Using the right anchor


Anchors are undoubtedly an essential part of your boating gear, but which ones should we be using and where? There are a huge variety of anchors on the market in all sorts of shapes and sizes and having the right one onboard is vital to both safety and peace of mind.

First, it is important to consider how heavy you need your anchor to be. A rough guide is to work on 1 pound per foot of your vessel, this is a good starting place, but it’s worth considering extra weight if your boat is heavier-than-usual, has a lot of windage, or if you are planning regular coastal and offshore ventures where the mooring conditions may be variable.

Next we must look at which type of anchor is going to be most useful; it is a good idea to have in mind an average area of use for your boat and looking up what the common grounding is in that area. Below is a list of anchor types and their optimal areas of use, so you can be prepared wherever you choose to sail:

As its name suggests, the fisherman’s anchor is designed to be used by fisherman. It’s designed to catch on rock and weeds (they’re pretty useless on anything else) and be used in the short term. It is unlikely that anyone would anchor over rocks and weeds for any period of time and this anchor reflects this – they are lightweight and well, perfect for fishing!

The plow anchor is designed to do exactly that, plough into the bottom until they set. Therefore, they are best used on soft, ‘plow-able’ surfaces such as mud and sand. It is best to drop the anchor and then drive it in to get a good hold; it is also useful to have a considerable amount of chain to aid the lateral pull on the anchor.

Similar to the plough, the claw anchor works best in mud and sand; it will embed itself in much the same way as the plough, and its wide shape gives a very reliable hold. It will also reset itself quickly if it is pulled loose thanks to its claw-like shape. The only downside is that this anchor is a lot more awkward to store as a result of its shape.

Grapnel anchors are a small, folding design that works best on coral and weed. These anchors are a great option for smaller boats and dinghies as they are lightweight and easy to store. However the hold on sand or muddy ground isn’t fantastic as it requires something solid to ‘grapple’.

This anchor has hinged ‘flukes’ which dig into soft surfaces like sand and mud, its moveable design can set at different angles. Therefore, it is best to cast the anchor while stationary and use the boat’s drift to help it catch under the sand or mud. The flat design makes it an easy anchor to store when not in use, however, this anchor isn’t particularly effective on harder bottoms like rock or stones.


These are a few of the most common examples of anchors on the market, each anchor has its specific use and it is important to use the right one in the right location. More often than not, sailors will know (or be able to find out) what type of ground they are most likely to anchor on, in which case it is easy to work out which anchor is going to be best for you. However, if you are unsure or planning to travel, there is no harm in carrying an anchor for different situations. For example, a soft bed anchor and a rock/weed anchor will cover all bases, meaning you can have peace of mind wherever you choose to anchor up.


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