Choosing The Right Sailboat Anchor

Choosing The Right Sailboat Anchor
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When it comes to the topic of “what is the best anchor for a sailboat” you will likely hear many opinions. In fact, if you so a search for the subject you will mind message boards and chat forums clogged with disagreements over which boat anchor is best. The fact is, there are many great boat anchor designs and not all work as well as others in certain situations. What the right sailboat anchor turns out to be for your boat depends on where you will be cruising, what kinds of bottom you are anchoring in, the size of your boat, whether you have a windlass, etc.  Anchors have been around since man first learned how to sail, but the technology continues to evolve almost every year with new inventions coming to the market.

Here is a look at some of the best sailboat anchors.

The Danforth Anchor.

The Danforth anchor was developed by R.S. Danforth in 1939, however Machida Yukiharu is shown to be the inventor by the U.S. patent office. This lightweight anchor offers superior holding ability in seabeds that are easily penetrable, however it doesn’t do well in very fine sand or rocky bottoms. The Fortress version of the Danforth anchor makes one of the best sailboat anchors for many cruising grounds such as the Bahamas. As a sailor, I used a Danforth on my 32′ Pearson sailboat almost exclusively in anchorages with a sandy bottom. One reason for that was I did not have a windlass and this anchor, being lightweight, was easy to retrieve.   One thing to beware of are cheap knockoff anchors which look like a Danforth, but are not made to U.S. specifications.

The Bruce Anchor

The Bruce anchor is not one of the best sailboat anchors, simply because it has failed many tests comparing it to anchors such as the CQR and Delta. It is super easy to set, which makes it a great “lunch hook” for short stops. The Bruce anchor is a kind of claw anchor and digs into a variety of seabeds well, however it is not recommended for deep anchorages. Bruce anchors do not do well in weeds, tending to foul easily. For that reason,  I’m not a big fan of this anchor, though many people are.  Knock off Bruce anchors from China are very cheap, and you’ll find them for sale in marine supply stores all over the world. As with any knock off anchor, you won’t get the same quality as from a true Bruce anchor.

The Delta and CQR Anchors

The CQR anchor,  which depending on who you ask, may stand for “coastal quick release” or  “Clyde quick release”,  (some sailors think it stands for “secure”), is a plough type anchor. It is in my humble opinion, one of the best anchors for a sailboat in many cruising grounds. The fact that it is hinged, as seen in the photo above, means that your boat can swing several degrees (the swivel is made for 75 degrees travel) at anchor without it breaking out. History of the CQR anchor shows that it was invented by Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor, a mathematician, in 1933. What makes the CQR one of the best sailboat anchors is the fact that it holds well in sand, gravel, mud, etc. and penetrates weeds well.  A version of the CQR anchor is the Delta anchor, which features a straight shaft.

The Rocna Anchor

A new version of the plough anchor is the Rocna anchor. This anchor was developed in New Zealand, where sailors demand the utmost holding ability from their anchors.  This may be one of the best anchors for sailboats due to the fact that it has great holding power, is easily set and well constructed. In 2006 West Marine Corp. did an independent test of 14 popular sailboat anchors. Of all those tested, the Rocna never failed to set and was shown to hold the most foot-pounds of pull before releasing. Sail Magazine, Cruising World and Practical sailor did  similar tests in 2006 and found similar positive results, showing the highest holding power of any anchor tested.  I’ve never owned a Rocna anchor but have spoken to other sailors who swear by them. Overall, cruising sailors seem to love them. Supposedly they perform well in a variety of sea bottoms, from sand to marl and mud.  What are the downsides of the Rocna? It may not fit on some bow roller systems and is slightly heavier than the CQR. A Rocna anchor for a 25,000 boat would weigh about 44 pounds, compared to 36 for a CQR.


When it comes to choosing the best anchor for a sailboat one should always talk to other sailors who sail in the area you plan to visit. Local knowledge of what works is best. A good resource on choosing the right anchor is The Complete Anchoring Handbook.

A good resource for reviews of anchors is Practical Sailor. The issue in which the Rocna anchor was reviewed was the Dec, 2008 issue. You can order back copies of the magazine.

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