The best anchors for sand is a topic that is often debated among boaters. In fact, anchors are a bit of a taboo subject in general among the boating community!
Anchors are an essential safety tool for any sailor. They are the one thing that keeps you and your boat safe and away from rocks and shallow water when you’re out on the hook, and you want to be sure you’ve got the very best tool for the job.
Jump into any forum and you’re bound to find a long, argumentative thread on the many benefits of one anchor over another. But what should you believe? And how can you ever be sure that you’ve got the right anchor?
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There are a huge number of different anchors on the market, but not all of them serve the same purpose or are made of the same quality.
After three years of living on board and anchoring out almost all year, every year, we’ve invested a lot of time into researching anchors. We had a scary incident early on when our boat started dragging while we were away from it, and it prompted us to put the legwork into learning everything possible about anchors and anchoring techniques.
In this post, we’re going to look at the very best anchors for sand, and delve into some other things you might want to consider for your anchor setup.
- Do anchors work in sand?
- The best anchors for sand
- The Delta
- The Danforth
- The Rocna
- Things to consider when buying any anchor
- Having a great anchor set up
- How to set an anchor in sand
Do Anchors Work In Sand?
The short answer to this question is: yes, anchors do work in sand.
In fact, they can be very effective in the right conditions. Most sailors we know will aim for a sandy patch over rock, as most anchors hold better in a sandy bottom. However, it’s important to understand that not all anchors are created equal, and different types of anchors will work better in different types of bottom.
Sand is a great bottom for anchors because it provides a lot of holding power. The key to using an anchor in sand is to ensure that the flukes of the anchor penetrate the sand and reach the harder layer below. This can be easier said than done, especially in deep sand. This is why you need the right anchor for the job, which we’ll delve into now.
The Best Anchor To Use In Sand
The best type of anchor to use in sand is a pivoting-fluke anchor, plow, or non-hinged scoop anchor. These types of anchor have been specifically designed to penetrate and hold in sand. The most popular brands of these styles of anchor are the Delta, the Danforth and of course, spade anchors like the Rocna.
You should be aware that there are many different brands of each style of anchor and each one offers something slightly different. We’ll take a look at the most popular brands of each style below.
The Delta Anchor (plow)
The Delta anchor is a plow-type anchor that has been specifically designed to penetrate and hold in sand. The anchor works by digging its flukes into the sand as it is pulled along the bottom. The flukes then pivot and lock into place, providing a very strong hold.
The Delta anchor is made from high-quality, hot-forged steel and is galvanized for added corrosion resistance. The anchor comes in a range of sizes, from 16kg (35lb) up to 45kg (100lb), making it suitable for boats of all sizes.
Pros of a Delta anchor:
– The anchor is easy to set, especially in sand.
– The Delta anchor has a very strong hold, making it perfect for boats in exposed anchoring situations.
– The galvanized steel construction means that the anchor is highly corrosion resistant.
Cons of a Delta anchor:
– The flukes can make the anchor difficult to retrieve if it becomes buried in the sand or stuck under a rock.
– The anchor is a plow anchor, meaning it’s designed to pull through the ground as it digs in. Without enough time to sink slightly or in certain bottoms, this anchor can just keep ploughing as you try to set it.
– If the Delta unsets, it may not reset on its own.
Shop plow style anchors here
The Danforth Anchor (Fluke)
The Danforth anchor is another excellent choice for anchoring in sand. It is a non-hinged, scoop-type anchor that works by digging its flukes into the sand as it is pulled along the bottom. The flukes then pivot and lock into place, providing a very strong hold.
The Danforth anchor is made from high-quality, hot-forged steel and is galvanized for added corrosion resistance. The anchor comes in a range of sizes, from 16kg (35lb) up to 45kg (100lb), making it suitable for boats of all sizes.
Danforth Anchor Pros:
-The flukes of a Danforth anchor are designed to pivot, which helps the anchor grab onto the sand and penetrate the bottom.
-Danforth anchors are incredibly lightweight, making them easy to handle and store.
-They are very affordable, making them a great option for budget-minded sailors.
Danforth Anchor Cons:
-Danforth anchors can be difficult to retrieve from the bottom if they become embedded.
-They have a smaller surface area than some other types of anchors, which can make them less effective in strong winds.
