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Anchors Aweigh

The test team launched, attempted to set, and retrieved each anchor at least four times over two days.

I’ve heard of boaters who choose an anchor based upon how good it looks in the roller. But the right anchor should do more than just look sharp. In fact, it should do more than secure your beloved boat to the bottom. When things get really bad, it should be able to save your life.

So which anchor is the best? That’s like asking who was the best Beatle. Part of the answer depends on what kind of boat you have and where you cruise her. Still, it is possible to compare the holding power of anchors—if not their visual appeal—by subjecting them to the same pull from the same boat in the same wind, water, and bottom conditions. And that’s exactly what Sail magazine’s senior editor Bill Springer, Yachting Monthly’s technical editor Toby Hodges, West Marine’s vice president of product development Chuck Hawley, and I did in the Pacific off Santa Cruz, California. We selected 14 anchors designed for boats 35 feet LOA and larger but did not include the popular Danforth anchor, as it has already been extensively tested. (Instead, we chose the similar Fortress and a West Marine Performance 20.) We evaluated all of the anchors on the same bottom with the same scope, from the same boat, over four nonconsecutive pulls. The results surprised everyone.

HOW WE DID IT

We approached the tests as methodically as we could, with the help of a cadre of West Marine employees led by product tester Phil Cowley and the 92,000-pound, 52-foot Shana Rae. Cowley provided and operated the equipment that would record each pull: a dynometer wired to a 10,000-pound-capacity digital load cell wired to a laptop that converted the raw data into graphs. A GPS ensured that each test pull was carried out in roughly the same spot, and we time-stamped our final data for accuracy.

We chose three locations just outside Santa Cruz harbor and, after testing the bottom makeup with a core sampler, determined that the hard sand bottom at all three was suitable, knowing that not all anchors do their best in this. We decided to give each anchor four test pulls in each site, always with a scope of 5:1, using rode consisting of 20 feet of chain and the rest one-inch nylon. We’d confirm each was set with a combination of GPS readings and our own senses, then put it under load until it broke loose. We had blue skies, nearly flat seas, and light winds on our two testing days.

This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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