I was reading back over my previous article regarding anchoring when it occurred to me that I’ll probably never be one to write a text book or teaching aid. Or, at least, it won’t happen in one take. Apparently, I may suffer from ADD(I left out the H, because I’ve never really been considered hyper-anything)… OMG, look, cookies, yum. But seriously, when I read through the article and had a discussion with Scott Goodwin (BD Outdoors’ editor) both of us agreed there were some unanswered questions. Agreeing that the article was already at max length for our own personal fisherman’s attention spans, we decided it might be better to split the information into a two-part article. Mr. Goodwin also may or may not have attributed the article length to the proclivity of yours truly to “Ramble on” and “Go off on tangents”. While I am a Led Zepplin fan, unfortunately I failed geometry and I may possibly have slightly misunderstood exactly what the boss meant. Whatever the case may be, I’ll try and do my best to answer any remaining questions about… What were we talking about? Oh yeah, anchoring, got it.
There are several different styles of anchors that can be used to anchor your boat. I’m assuming that most people reading this are fisherman, not sailors and yachtsmen, so I’m really only going to touch on three different styles. In other words, if your cardigan sweater is tied smartly around your neck and your topsiders have no sign of weather and fish blood or you immediately thought ‘mushroom anchor’, this article is probably not for you.
For the rest of you down-and-dirty, wanna-kill-some-fish-for-dinner types, read on.
When thinking about fishing boat anchors, the three types that come to mind are; Danforth or sand anchor, plow, and grapple (or grapnel).
The grapple anchor is designed to grab ahold of the bottom where it’s very hard and rocky. This anchor looks exactly like a grapple hook that you would see someone like James Bond use to scale a building. When using this anchor, you can get away with using very little scope as the anchor actually grabs ahold of the structure below.
The Danforth and plow anchors are both used sand, mud and combination soft bottoms.
While they have similar operating characteristics, the Danforth or sand style anchor is the more widely used among fishermen while the plow style is used more on sailing vessels.
So, for all intents and purposes, the rest of this article will deal primarily with the Danforth or sand anchor.
When choosing an anchor, the size of your anchor is a direct reflection of the size of your boat. In other words, the bigger the boat, the bigger the anchor. One very important thing to keep in mind when choosing an anchor is the old adage “You get what you pay for”. If you’re serious about fishing, don’t scrimp when buying an anchor. The cheap ones will bend easily and you will end up spending as much or more replacing them as you would have on a good one. A quality anchor could save you a bunch of time, money and headaches. Personally, my money is on a Fortress anchor. They’re aluminum, so they are light, strong, don’t rust and they are guaranteed if you bend or break something.
The first thing you need to figure out is the size hook (anchor) you need. Most anchors are going to have some sort of rating telling you what size boat they are rated for. Do yourself a favor and get an anchor that is at least a size bigger than recommended. It will have more holding power and may allow you to use less scope.
Once you have acquired the hook, you’re gonna need some chain. The rule here is the more chain you have, the better your anchor is going to work. For most of you with outboard boats and inboards less than forty feet, twenty feet of 1/4′ chain is a good starting point (I use 30′). If you’re boat is on the smaller end of the scale, you could get away with 3/16” chain. If your boat is on the larger end, you may have to go up to 5/16” or 3/8” chain. You should be careful about using too heavy of a chain as it will tend to outsink your anchor and get tangled more often. At the very least, you should use a quality galvanized chain. If you can swing it, get some stainless chain and save the money you’ll spend on Rust-Aid after the galvanized chain starts to rust.
Also, you’re going to need a couple shackles to attach the anchor, chain and line. If you use the anchor often, you might want to invest in a swivel that attaches between the line and the chain. It will keep the anchor from spinning up the line.
The final step is finding the rope to attach your anchor to the boat. You’re going to want to use a standard three-strand nylon line for this job. It’s relatively inexpensive, durable and it has a bit of stretch. You want a little stretch in your line, because without stretch, being anchored in a sea can be rather violent.
The stretch allows a more fluid movement of the boat instead of being herky-jerky. Standard size anchor line for boats up to 40′ range from 3/8” to 3/4”. Most of the lighter outboards can get away with the 1/2” line, while some of the heavier inboards will have to upsize. You will also have to consider what type of wind, sea and current conditions you regularly fish in. As far as length of line, you should have at least five times the line as the depth of water where you normally anchor. If you follow the above rules of anchor and chain, you can commonly get away with 2 –3 times the water depth in good conditions.
Now that you have your anchor ready to go and the knowledge to get anchored on the spot, it should be a matter of heading out, anchoring up, filling the box and coming home, right? Well, theoretically, yes, but more likely, no. There’s still a little thing called a learning curve and that guy they call Murphy. It may take a bit of trial and error.
Luckily, anchoring is similar to horseshoes and hand grenades; sometimes just getting it close to the spot is enough to do the job.
Unless you’re one of those lucky folks with an anchor winch on your bow, you’re going to want to invest in an anchor ball set-up to pull the anchor. This is just a polyball with a stainless ring attached that clips onto your anchor line. When you attach it to the line and move the boat forward, the line slides through the ring until the anchor comes to rest on the ring. Whoever invented this little jewel should have won the Nobel Peace Prize for physics in my opinion.
Depending on the risk in your area for hanging an anchor where it may be irretrievable, you may want to consider using a trip. When using a trip, the chain is attached to the crown (bottom, center) of the anchor instead of the end of the shank. Then, the chain is secondarily attached to the shank end with a sacrificial trip. Depending on the pressure on your anchor, the trip can be a couple zip ties or a few wraps of parachute cord. This way, if your anchor gets hung in something and you can’t get it out, you can break the trip and pull the anchor out backwards. To break the trip, you should retrieve as much slack as you can before attempting to break the trip with the power of the boat. Once the trip is broken, the anchor should lose purchase as it gets pulled backwards. If the anchor is dropped directly in wreckage or the chain gets wrapped around something, the trip may not work and you’ll be left stuck to the bottom.
If you do find yourself in a spot where the anchor cannot be retrieved, you will want to cut the line. Don’t try to break it with the boat as this may cause damage to the boat or bodily injury to one or more of the crew. If you do have cut the anchor loose, take down an exact coordinates so you can possibly go back and salvage it with scuba gear.
So, now that you have all the info to do a professional anchoring job, I’m going to listen to some Led Zep and find one of those tangents. Look, butterfly. Gotta go!
Anchoring 101 Part 1