Anchor Types: Folding Grapnel Anchor, Shallow Water Anchor, Drift Anchor And More

When I first looked at anchor types I didn't do much research and I picked up a cheap folding grapnel anchor.

They are sold as "popular and convenient". It is true, of all anchor types available, folding grapnel anchors are the most economical to buy, and they fold up nicely to store in your boat.

Small boat owners tend to use their anchor so infrequently that it is hard to justify an expensive anchor, and inconvenient to deal with a plow type anchor rolling around on the floor of the boat.

"Popular" obviously refers to the fact that lots of people buy them, not to their wonderful performance. Having watched a few boats drag on sandy bottoms using folding grapnel anchors, I would agree with reports that folding grapnel anchors are not the best anchor types for sandy, muddy or clay bottoms. Reportedly they do hold well in rocky bottoms. In fact, I have read a few stories of folks having a hard time retrieving a grapnel anchor from a rocky bottom they hold so well in that substrate.

Boat anchors can be divided into the following anchor types:

  • fisherman - these are the traditional anchors used on the tall ships of many years ago. They hold well in rocks and kelp, but foul the anchor rode easily, and need to be very heavy to work. Some sailors like them, but an awkward choice for inflatables. Brands include: Luke, Kedge, Navy and Admiral.

  • claw - designed in the '70s. They are known to set quickly and turn with changes in pull direction so they don't break out. Reports indicate you need a heavier claw to compete with other styles. Brands include: Lewmar, Bruce, Spade, Rocna, and Manson Supreme. The Rocna and Supreme have a neat roll bar design to help them set, and from what I have read have better test results.

  • plough - these anchors are known for good holding over a variety of bottoms. The plough is either fixed like the Delta or pivoting like the CQR. Tests I have read were less than impressed with the CQR but found the fixed plough and weighted tip of the Delta to give good performance. Brands include: CQR, Delta, Plow.

  • fluke - small boat fluke anchorthis style has two large hinged flukes and is designed to bury in the bottom to create the holding power. They are light weight and flat when stored, which makes them a great option for smaller boat owners. Brands include: Fortress, Fluke, Guardian, West Marine and Danforth. Reports say the US Coast Guard has chosen the Fortress for their new response boats. Guardian anchors are made by Fortress, but don't have the adjustable fluke angle and are not as refined in their finish. I bought one for our Zodiac. They even sell a small boat kit with a collapsible anchor, chain, and rope all in a easy to carry case.

  • grapnel - folding-grapnel-anchora non-burying design like the fisherman. Works well if there is something solid down there to get one of the hooks on. If it does get a good hook it can be next to impossible to retrieve! Easy to store and carry. Inexpensive to purchase. Found in most small boats. There are many brands available in galvanized, stainless steel, plastic coated etc.

  • mushroom - a small boat anchor useful in soft muddy bottoms.

For my second anchor purchase I decided to go with a light weight anchor with excellent holding. Like many small boat owners I don't use my anchor enough to justify tripping over it in the boat all the time. My new Guardian anchor is small enough to fit in my seat trunk. They now sell one model with thumb screws to allow it to be quickly disassembled for compact storage in a small carry bag.

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