Thursday, 25 June 2015

Can buying an anchor really be this complicated?

If you ever have an hour or two to burn, ask a cruising sailor about anchors. Understandably I suppose, when feeling confident about ones anchor can make for a good night's sleep and ultimately can dictate between being able to stay put in a blow or having to put to sea, but cruising folk do tend to have fairly strident views on what's what generally, and when it comes to anchoring this tendency seems to shift up a gear.

When we bought Sula, she had a CQR anchor. The CQR held an apparently unassailable position as the standard choice for most cruising boats for at least four decades. I've used them but have never set great store by them as almost without exception when I've dived to see how they were set, they've been laid on their side.

While there have been a few other types designed over the years, only in the last 10 years or so have a new generation of anchors been developed which independent testing has shown are markedly better. One of the better known of these is the Rocna.

Clearly no anchors are idiot proof, as a friend related to us recently. While lying to his (CQR) anchor in Falmouth, an apparently unattended yacht floated past him. He roused the sleeping owners with his foghorn, whereupon a woman appeared in the cockpit. "I think you're dragging", he quite reasonably told them, only to get the offended response "We can't possibly be, we have a Rocna!"

I happened on a suitably sized Rocna on ebay before we left and bought it at what was a bargain price (they are around £1100 new!). It was a bit of a gamble, as the bow roller on Sula is a bit unusual, and as it happened it wouldn't fit. Hey ho, it got stuffed in our garage and will no doubt be making a reappearance on ebay when we get back (unless someone wants to make me an offer) and we were left with the CQR.

The next choice was a Spade. I did make a cardboard model of one which seemed OK (and inevitably attracted a few smartass comments) but no-one in the UK actually holds them in stock at our size, and ordering one to try it would potentially involve quite a bit of cost if it also didn't fit. We discovered that they were distributed from Jersey so decided that the simplest thing would be to go there, so anchoring considerations dictated our first destination.

When a weather window came up that implied the alternative was a longish wait, we reluctantly passed up the opportunity to go to Falmouth for an overdue visit to the Parkyns in their new home, and instead headed out for St Helier.

Apart from crossing the end of the Channel shipping lane, it was a quiet and relaxed passage and we anchored in St Aubyn's Bay in hot sunshine.

Bluewater Supplies was 20metres from the pontoon where we tied up the next day. I walked in to find an attractive French girl sat behind a desk. She knew nothing about anchors and next to nothing about boats, but it was fairly easy to forgive her.

She had to phone her boss whom I then had to persuade (!) to let me unwrap an anchor to allow me to try it. After that, apart from nearly cracking my head open on a low stone door frame (was I not concentrating?) it was fairly easy and no VAT to boot!

So, we were at large in Jersey with a new anchor.

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