The 9 Best Boat Anchors
A Brief History Of Anchors
A Frenchman named Alain Poiraud took this design one step further by making the fluke concave, resulting in the most effective small-boat anchor we have today.
Most early boats had no need for an anchor. Only fishermen were really interested in staying in one place for an extended period of time, and their boats were usually small enough — and they stayed close enough to shore — that they could simply tie them to something on-shore. Once they began to venture into deeper water, though, there was a need to stay moored in one place, even while being buffeted by waves.
Thus, the anchor was born. The first one dates back to the Bronze Age, sometime between 3300-1200 B.C.E., and it was merely a large rock with a rope tied around it. This system, while simple, was fairly inefficient, as if you found a large enough rock to keep you in place, it would be nearly impossible to raise it up again. As a result, most fishermen simply cut them loose when they were done.
The Greeks experimented with baskets full of rocks, sacks of sand, and lead-filled wooden logs. The idea behind all of these was simply to use the weight of the anchor to create friction on the bottom of the sea; they often added tree branches to increase the amount of friction generated.
Major advances in anchor technology wouldn't come until the 19th century C.E. By this time, ships had grown large enough that finding a reliable means of mooring them had become essential.
A British naval clerk added curved arms to basic model, and this new design was so successful that the entire fleet started to carry them. This blueprint was kept throughout the century, with various modifications, until it began to resemble the classic anchor shape that we know today.
The 20th century brought with it a variety of new models. The increase of smaller pleasure craft necessitated smaller patterns, while gigantic installations like off-shore oil rigs required equally-monstrous anchors.
One design that has proven extremely effective — and has become extremely popular as a result — is the German "Buegelanker" model. This is a triangular anchor with a single fluke, plus a roll bar to ensure that it catches the first time. A Frenchman named Alain Poiraud took this design one step further by making the fluke concave, resulting in the most effective small-boat anchor we have today.
Anchors might seem like simple devices, but the fact that many brilliant engineering minds continue to attempt to improve on their efficiency demonstrates just how complex the science behind them is. Expect future breakthroughs in design, especially as ships get larger and off-shore installations become more ubiquitous.
Choosing The Right Anchor
When you bought a boat, you probably never dreamed you'd have to go anchor shopping. After all, how hard can it be? Wrap a chain around something heavy, and toss it overboard, right?
The fact of the matter is, there are a variety of anchors to choose from, and chances are you'll need more than one. Different styles are better suited for different conditions, and you always want to have the proper equipment for the job at hand.
You'll want a fluke anchor for areas where the floor is sandy or muddy. Your boat might have one already, as these are the most common anchors you'll encounter.
Wrap a chain around something heavy, and toss it overboard, right?
If you spend a lot of time over rocky or grassy ground, though, you'll want to have what's known as a "plow and scoop" model. As the name suggests, it has a flat, plow-like structure at the end of it, which helps it snag onto something regardless of the terrain.
Beyond that, "bigger is better" should typically be your guiding principle. This doesn't mean that you need a 10-ton battleship anchor, but if you're stuck deciding between two options, go with the heavier one.
The reason why it's important to have both styles is because you never know what conditions you might find yourself in — and when you need your anchor, you really need your anchor. It can keep you from drifting helplessly if your engine dies, allowing rescue personnel to find you more easily, as well as preventing you from floating off into deeper waters.
While spending money on anchors probably isn't your idea of a good time, it's essential that you have a good one on board. After all, getting carried out to sea probably isn't your idea of a good time, either.
How Do Anchors Work?
Before we get into the science behind how anchors work, you should understand that they don't keep your boat completely stationary. You will get some drift, as that's basically unavoidable.
The reason why is that there are some pretty serious horizontal forces working on your boat at all times: ocean currents. Those same forces are constantly working on your anchor and chain, as well.
But the better you understand how your anchoring system works, the better you'll be able to harness it when you really need it.
To combat these forces, your anchor uses two things: weight and friction. The weight part is obvious; the heavier the load, the more force it will take to move it.
The friction part is what's interesting. You might be thinking that it's generated when the flukes on the anchor snag onto the floor, and you'd be right — partially. But what plays the biggest part in generating friction is actually the chain, not the anchor.
You see, the weight of the chain also fights against the currents, and the more chain you have, the more resistance you'll generate. This is why it's so important to let some chain collect on the seabed — the chain will generate friction, and it will do a better job of keeping the anchor in place, as a taut line is more likely to pull the anchor free.
This doesn't mean that you don't need an anchor, of course. But the better you understand how your anchoring system works, the better you'll be able to harness it when you really need it.