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Hi all,
Some of you may know that we're currently on our search for a "new to us" boat. Of course, the different boats we've looked at each have different types of ground tackle on board. This won't affect our purchase decision, but it brought to mind an anchoring experience last summer chartering on the Chesapeake--what went right, what went wrong, and what we could have done differently.

In June 2008, my wife and I chartered a Pearson 36-2 for a couple of weeks (it was actually our honeymoon). About 8 days into the charter, we sailed from St. Michaels, MD to the South River, where we ended up droping the hook in nice open acnhorage where we'd have good wave protection, but still a nice breeze in the hot summer night.

However, we listened to the weather on the VHF, and found that severe squalls were headed our way, and we felt our location was too open. So we picked up the anchor and motored up river to a well-protected, narrow, creek (it's sometimes used as a hurricane hole). It's a mud bottom.

The boat had a good-sized Danforth anchor on the bow with about 25 feet of chain and plenty of rode (though it was unmarked), and that's what we used to anchor. I believe the anchor was well-set. We're careful about not piling on the rode, gently backing to get it to grab, waiting a bit and then backing hard to dig in. We had at least 7:1 scope out.

As the squalls approached, we put on our foul-weather gear and waited under the dodger. The sky was black to the NW, but the wind was only about 5 knots out of the SE. We didn't have radar, but we could check the weather radar images from my phone. We kept refreshing the image to see how it was progressing--there was a lot of "yellow and red" headed our way.

As the storm got very close, the wind shifted 180 degrees almost instantaneously, still only at about 5 knots. It did not "clock around". The boat turned beam to the wind, and drifted right over our anchor as the wind began to pick up. Right about the time that the anchor line should have grabbed the bow, the squall hit. Winds jumped to over 40 knots out of the NW.

By this time, I had the engine running. I didn't want to be caught off-guard in this very small creek if we dragged. And that's exactly what happened. We dragged, I would estimate, about 100 feet before the Danforth grabbed again. That doesn't sound like much, but this was a very small creek. A tragedy? Of course not--not even that dramatic, although I almost needed to change my pants a few times while the squall was raging, and we were very close to shoal water. But afterwards it made me evaluate the situation...

What went right: My wife and I were unharmed, the boat was undamaged, and ultimately our anchor held. We had plenty of rode out, and were in a protected anchorage (not much wave action, just wind). We were "prepared" in that we had our foul weather gear on (good thing because we got soaked in the cockpit and very COLD even with the gear on. The engine was running in case we needed to motor very quickly, though I don't know if we could have maintained control in that wind. We were able to possibly take a little load off the anchor though.

What went wrong: Well, we dragged anchor! The downside to a small creek is that if you do drag, you cab be aground in short order. The Danforth held in mud when set, but it just could not cope with a 180 degree reverse pull without taking it's time resetting. This isn't surprising, but we had the trifecta of issues that caused a specific scenario that the Danforth has a problem with.

So this brought me to the question, what could I have done better? This wasn't my boat or my gear, so not much I could do there. Here are some things I was thinking:

I could have set a 2nd anchor before the squalls hit, also from the bow. I would have set them both "mid-stream", so neither would have let us hit shore. My thinking is that it would be unlikely for them both to experience that "reverse pull". The second anchor on the boat was another Danforth (I prefer anchors of different types, but that's another thread), and was available to use. I didn't think we needed it, because we had already been through a really nasty storm in a much more open anchorage earlier on this same trim and the anchor held rock solid. But I didn't anticipate the 180 degree reversal.

Is there anything else I could have done? If two different types of anchors had been available on the boat, what type should that second anchor have been (instead of Danforth), and should I have used that instead?

Please feel free to make suggestions, as I'd like to learn from the experience. I kept thinking--what if the squalls had come through at 3am, and we were sleeping, and the anchor had not grabbed again after it dragged?

I appreciate your advice (please be gentle). :) I hope you don't mind the long story...
-J
 

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You & the New wife survived, the boat survived and all is well.
I am sure that people will be making various suggestions; From having a larger anchor to more rode out.
There are different kinds of mooring/anchoring methods, and everyone has their opinion on what is the best. The only suggestion I would have for you is to study the books on anchoring and see if you can improve your method & anchoring skills. But the main thing is whatever works for you when the weather kicks up will be the method & anchor that you will swear by.

From my point of view though is more chain your main anchoring system. and the lighter rode & chain for the lunch hook.
 