-They are unlikely to reset themselves if they fail to set.
Shope Fluke anchors here
The Rocna Anchor (Scoop)
The Rocna anchor is a hinged, plow-type anchor that has been specifically designed to penetrate and hold in sand. The anchor works by digging its flukes into the sand as it is pulled along the bottom, a little like the Delta.
The biggest difference is the roll bar on top of the Rocna, which means that should the anchor become unset, it is very likely it will reset itself. This gives the Rocna a big advantage over other anchors and has become a firm favourite among the cruising community.
The Rocna anchor is made from high-quality, hot-forged steel and is galvanized for added corrosion resistance. The anchor comes in a range of sizes, from 16kg (35lb) up to 45kg (100lb), making it suitable for boats of all sizes.
Other similar brands are Mantus and Manson.
Pros of a Rocna anchor:
-The Rocna anchor has a very strong hold, making it perfect for boats in exposed anchoring situations.
-It should reset itself.
-The galvanized steel construction means that the anchor is highly corrosion resistant.
Cons of a Rocna anchor:
-The anchor is relatively heavy, making it unsuitable for smaller boats.
-The roll bar means this anchor may not sit at the bow of certain sailboats. You should check this before you buy.
Shop scoop style anchors here
Things To Consider When Buying An Anchor
Size and weight
The size and weight of your anchor will be the two most important factors in choosing the best option for your needs. The heavier and larger the anchor, the more likely it is to hold in strong winds and currents.
However, a heavier anchor will also be more difficult to set and retrieve. If you have a small boat, you may need to sacrifice some holding power in order to make sure your anchor is easy to handle.
Before you buy an anchor you should take a look at the manufacturers guidelines for the size and weight of your boat. We thoroughly recommend that you actually go above what they say, unless you know you’ll only be anchoring your boat for lunch stops or similar.
We ended up going four categories over and we’ve been happy with that – it sounds a lot but it doesn’t feel a lot when you’ve got 50knt gusts coming through the anchorage!
Anchors are typically made from steel, galvanized steel, or aluminum. Steel anchors are the strongest and most durable option, but they are also the heaviest.
Galvanized steel anchors offer good corrosion resistance and strength, while aluminum anchors are lightweight and easier to handle.
As we’ve just explored, anchors come in a variety of shapes, the most common of which are flukes, danforths, and plows and the most popular modern anchors being spade designs. Before you buy, make sure you know where you’ll be storing your anchor and that it will fit!
It’s a great idea to have more than one anchor onboard if you can afford it and have the space. We have two Delta anchors (our hugely oversized one and one that came with the boat), but we also have a Danforth anchor in case the Delta isn’t holding somewhere. It’s super useful to have a few different styles and sizes at your disposal.
Of course, price is always a consideration when making any purchase, but if we were going to spend money on anything it would be a decent anchor! It might be tempting to opt for a cheap unknown brand and you might get lucky, but we’ve heard too many horror stories to advise this here.
Galvanized steel and aluminum tend to be more expensive. However, it is important to remember that the best anchor is the one that meets your specific needs.
Don’t sacrifice quality or features in order to save a few dollars. Ultimately, the best anchor for your needs is the one that meets your specific requirements in terms of size, weight, material, shape, and price.
Make Sure You Have A Great Anchoring Set Up
How do you choose the right length of anchor chain?
There are different recommendations on the amount of chain you should lay down to keep your boat safely anchored. Some say 3:1, so three times the amount of depth under the keel, others say 5:1 and we’ve even seen someone recommending 8:1.
The amount of chain you have at your disposal will limit how deep you can anchor, and therefore the range of anchorages available to you. If you have 25m of chain on board, you can only really anchor in 7m of water (or only 5m if you like to do 5:1 like us).
If you’re carrying 100m of chain you can anchor in 20m of water, which obviously opens up your options somewhat!
The more chain you lay out, the less chance you have of your boat dragging. There’s a whole lot of science that goes into it of you’re interested! But if you’re not, just trust us when we say the more chain you can lay the better.
The only trouble is that you’ll have a few other things to consider. First, you might not have space in the anchorage to lay out 80m of chain without dragging into rocks or onto the shore. Second, you might have other boats around you that will have smaller chain circles than you. These are things you’ll want to assess when you enter an anchorage.
