Join Date: May 2007
Location: Santa Cruz
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Re: Not Getting the All-Chain Thing
A lot of people who have seen only one side of the elephant. In their experience, their particular anchor held. I'm not going to say that they are wrong, I'm just going to say that real cruisers don't always to get to pick their anchoring conditions. Here's my experience.
I started my first long (13,000 miles, 12 months) cruise on a 10000 pound boat with no windlass. We decided on a mixed rode with 40 ft of5/16 HT chain, with Fortress FX23 as the bower anchor.
That choice proved wrong the second time we tried to anchor in firm sand on the West Coast of Mexico. The Fortress would not set after repeated attempts. We went with the backup Danforth, which set immediately and held well.
The next notable anchoring failure was two nights off the west side of Pitcairn in 35 ft of water, variable winds in the lee of the small island. We set in a sandy patch, but could see rocks on the bottom. On departure we pulled the Danforth to find that two of the three strands of rode had chafed through. Thanking our lucky stars that we had not had to spend a few months on Pitcairn waiting for the next supply ship, we shackled another 40 ft of chain onto the original and respliced the remains of the nylon to it.
That got us to an anchorage in the Marquesas, where we anchored in 20 ft and backed down with a good set. The wind died in the night and the boat wandered. The next morning we were having coffee in the cockpit when we noticed were were dragging past the other boats in the gentle morning breeze. We brought up the Danforth to find that the chain had wrapped around the bar.
For the rest of the trip to NZ, we had to be extremely careful anchoring around bommies, trying to keep the rope off the rocks. One night I had to anchor in 90 ft in Raitea, and spent the night on anchor watch.
After that cruise, we decided that our next boat would have a windlass and an all chain rode, and something besides a Danforth as a bower anchor. The new boat was 30,000 pounds loaded and came with a 20kg genuine Bruce. Chafe was not a problem, but the Bruce proved undersized and too many times we had to set a Danforth Hi Tensile as a second anchor in softer ground or high winds or reversing current. We carried a Fortress FX 37 as a storm anchor, but never assembled it in 15 years and 100,000 miles. In Turkey we upgraded the Bower to a 60 lb Buegel, which was much better setting in weed, but still occasionally dragged. Given my more recent experience with a Manson 60 and a large Spade, I wouldn't hesitate to switch to a Rocna, Spade or Manson, which not only have high holding power, but reset quickly and reliably on current or wind shifts.
One last data point was last month, where I had to park a 70 ft raceboat for a couple of days in 20 ft in a narrow channel with reversing current and wind against tide. Being a raceboat, all it had was a Fortress FX 85, so I borrowed a 40 lb Danforth. I set the Danforth off the bow and the Fortress of the stern. It took 3 tries to get the Fortress to set, which biases me a bit more against it as an all round anchor.
Almost any anchor and rode will work in good holding without sharp rocks, and the pull in one direction If that's all you have to anchor in, most times you will be fine (although one time in Cabo I set an anchor to keep off the fuel pier, and dragged into it because I had hooked a short piece of drainpipe). Its when you have soupy mud (of the Naval Academy), heavy weeds (in a lot of the Med), coral rubble (the Saints), or a strong reversing current (the Hudson river off the 79th st boat basin), and wind against tide that you will challenge your anchoring system.