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You may have been over a weed bed and in which case the anchor was not holding. You said it is a mud bottom, but are you sure you were not in some weeds.
Also, the Danforth is probably one of the worst designs when it comes to resetting. IIRC.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
You may have been over a weed bed and in which case the anchor was not holding. You said it is a mud bottom, but are you sure you were not in some weeds.
Also, the Danforth is probably one of the worst designs when it comes to resetting. IIRC.
Yeah, it was the exact scenario for a Danforth that's worst--the reverse pull. It's possible there were some weeds, but the cruising guide said it was mud, and when we pulled up the anchor the next day, it was all mud. But that was a good 100 feet from where the anchor was originally set, so yes, it's possible.
 

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josrulz,

I think you understand that the danforth pulled out and then skipped along and re-set. They are good anchors for Chesapeake mud, but they do not like 180 degree windshifts.

In your situation, where you were specifically taking cover for the purpose of weathering a thunderstorm, I would have initially set the anchor for the anticipated wind direction from the storm. You would have been fine hanging on it for a little while with a light breeze from the SE, while waiting for the bigger blow to hit from the W or NW.

In other words, better to set the anchor for the anticipated big-blow, rather than the light breeze you arrived with. That said, you did well in choosing the safe spot in Harness Creek, which has very good holding and protection.

Also, always remember to centerline and lock your rudder, otherwise the boat can veer off at strange angles when the wind shifts and increases suddenly, which puts more load on the anchor.
 

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Josrulz, I don't think you did anything wrong. A thing I have learned over the years is not all mud is the same. Just because the chart says the bottom is mud it does not guarantee that it is good holding mud.

I do a lot of sailing on the Hudson river. There is a little cove north of us where we like to go and just spend the night at anchor.

The cove is maybe 1 mile by 1 mile. I have found out over the years that within 50 yards either side of a given point of good holding, the anchor may not set at all.

To me good holding in mud is a crap shoot.
 

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Josrulz-

The main problem and cause of you dragging is the choice of anchors. Fluke-type anchors, like the Danforth and Fortress, generally do very poorly in situations where the wind or tide switches direction, especially in reversing wind/current situations, since the fluke type anchors generally don't reset well if pulled out.

They'll pull out and never reset if you drift over the anchor and the load up the rode for the opposite direction, especially since the boat can often start drifting at a rate that doesn't allow the anchor to touch down long enough to set a second time. The larger, lighter aluminum Fortress anchors are especially good at "planing" under water and never touching bottom again.

IMHO, a fluke-type anchor should never be used as a primary anchor. At best, they should be a tertiary anchor or lunch hook. Even as a secondary anchor, they're not very good IMHO, since the flukes can get blocked from setting relatively easily, and they don't do well in many bottom types.

Setting a second anchor is not necessarily a good solution, since that can cause it own set of problems. Setting an anchor off the stern is also not advised in a storm situation since your boat can't then swing to be head to wind/waves and might be caught beam to the wind and waves, causing serious problems and a very uncomfortable situation aboard.

The best solution is to use a decent primary anchor. The best anchors are the next gen anchors, like the Rocna, Manson Supreme, Spade, Buegel, Bulwagga, etc. Lacking that, I'd recommend a Delta FastSet.


Hi all,
Some of you may know that we're currently on our search for a "new to us" boat. Of course, the different boats we've looked at each have different types of ground tackle on board. This won't affect our purchase decision, but it brought to mind an anchoring experience last summer chartering on the Chesapeake--what went right, what went wrong, and what we could have done differently.

In June 2008, my wife and I chartered a Pearson 36-2 for a couple of weeks (it was actually our honeymoon). About 8 days into the charter, we sailed from St. Michaels, MD to the South River, where we ended up droping the hook in nice open acnhorage where we'd have good wave protection, but still a nice breeze in the hot summer night.

However, we listened to the weather on the VHF, and found that severe squalls were headed our way, and we felt our location was too open. So we picked up the anchor and motored up river to a well-protected, narrow, creek (it's sometimes used as a hurricane hole). It's a mud bottom.

The boat had a good-sized Danforth anchor on the bow with about 25 feet of chain and plenty of rode (though it was unmarked), and that's what we used to anchor. I believe the anchor was well-set. We're careful about not piling on the rode, gently backing to get it to grab, waiting a bit and then backing hard to dig in. We had at least 7:1 scope out.

As the squalls approached, we put on our foul-weather gear and waited under the dodger. The sky was black to the NW, but the wind was only about 5 knots out of the SE. We didn't have radar, but we could check the weather radar images from my phone. We kept refreshing the image to see how it was progressing--there was a lot of "yellow and red" headed our way.