We started with 60m of chain onboard but quickly upgraded to 80m. This has meant we can anchor in just under 20m of water, and it means we have more at our disposal for storm conditions.
We feel this amount is a good compromise between space, weight, and the right depth for European anchorages. Consider your cruising ground carefully.
How do you choose the right size chain for your boat?
Most average-sized cruising sailboats have either 8mm chain or 10mm. The thicker your chain, the heavier it will be, which is both good and bad!
If your chain is heavier, you will be better protected against the possibility of dragging. At the same time, you need to be on a boat that can carry that extra weight forward where the chain locker is. If you want to upgrade your chain from 8mm to 100 then make sure you check your windlass.
That’s another expensive upgrade you’ll need to make when changing chain thickness.
If you can’t carry as much anchor chain as you would like for space or weight reasons then it’s a good idea to get some anchor rode too. This can be spliced onto your anchor chain and used as extra ‘chain’ if you need to put out more in deeper anchorages.
Although anchor rode doesn’t have the weight and strength advantages of chain it can be a good compromise. You will want to make sure you use a line thick enough for the job, as it could be taking a lot of force through it.
Shop for anchor rode here
A snubber is an essential part of any anchoring setup. It’s a device that you attach to your anchor line, and it acts as a shock absorber. This is important because when the waves are rocking your boat back and forth, the sudden jerks can damage your boat, or even break your anchor line.
A snubber will help to absorb some of that shock and protect your boat from damage.
You can check them out on West Marine here
How To Properly Set An Anchor In Sand
As with any kind of anchoring, properly setting an anchor in sand is essential to ensuring that it holds. As we’ve been anchoring pretty much all day every day for the last three years I feel pretty confident in our anchoring abilities (though it is a skill that took a while to master!)
If you’re looking to find out some of the different anchoring techniques then you can learn from our mistakes!
When anchoring in sand:
The first step is to ensure that the flukes of the anchor are able to penetrate the sand and reach the harder layer below. This is usually a case of finding a decent patch of sand, and being careful you’re not anchoring on a thin layer of sand over rock.
In deep or murky water you might just have to take a few runs at it, or in clearer water, it might be possible to snorkel and find a good spot first.
Once the anchor touches the ground, you’ll need to pay out enough chain or rode so that the anchor is able to properly reset if it drags. The general rule of thumb is that you should have at least five times the depth of water between the boat and the anchor. So, if you’re anchored in ten feet of water, you should have at least fifty feet of chain (preferably) or rode out.
Reverse back slowly on your anchor. The slower the better, as it will give the anchor a chance to dig into the sand and find a grip.
You should take transits as you reverse hard on the anchor to make sure you’re holding well. If you have someone on the bow of the boat, they can watch the chain. With a little practice, it’s often clear to see if the anchor is slipping, as the chain will give in jerks while you’re tight back on it.
Once you’re happy that your anchor is holding, the best way to be totally sure the anchor is set is to dive it and see. Sometimes the water is shallow and clear enough to see from just snorkelling alone, or you might need to practice your freediving skills to get a good look at it.
Our heavy Delta usually buries halfway, but our lighter one used to dig all the way into the sand. Get used to what your anchor does so you have confidence you’re set well.
Finally, it’s important to monitor the anchor regularly, especially if the conditions are changing. This will help you ensure that the anchor is still holding and that there’s no danger of it dragging. You can set a drag anchor alarm that will alert you if your boat leaves its swing radius, and you can also set an alarm on your depth sounder to sound if you go over or under a certain depth.
Unfortunately, we’ve learned that there really is no way to totally ensure your anchor doesn’t drag, but following these guidelines should help give you confidence in your setup.
Anchoring in sand can be a bit tricky, but with the right anchor and some careful attention, it can be done effectively and safely. Just be sure to do your research and always err on the side of caution.
Conclusion: Best Anchors For Sand
Anchors are an important (often vital) part of any sailboat, and choosing the right one is crucial for safety and peace of mind.
We’ve looked at three different anchor brands that would work well in sand, so you can be sure to find the perfect one for your needs. But remember that there is a range of other brands out there that make quality anchors in similar styles to the ones listed.
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