Updated on January 14, 2016
On the water, there are really two options for parking your boat: at a dock, and at anchor. Docks have lots of benefits: they usually offer the best protection from wind and waves; it’s easy to provision or work on the boat if you have easy access to land; and often, they’re attached to a marina, with luxuries like hot showers and laundry. They also cost money–as much as two or three dollars per foot of boat. While there will be times we expect to be tied up to a pier, we plan to spend almost all of our nights at anchor.
Anchoring can be great–more privacy, fewer bugs, nice cooling breezes–but your security depends entirely on how well your anchor holds to the bottom. Milou was a bit of a dock queen; she came set up with a beat-up danforth-style anchor, maybe 100 feet of moldy line, and a bent bow roller. It wasn’t the type of equipment we wanted to ensure peace of mind through the night.
Talking about how to choose an anchor is a religious conversation for a lot of sailors; people become very loyal to their chosen anchor philosophy. Our goal was to find an anchor smarter that we are. Anchoring is not something Michu and I have a lot of experience with, and we didn’t want to spend our time switching between The Best Anchor For Mud and The Best Anchor For Grassy Sand. We decided to upgrade to a 45-pound Mantus anchor–a “new-generation” anchor that should set in almost all bottom conditions.
Of course, our new anchor wasn’t going to fit on our tattered bow roller; we’d need an upgrade. Michu did most of the work on the bow roller in the early spring of 2014.
Fortunately, one of the benefits of our Mantus anchor is disassembly. Instead of trying to wield a 45-pound monster on the skinny end of an icy bow hanging 15 feet above ground, Michu was only wrestling with about 20 pounds of steel bolted to a wooden template.
Rope wasn’t our preferred rode to connect the boat to the anchor, either–we wanted chain. Rope can chafe over rocks and coral; chain will not only withstand more abuse, it will add weight to ground tackle, laying down on the bottom and helping the anchor to stay set. The benefits don’t come cheap, though; the chain alone can cost over $1000, and then there’s shipping costs. So…how can we save on shipping? Shop Amazon, of course! We found a great deal on chain and had it shipped up to the boat for free.
Next on our anchoring to-do list: a windlass. We were feeling young and strong, and also pretty broke after buying all that chain, so we were leaning toward a cheaper manual windlass that we’d winch up by hand–until we checked in with our friend and boat guru Eric. In his experience, sailors invariably run into times when they’ve put down their anchor and then thought the better of their situation. Maybe the waves are bending around a point in an uncomfortable way; maybe you’ve not left enough swing room to allow sufficient distance to your neighbor. With an electric windlass, you can fire up the motor, pull up the anchor and choose a better spot while still holding your rum drink; with a manual windlass, the chances are pretty good you’ll convince yourself that, really, the set is fine, you’ll never run into those rocks, your neighbor is actually miles away…and that’s how you get to a situation where your boat drags in the middle of the night. That absolutely sounded like something we would do; so, electric windlass is was.
Michu fabricated a shelf for the anchor locker to seat the windlass, and we spent a day wiring thick cables from the aft batteries to the bow. It was a lesson in communication for us both, with Michu back by the batteries, feeding cable to me in the saloon:
Michu: "Ok, pull"me: *pulling*me: *still pulling...nothing is happening*Michu: "Ok, pull again."me: "Uhm. I was still pulling from the last time." *pulling...cable moves three inches...more pulling*Michu: "Ok, pull"me: "I never stopped pulling! You need to tell me when to stop!" *horrific swearing*kids hanging out in the bow: *mom is in serious trouble from all of that swearing*
We worked it out, but the interim between the initial pulling and the final “Pull–ok, stop–ok, pull” system sounded like an excerpt from some terrible couples therapy. Michu finished up the wiring in early August, and with a rope snubber and a Mantus chain hook, our new anchoring system was complete.
Since those desperate days, we’ve been able to put our anchor to the test–especially during a three-day stretch this past August, with winds gusting up to 30 knots as we bobbed on the hook fixing our engine starter. The chain is louder than we expected; in the v-berth we can hear it clinking around as the boat swings during the night. Other than that, we are completely happy with how we are set up–the anchor deploys easily, so far it sets on the first try, stays put, and comes back up when we need to leave. It was a big investment, but we’re hoping it pays for itself with nights away from pricy marinas.