Anchor Stowage

A problem area for any boat is adequate anchor - and anchor rode - storage.  This can be a particular problem for small boats because space is so limited.  Larger boats are able to use a bow roller which is able to accept almost any kind of anchor including the three most popular - Danforth, Bruce (claw), and plow (CQR).  A bow roller simply isn't practical on an O'Day Mariner, so another solution had to be found.

There were a few requirements I had regarding proper anchor stowage:

  • The anchor must be easily accessible. There are too many stories of anchors in lockers becoming buried under gear, creating panic in emergency situations.

  • The anchor cannot get in the way of anything.  I entertained the thought of anchor deck chocks on the foredeck until mental images of torn jibs, hung-up jib sheets and stubbed toes prevented me from giving it serious consideration.

  • The anchor must be totally secure.  A loose anchor either left on deck or loose in a locker or cabin can cause havoc, scraping, banging, and tearing its way around everywhere when underway.

  • The rode must be well ventilated.  Damp line will rot when left in confined spaces for extended periods of time, and it's just as important to take care of your anchor rode as well as the anchor itself.

My first anchor was a big, 13-pound Danforth anchor, and it worked extremely well.  It was actually an old Danforth from many decades ago, but it was still in terrific shape and worked like a charm every time.  However, the long shaft and crossbar, like any Danforth, made stowage a challenge, and after trying to wrest it out of cockpit lockers, I decided to hang it from the bow pulpit from a bracket, and it stayed there for several years.  This was actually a great place to put it.  It met all of the above criteria, and the rode was kept on deck with one end tied to the pulpit just in case it tried to slide overboard.  While other sailors might not consider an anchor hanging from the pulpit aesthetically pleasing, I rather enjoyed it.  The only thing I did not like was the fact the rode was out in the sunlight all the time, and the UV rays can damage it as well.

Another idea came to me from reading the WoodenBoat magazine.  They mentioned, in a dinghy handling article, the use of an anchor bag, where the rode and small folding anchor were kept in a canvas tote bag.  In this regard, the anchor and its rode could be grabbed easily and brought up forward in an instant.  Kept in a cockpit or cabin, it wouldn't be in the way of anything and secure from rolling or sliding around.  The canvas bottom wouldn't scratch anything.  The rode would stay attached to the anchor, but it wouldn't be all that well ventilated.  Well, I thought, why not try it anyways on somewhat of a larger scale?  Since the large and awkward Danforth wouldn't fit in a tote bag, I instead chose an 11-pound claw anchor and attached my 100-foot rode.  I loosely flaked the rode into a large canvas tote bag hand-over-hand so it would be able to deploy just as easily.  Once it was all in, I placed the anchor right on top of the rode which acted as a cushion (although the end of the shank still stuck out a little bit).  I even had enough room to put a small brush so I could clean the anchor quickly once it came out of the water.  I went to give it a test.

After a short sail, I rolled up the jib and came up into the wind to anchor.  I grabbed the tote bag, went up forward, put the bag down on the foredeck, lifted out the anchor, put it through the bow pulpit (where the chock was) and dropped it in the water, letting the rode pay out.  It payed out easily, and after the right amount I cleated it off.  If I were to stay longer, I then would have went back to drop the main and back down on the anchor using the motor.  As this was just a test, I stayed a few minutes, enjoying the surroundings, then went forward to weigh anchor.

Hand over hand, the wet rode dropped easily into the tote bag, although every now and then I had to pull up the sides of the bag to make it stiff again.  Once the anchor came up, it was covered in mud, so I simply gave it a quick cleaning with the brush as Orion started to fall off.  I had plenty of time to plop the cleaned anchor on top of the rode in the tote bag (along with the brush) and carry everything with one hand back to the cockpit.  That part was a success.

However, there were a few things I didn't like. First, the bag was made of canvas - it did not allow proper ventilation, and the bag itself could rot or mildew over time.  Also, the sides kept collapsing. I had to find something with plenty of ventilation (holes), made of a material that could not rot and would remain stiff yet somewhat flexible in order for it to fit on the cabin sole or on the quarterberth.  Secondly, and most importantly, the claw anchor was not as reliable as the Danforth. After many tests, I found that Danforth anchor sets the first time, nearly every time, and if I want to walk away from Orion feeling secure, the Danforth it must be and the claw must go. So, the Danforth went back on the bow pulpit. But what about the anchor rode?

The solution: a laundry basket!

The first basket I chose a plastic Rubbermaid "Flex 'N Carry" basket.  It fit the rode and even a scrub brush.  The holes on the sides provided great ventilation, and I drilled a few holes in the bottom to allow drainage.  I was also able to attach the bitter end of the rode to one of the bow pulpit's bases as an added security measure.  The plastic would not rot, and it was fairly easy to carry with one hand. The only problem was that it was rather big and bulky, so I ended up downsizing a bit to a smaller, similar plastic laundry basket available at the local dollar store! It fit the 100-foot rode easily, and it was much easier to store than the Rubbermaid basket.

So, how does it attach quickly to the Danforth? My solution was to secure a stainless steel carabiner (one with an eye) to the end of the anchor shank with a shackle where it will stay permanently.  I'm now able to attach the rode to the carabiner in the matter of a second or two, and the rode stays below in the basket where it's out of the way yet I can grab it in a hurry if I need it. 

Being able to anchor quickly, safely and easily is extremely important and goes a long way for peace of mind. I am very happy with the way this has worked out, and who knows - now that it is so easy to anchor somewhere, perhaps I will make a point of doing it more often.