The Mediterranean is a fascinating sea full of excellent anchorages. In recent years, the number of boats sailing in the Mare Nostrum has increased dramatically and the number of anchoring possibilities has decreased considerably.

It follows that, especially in summer, one finds oneself having to bottom in crowded bays and this brings with it some inevitable problems. Let us therefore see what difficulties one is now increasingly faced with:

1- Lo space available is limitedso we are forced to give less lime than what the weather forecast would advise. For the anchor to work optimally it needs the right angle of pull, i.e. as parallel as possible to the bottom; it follows that the more chain we have spun the less chance of ploughing. As a personal rule I tend to drop chain at least 5 times the depth, up to 10 times when the forecast is for winds above 35 knots... space permitting.

2- Given the crowding of boats in the areas closest to the coast, we are sometimes forced to anchor on deeper waters than our anchor line would allow or on rapidly degrading seabed. In this case, as soon as the anchor starts ploughing, the ratio of lime to depth is drastically reduced and consequently so is the anchor hold.

3- The safest and most comfortable bays, the ones described on the pilot books, are taken by storm during the season, so it can happen that, given the overcrowding, one is forced to bottom out in most exposed bays or with a backdrop not good tenor.

4- Sometimes we find ourselves anchored to the earth downwindso if the wind picks up and our 'iron' gives up on us, we quickly run into danger instead of the open sea.

It follows from these considerations that, now more than ever, to sail safely we must equip ourselves with a well-dimensioned or oversized anchor line. I have added the word oversized not by chance: dimensioning is often done on the basis of the boat's data, for anchorages on good ground, in sustained winds of up to 25 knots. On our cruises, it can happen that we also have to deal with more demanding situations, so it becomes essential to equip ourselves with an adequate anchor, chain and strop.

Let us look at these aspects in detail.

ANCHORAGE

What are the characteristics to keep in mind when choosing a good anchor?

  1. A good anchor must make heads fastOtherwise, once the reverse gear is engaged to test its tightness, the anchor will drop back several metres before 'biting' the seabed. If this happens, all the calculations for correct positioning between the various boats already anchored will be in vain and we will be forced to repeat the anchoring manoeuvre.
  2. The anchor must have aexcellent grip on both sand and mud. Remember that it is unsafe and often forbidden to anchor on the grasslands of Poseidonia.
  3. Must have excellent tensile strength even with reduced calumny (given the crowded anchorages).
  4. The anchor must not send if the wind shifts direction. This was a major problem with older generation anchors during frontal passages, with a sudden change of direction of the wind.
  5. Finally, an anchor, if it starts ploughing, must ploughing fast or ploughing slow to give the crew time to react.

Types and sizing.

Given these characteristics, we can try to identify the best type or model of anchor.

Comparative evidence can be found in the trade press and on the Internet that can give us an idea differences between the various anchors. Here are some examples:

Steve from s/y Panope did an outstanding job, testing in different conditions and filming the behaviour, both when the anchor has to make heads or simulating wind shifts.

Some of his work can be found along with that of others in the following Cruser's Forum thread

Those who want to can spend hours watching the videos and reading the comments, some of which are very interesting indeed, but I personally think it is very difficult to define which anchor is the absolute best, there are many variables at play and these tests have a low reproducibility, hence little scientific value.

However, if we analyse the data, we realise that the differences between the best anchors are minimal. When choosing an anchor, the performance are one of the determining factors, but we must also take others into account: price, material, shape and footprintas not every anchor can be adapted to every snout. For example, models with a rollbar are unlikely to go well with a bowsprit on board for flying gennaker or code zero.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that the new generation anchors are preferable to the old ones, they have decidedly superior performance, and everyone, depending on their own experiences/readings, will be able to orient and motivate their choices, but the important thing is to choose an anchor that fits well in the nose and oversize it! In fact, it remains true that with the same model, the larger anchor holds more than the smaller one, so to sleep peacefully and safely we need to invest a few euros and have a few extra kilos in the bow.

Manufacturers provide tables where, depending on the size and type of boat, they recommend how big the anchor should be. Beware: often the recommended anchor is for sustained winds of up to 25/30 knots. Personally I tend to oversize by one or even two stepsIt is true that weights at the ends should be limited, but for a 55' boat weighing 25 tonnes in trim, having a 30 kg anchor or a 45 kg anchor at the bow makes little difference, while the tightness and safety that result from this small increase in weight is exponential!

This article by the CCOA (Cruising Club Of America) also comes to the same conclusions:

'If you want to eat well buy a small anchor, if you want to sleep well buy a big anchor'

ANCHOR LINE

A good anchorage does not only depend on the anchor: the choice of chain and joint are equally important for safety and comfort on board.

Sknot yes, knot no?

The joint allows the anchor to rotate and enter the nose in the correct position, so it is very convenient, but it must be of very good quality and should be checked oftenas it can be the weakest link in the anchor line.

Swivels can break when subjected to lateral loads, a critical issue accentuated by the high tightness of modern anchors that do not always rotate quickly after a sudden wind shift. To overcome this problem, we can interpose some chain rings or a well-dimensioned shackle between the swivel and the anchor. The important thing is avoid leverage which can open the swivel as in the example in the photo.

All chain or mixed chain/textile line?

La chain has the undeniable advantage of being more resistant to abrasion than the ropes, which is why at least the first few metres of the anchor line must be of chain; we can then splice a line to this first section.

The advantages of the textile are not only the lightness but also elasticityon the other hand, the textile line is not always hauled by our anchor windlass and resists much less rubbing.

Considering performance, we can say that the chain thanks to the catenary which its own weight creates, helps to make the anchor work well, giving it a more horizontal pull and a minimum of cushioning during swinging. This, however, is true as long as the breeze does not exceed 15 to 20 knots: if the wind starts to "freshen up", the catenary decreases and in these conditions the elasticity of the line helps the anchor hold by absorbing the tugs given by the movement.

Stroppo: what is it, how does it work and why use it?

For those using an all-chain line, it is of paramount importance to use the strop. This piece of line, attached to the chain and given a turn at a bollard on the bow, serves to remove the chain pull load from the anchor winchpreventing premature wear of the oil seals and bearings. In addition to this, the elasticity of the top acts as shock absorberIt dampens the tugs on all elements of the anchor line, making the stay on board more pleasant, quieter and safer! To do this, the rope must be long enough, at least 10 metres, for it to have the necessary elasticity. To reduce the length of the line, we can use a mooring line damper as shown in the photo.