As the storm got very close, the wind shifted 180 degrees almost instantaneously, still only at about 5 knots. It did not "clock around". The boat turned beam to the wind, and drifted right over our anchor as the wind began to pick up. Right about the time that the anchor line should have grabbed the bow, the squall hit. Winds jumped to over 40 knots out of the NW.

By this time, I had the engine running. I didn't want to be caught off-guard in this very small creek if we dragged. And that's exactly what happened. We dragged, I would estimate, about 100 feet before the Danforth grabbed again. That doesn't sound like much, but this was a very small creek. A tragedy? Of course not--not even that dramatic, although I almost needed to change my pants a few times while the squall was raging, and we were very close to shoal water. But afterwards it made me evaluate the situation...

What went right: My wife and I were unharmed, the boat was undamaged, and ultimately our anchor held. We had plenty of rode out, and were in a protected anchorage (not much wave action, just wind). We were "prepared" in that we had our foul weather gear on (good thing because we got soaked in the cockpit and very COLD even with the gear on. The engine was running in case we needed to motor very quickly, though I don't know if we could have maintained control in that wind. We were able to possibly take a little load off the anchor though.

What went wrong: Well, we dragged anchor! The downside to a small creek is that if you do drag, you cab be aground in short order. The Danforth held in mud when set, but it just could not cope with a 180 degree reverse pull without taking it's time resetting. This isn't surprising, but we had the trifecta of issues that caused a specific scenario that the Danforth has a problem with.

So this brought me to the question, what could I have done better? This wasn't my boat or my gear, so not much I could do there. Here are some things I was thinking:

I could have set a 2nd anchor before the squalls hit, also from the bow. I would have set them both "mid-stream", so neither would have let us hit shore. My thinking is that it would be unlikely for them both to experience that "reverse pull". The second anchor on the boat was another Danforth (I prefer anchors of different types, but that's another thread), and was available to use. I didn't think we needed it, because we had already been through a really nasty storm in a much more open anchorage earlier on this same trim and the anchor held rock solid. But I didn't anticipate the 180 degree reversal.

Is there anything else I could have done? If two different types of anchors had been available on the boat, what type should that second anchor have been (instead of Danforth), and should I have used that instead?

Please feel free to make suggestions, as I'd like to learn from the experience. I kept thinking--what if the squalls had come through at 3am, and we were sleeping, and the anchor had not grabbed again after it dragged?

I appreciate your advice (please be gentle). :) I hope you don't mind the long story...
-J
 

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The main problem and cause of you dragging is the choice of anchors.
Thats all fine and dandy Dog and a very nice write up, the only problem is that he did not have a choice. He was on a charter boat. He had to deploy what was on board at the time. The only choice came from the owner of the charter.
 

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With two Danforths, the best bet would have been a Bahamian moor.... but still not ideal. :)
 

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Just giving you a hard time, because I can.
 
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Given that your only equipment was two Danforths, I would have deployed both of them set at 90 degrees from each other (45 off each side of the bow). This way, when the wind clocked 180 degrees, each anchor would turn only 135 degrees. Would that have kept them from dragging? Maybe not, but it improves your odds and maybe one would reset faster than the other.
 

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Belay that. The 135 degrees didn't sound right, so I did a sketch. Each anchor would only have turned 90 degrees and would probably hold.
 

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Do you guys that routinley deploy two anchors on two seperate rodes ever get concerned about them becoming tangled together?
I do not anchor in these conditions, but if it were me, I would be afraid of getting them tangled and nothing holding.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
In other words, better to set the anchor for the anticipated big-blow, rather than the light breeze you arrived with. That said, you did well in choosing the safe spot in Harness Creek, which has very good holding and protection.
Thanks, JohnRPollard for the input. Thinking back, I'm not sure I was sure yet, when I anchored, where the wind would be shifting to. It's hard to recall the timing that specifically. Either way, I'll definitely keep it in mind for the future.

JTo me good holding in mud is a crap shoot.
You may be right about that! And there might not have really been anything I could have done differently exactly. I do appreciate everyone offering some advice though, because it's helpful to think about what some options or alternatives might have been. I've learned a lot that way!

Just giving you a hard time, because I can.
:laugher Ha ha! Thanks guys. I appreciate your input. And sailingdog, I don't mind the input about the anchor type, since once we buy a boat, we'll be looking to make sure we have ground tackle we're happy with. That may or may not involve buying anything, depending on what comes with the boat, but if it's two of the exact same anchor, whatever it is, I'm likely to buy something else to augment.

Thanks everyone for your continued thoughts on this. I definitely appreciate it!
 

