The Skipper has a tale to tell...
"Over the years I have found that, in dull company and on dreary rain swept days
, when long faces seem to be the order of the day, remarking that one
would be inclined to put such-and-such an anchor down on this bottom, in this
is always sufficient to render even the most taciturn to explode into a diatribe.
He will expound on the subject of his favorite anchor for this holding
and why it is infinitely superior to the one you have just mentioned
as surely as day follows night, someone orders another round and off goes a debate on holding
tackle. Warp or chain, plough or fisherman... The barman winks at me
knowingly, that's another
one he'll be pouring me 'on the house'. We will leave them now, they'll
never notice us go, as I would like to tell you a true story, the moral
of which may be useful knowledge to you someday.
Whilst anchored off the island of Mustique, in the
Caribbean, one evening, we went ashore for a quiet drink. Hardly had the
first glass been emptied when I got word that our boat was dragging her
anchor. We had put a 75 lbs C.Q.R down and, in the hard coral sand, it must
have twisted out of the holding when the boat swung.
vessel had made contact with an immaculate and very lovely yacht.
Having dashed back in the inflatable dinghy, I started the engine and motored away
from our neighbour, at the same time upping the slack of chain until the shank
of the C.Q.R. appeared at the surface.
I re-dropped the anchor and then motored up to lay a second anchor. We
have a big Danforth that doesn't like being stowed on the roller, so I keep it catted on the port side on the
foredeck, where it is always ready to go. A good breeze was blowing that night, hence
the dragging and, with the reef far enough astern of us, I enthusiastically let go the
I heard the chain rattle over the roller and began looking in the dark (deck lights, needless to say, malfunctioning) for
signs of take-up on the heavy warp attached to the.........Expletive! I had removed
the wretched warp a couple of days earlier to replace a twisted stainless
eye and, in the confusion over whether I, or the mate, would be the one
to whip the end of the new arrangement, neither of us had done it. The
repaired warp was still neatly coiled up on the foredeck!
The boat rapidly fell back and snubbed the Ç.Q.R. so we were fine for
the time being.
The following morning I strapped a dive tank on and
and swam to where I reckoned I had dropped the danforth, in a bout 35
feet of water. The bottom in that area is made up of grey to white coral heads, long dead,
with rusty hued weeds. The sky was overcast and the whole of the bottom looked exactly like
the object I was searching for! Even before the air supply was down to
the last gasp I knew I was on a fools' errand.
Back on the boat, I brought the stern anchor forward and attached it to the
We left Mustique, and our Danforth, to enjoy a heavenly sail to the lovely
island of Bequia, just north of Mustique. The holding ground I knew to be good but
I dropped and snubbed both our remaining anchors. We did some chores and
then went ashore, in search of liquid refreshments.
By the time we were ready to go ' home' there was a stiff breeze and, as we approached our
it became apparent that our cable had been picked up by a nearby
yacht, and the warp had parted company with the anchor. Suffice it to say
that anchor was never found either.
Now, with only a little 35 lbs anchor and the 75lbs C.Q.R.
being all that was left of what I had considered to be an adequate anchor locker, I decided to back the two and trust to
a single chain. Backing an anchor is, without doubt, the method which produces the most holding power
The Royal Naval instructions, in the event of heavy weather, are to use this method of
The principle: The main anchor is backed by attaching a secondary anchor to its crown by a short
I used three fathoms (18 feet) of the 12mm chain we were using at that
time, although we have since gone over to 10mm hi-tensile, thanks to a
generous gift from friends.
The backwards pull holds the main anchor down on the bottom and substantially increases its holding power.
We have since replaced our lost anchors but such is the
peace of mind when leaving the boat at anchor, that I have permanently rigged the backed anchor
system. If stopping for a swim, lunch or whatever, we drop a 50lb
Danforth, on chain and warp for easy and fast deployment and retrieval
but, when the forecast is bad, the backed system is a must
as far as we're concerned. The downside is in the recovery of both
anchors, especially if in relatively deep water.
Any combination of anchors is viable - two the same, two different ones,
it all works. There are exponents of the system of attaching the anchors
to one another directly but we didn't have much success with that idea,
whereas, with a length of chain between them, all the combinations we
have tried seemed to work very well.
Having stowed the main anchor on the roller, it is a test of just how bad your back really
is when you have to retrieve the backed anchor on three meters of
It should also be remembered that, using this system, all the forces of wind and waves
fall upon a single cable.
Trying to rig this arrangement for the first time is best done
before the onset of a gale as it is more complicated to set up than
at first it might appear, but once rigged you will find the system simple, and anchor watches more relaxed.
The Mate also has a tale to tell...Experts
To The Rescue....