Happily Hooked in Paradise
By Alex Blackwell
The importance of securely anchoring that we tried to stress in the introduction of our book Happy Hooking – the Art of Anchoring was brought home once again recently. We were securely hooked in a beautiful bay off the island of Dominica, which is in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. The air was warm, the water was clear, the scenery was beautiful. Simply put: we had found paradise.
Sometime after lunch the wind picked up and veered around to the southwest and the open sea. A little later it got to be quite choppy in the anchorage. All the boats, both large and small were pitching wildly. And then it happened. People started shouting as the first boat started moving; dragging its anchor rapidly towards a downwind neighbour. The clearly experienced crew quickly accessed the situation, started motoring and weighed anchor. With the assistance of one of the local ‘boat boys’ they picked up a nearby mooring and were soon safe and sound.
Not ten minutes later there was another shout. The next boat was on the move. Not having any crew aboard this was a potentially serious situation. However, a small armada of dinghies appeared from all directions and, together with the help of another ‘boat boy’, saved the day by towing the errant vessel off to another available mooring while manually weighing anchor.
And so it went for about an hour until the wind shifted back and died down to the expected offshore breeze. As far as we could tell, the affected boats all had some things in common. All were using plough anchors that looked to be CQRs. They also all appeared to have all-chain rodes with very short and in our opinion thus inadequate snubbers, though from the amount of chain we observed the Samaritans on one boat hauling in, they very likely had more than plenty of scope out.
A few weeks prior to this we happened to be in a marina chatting with our neighbour, who was cruising the Caribbean in a power catamaran. His boat had come with a claw anchor, which though known for its quick setting ability is also known for its less than optimal holding. Whereas a plough type anchor will plough through the sand or mud, the claw will dig in and then slice under the surface, where it can slide along a more compact layer. Our neighbour feared anchoring, as his boat had repeatedly dragged. His eye had been drawn to the quite beautiful Ultra anchor on our bow roller, and he just had to come over and check it out.
We explained that we had been testing this anchor over the past four months of cruising. During this time we sailed down the coast of Europe, visited the Madeira islands, spent a month in the Canaries, and have since then been island hopping our way through the Caribbean. We have anchored in everything from soft gooey mud through clean sand, shell, weeds and bottoms strewn with rocks – you name it.
We have been comparing the Ultra to the Rocna, which has been our trusted primary hook for several years already. The Ultra is a scoop type anchor, which we have come to like so much. It is similar to the Spade, Rocna, Manson Supreme, or Mantus. It shares the weighted tip and hollow shank with the Spade, and like the Spade it also does not have a roll bar. One thing that sets it apart is its slightly downward curved tip.
To our amazement, the Ultra has in fact set and held on occasion where the Rocna did not. This last happened where we were anchored on that day in Dominica. The bottom here is a very hard sand interspersed with coral and volcanic rocks. Our Rocna did dig in somewhat, but simply would not hold. After a couple of attempts we switched anchors to the Ultra, which dug in and held right away. After two days of considerable chop and changes in wind direction I dove on our anchor to see just how far it had dragged. There was barely a six inch disturbance to windward of the anchor where it had dug itself in, and that was it. It had not budged since! Of note is that the bottom in that particular anchorage is criss-crossed with furrows created by dragging anchors.
We have dropped the Ultra anchor on any number of occasions in clear water, seen it land upside down, as our chain rode clearly outweighs the buoyancy of the shaft, and then instantly flip over and disappear in the sand or mud when our boat starts to back away – just like in the promotional videos provided by various manufacturers one can see online.
Our marina neighbour of a few weeks ago, who had by his own admission spent a large amount of money on his catamaran, was at a total loss when trying to understand why the manufacturer had skimped and provided such an ineffective anchor with his boat. He kept looking at our anchors and coming back with more questions. He even bought a copy of our book for some light bedtime reading. He vowed then and there to go online that evening, and for all we know, he may now be back out cruising and also happily hooked to the bottom with a shiny new Ultra anchor.
So there we were, swinging on our Ultra in that beautiful bay in Dominica. The wind picked up again from the southwest. One of the boats that dragged the day before had just cast off from the mooring they were on and by the looks of it they were re-anchoring in about the same spot as the day before. We sat back in our cockpit enjoying a delicious daiquiri made with freshly squeezed fruit juice we had just brought back from shore and hoped this would not be what is called “deja vu all over again”.
The Ultra anchor is manufactured by Boyut Marine, Turkey
It is available from:
Alex and Daria Blackwell are the authors of “Happy Hooking - The Art of Anchoring.” It covers every aspect of anchors and anchoring in a fun and easy to read format with lots of photos and illustrations. It is available from good chandleries, CoastalBoating.net, and Amazon worldwide in print and Kindle format.
Coastal Boating (Reg. in Ireland No. 443222) is a division of Knowledge Clinic Ltd.
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