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You're making the assumption that the boat wouldn't swing wide around the two anchors....but drag directly over them. Also, you're making the assumption that turning a danforth 90˚ won't cause it to unset, which is not a good bet.

Belay that. The 135 degrees didn't sound right, so I did a sketch. Each anchor would only have turned 90 degrees and would probably hold.
 

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As I said in another thread on anchoring:

A Rocna 15 (33 lbs) is about $560, 60' of 5/16" G43 high-test chain and 150' of 5/8" octoplait nylon is about $440, and a load-rated anchor shackle is about $10. For about $1000, you can get ground tackle that will let you rest fairly easy under most conditions for a boat up to about 35' LOA. What is your boat worth to you anyways??? :)
In terms of full disclosure—I use a Rocna 15 as my primary anchor. My secondary is a 22 lb. Delta FastSet, but I'm upgrading this to the next size up. The tertiary/stern/kedge/lunch-hook anchor is a 12 lb. Danforth. :)
 

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Thanks, JohnRPollard for the input. Thinking back, I'm not sure I was sure yet, when I anchored, where the wind would be shifting to. It's hard to recall the timing that specifically. Either way, I'll definitely keep it in mind for the future.
Summer storms are commonplace and usually fairly well forecast, so it's a good idea to anticipate their arrival when anchoring. If a strong storm is forecast, we normally set the anchor from the direction most advantageous for holding when the storm arrives. The overwhelming majority of thunderstorms arrive from the west (typically somewhere between SW and NW), so there's no real guesswork.

I will only add, because some folks mentioned deploying two anchors, that I've never had occasion to use two anchors in all my years sailing on the Bay (except when Med-mooring and one instance when two other boats were rafted alongside in a big blow). We thankfully have good holding here and an abundance of very sheltered anchorages.
 

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I think you did most things very right. Including:

Moving to a more sheltered anchorage
Dressed ready for the squall
Engine on early

A few other comments:
All anchors struggle with 180 deg change in the wind, but the Danforth is often regarded as the worst performer in this regard, but its not your boat you have to work with what you have got.
7:1 is OK for chain and rope, but more is better. Holding will increase up to something like double this. Did you include the height of the bow roller in the 7:1? How deep was the anchorage? (7:1 is OK for 40 feet, but very poor for 10 feet ) In short if you could have let out more scope safely with 40Knots forecast it would have been helpful.
If you had been asleep? 40Knots is hard to sleep through, but it was your honeymoon so maybe you could have been a bit tired.
An anchor alarm on the GPS or a high wind alarm on the wind instruments would have alerted you.
Sometimes with strong winds you have to stay up all night on anchor watch. I anchor 350 days a year, maybe 5 or 6 days a year my wife and I will take turns on anchor watch. A few more days one of us may be awake some of the night. Living on a boat is not like a house, but I don’t have to go to work the next day.
One final comment
If your new wife is still speaking to you after this experience hang on her. A few flowers and some more “I love you” are needed.
 

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When a Danforth is pulled from the back it levers itself out. To reset it has to dig the flukes back in. In many situations the mud between the flukes and shank keeps the tips of the flukes pointing up. Then the mud must wash away to let the tips fall or the needs to turn over 180 to reset. thats why sometimes it takes some time. Then if it pulls through a patch of silt the anchor won't hold until it finds some sticky stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
7:1 is OK for chain and rope, but more is better. Holding will increase up to something like double this. Did you include the height of the bow roller in the 7:1? How deep was the anchorage? (7:1 is OK for 40 feet, but very poor for 10 feet ) In short if you could have let out more scope safely with 40Knots forecast it would have been helpful...

...If your new wife is still speaking to you after this experience hang on her. A few flowers and some more “I love you” are needed.
Ha ha, yep she's still speaking to me, and can't wait to to find "our boat" (I introduced her to sailing a few years ago). After she took some lessons on her own a couple years ago, she said to me, "whatever happens between us, I'm going to keep sailing." Wow, that's cool. :)

As for the scope, I always include tide and freeboard in my calculations. I did let out a lot of rode, and it might have even been more than 7:1 (I was guessing because there were no markers on the line--I prefer markers). I agree more is better in these circumstances.

The overwhelming majority of thunderstorms arrive from the west (typically somewhere between SW and NW), so there's no real guesswork.
True, and point well-taken. I would still prefer to be using an anchor that deals with wind-shifts better. Though I realize that a Danforth, when set, is often the best holding in softer mud. I'll be looking at some of the newer anchors as a possible alternative, if the boat we end up with doesn't already have what we're looking for.
 
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