordanH 06-17-2011 12:31 AM

Oh my no. She's a 26' Contessa. Much smaller than your Abracadabra.

We were discussing about anchoring north of Tobermory in and around Cove Island, north and south otter and maybe tecumseh cove. He said that it was all rock there and we were likely to just snag and lose our anchors. Perhaps this is different than the north side of Manitoulin (where we'll be heading hopefully after Tobermory et al). In either case, my gut feeling says that if the wind changes, that bucket of concrete would become dislodged from whatever crevice it was in pretty quickly.

xort 06-17-2011 07:18 AM

Check your charts. There should be letters like m for mud or cl for clay or r for rock. There are places in the North Channel that are all rock with fissures. You hook the fissure and you will have a hard time pulling up. A trip line rigged to the crown of the anchor will help in pulling the anchor if it gets stuck. There are plenty of mud bottom anchorages all around the N Channel.

I think the harbormaster is trying to scare you into docking vs anchoring. The 5 lb bucket is for small aluminum fishing boats.

There are no protected spots around Otter islands. Have you considered the very protected cove on the SW side of Cove Island?

Be careful of the submerged pilings in Rattlesnake harbor.
Try Club Island, good harbor.

You should get the Ports Guidebook

CorvetteGuy 06-17-2011 07:25 AM

morings at many basins consist of half of a 45 gallon drum filled with concrete I don't think a bucket will do the job to hold your boat without losing sleep. We have used a 5 gallon bucket filled with concrete but at the bottom of the bucket install 2 peices of re bar 6 inches from the bottom about 2 feet long in a cross this adds to the holding power and it is disposable.

JordanH 06-17-2011 07:58 AM

xort, yes, I've poured over the charts for a good portion of our trip; Unfortunately, the bottom isn't marked for a number of those harbours and coves. For example, Dunk's Bay is on Canadian chart 2235 and shows a gradual shallowing from 12 down to 5 metres. I know, from 34 years of owning a cabin near there, that it's a sand bottom out as far as I can swim. However, I also know the Niagara escarpment from shore... if you've ever looked into its depths, you can see it's just solid rock. This is why I asked the harbour master for some local knowledge and advice on where to anchor. I don't believe he was trying to scare me as I already told him we're paying him a visit. He *may* have been suggesting we do something like CorvetteGuy describes but he didn't mention the rebar... I think I'm with CorvetteGuy though, I don't know how well I'll sleep.

As for the Otter Islands... that's what I thought. However, he tells me that between the islands it is shallow and somewhat protected.

I must wonder if he's assuming I'm just anchoring for lunch instead of overnight. That might be a rational explanation for his recommendations.

Anyway, as for the bucket, I have to believe he's thinking that I'll lodge it in a crevice in those massive Georgian Bay rocks.

Lastly, xort, you mentioned the Cove Island Harbour. Yes, it's on "the plan" and detailed well in the Ports book. It, too, does not have the bottom marked but we've found good information on that already. We're also considering Club Harbour (instead of Rattlesnake Harbour) as a stop on our way to Killarney... if we make it that far before we run out of time. Also, Dunks/Little Dunks Bay and BayCabot Head (Wingfield Basin) for overnighters from Tobermory. Only Wingfield Basin has the bottom marked on the chart.

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