A is for Anchor

I’m starting this A to Z challenge with the theme of boats, as you know. I’d love to go into what a boat is, as opposed to a ship, but that will have to wait for tomorrow, as today is dedicated to letter A. (Anyone else having Sesame Street flashbacks?) In any case, the word I’ve picked for today is Anchor. There are all sorts of anchors from the simplest to the sublime. The function of all of them is to hold a boat or ship in one place. Now this is relative, because changes in tide will cause currents to reverse, so the boat will swing around its anchor point, so if you’re in a small boat gunkholing around and anchoring, please take that into consideration with regard to other boats in the area and the shore, for you don’t want to find yourself high and dry the next morning after you’ve anchored in place for the night. But very basically an anchor is a heavy thing on the end of a line or chain that rests on the bottom that keeps your boat from drifting off. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Except you have to take into account this thing called ‘scope’. That is the ratio of the depth of the water to the length of the anchor line let out. In average conditions of wind and tide a ratio of 7:1 is usually okay. That means that for every foot of depth of the water, seven feet of anchor line must be let out. Now this does not apply for really mild weather, in a rowboat on a calm lake you can get away with a lot less than that, but if you’re staying the night in salt water, go at least 7:1 and in heavier weather 10:1 is not thought of as too much.

The earliest, simplest anchors were simply relatively large rocks, around which were tied lines of some sort of fiber and lowered overboard and let down into the water. Later these rocks became more complicated and crosswise flukes were attached to them.

stone anchor

Later anchors looked much like the standard stereotypical image of an anchor we have today:

lead stock anchor 2lead stock anchor 1

These had vestiges of the stone and/or lead up at the top, mounted crosswise, where the stone and/or lead (now called a ‘stock’) could turn the flukes (those curvy things at the lower end) into the bottom so they would grab better. Later, anchors were made from steel with wooden stocks and a length of chain was attached to provide the weight necessary to hold the anchor down as well as provide additional durability against rocks and other nasty stuff on the bottom that tends to cut anchor lines. These are the anchors used during our revolution.

wooden stock anchor

Later still, anchors were made of all steel and that is the standard ‘fisherman’ design we know today.

fisherman anchor

This is a standard storm anchor for yachtsmen today and requires chain to hold it flat against the bottom. Further anchor development produced the stockless anchor made entirely of steel, using the weight of the chain alone to hold it against the bottom. These are the kinds that hold modern ships in place.

stockless anchor

Now this is not by any means a full catalogue of anchor types, just the ones representative of most of the anchors out there. Full sized ships have stockless anchors, and each link in the chain weighs hundreds of pounds. On the other end of the spectrum is the modest fisherman in his little john boat that has a coffee can filled with concrete with an eyebolt set into it tied with nylon line from the hardward store for anchor line. One of the best anchors I ever had for a small fishing boat was a sash weight. But I digress. They all do basically the same thing, that’s to hold us in place when we want to be there and not be so heavy that we can’t lift it back up into the boat when we want to leave.

Next time I’ll cover something beginning with ‘B’. Until then, fair winds.


7 thoughts on “A is for Anchor

  1. My best friend’s husband told her to hoist the anchor. She said, “I didn’t finish the boating class. I don’t know how.” He said, “Just throw the anchor overboard.” So she did. And it wasn’t attached to anything. Loved your “A” article. Elizabeth

  2. Gunkholing is going from small isolated anchorage to small isolated anchorage in a pocket cruiser with shallow draft. The water is usually too shallow for the big boys to even get in, so the little anchorages are usually quiet with much more wildlife so you can pop that beverage and enjoy the sunset without listening to someone’s television set blaring from the next boat over. Having done it whilst sail camping in Dora, I can highly recommend it. With regard to the 7:1 ratio,it’s a useful rule of thumb, i generally eyeball it myself and err on the side of caution by setting two anchors in a kinda sorta Bermuda anchoring arrangement so I don’t swing too far. Thanks for reading, I hope the other posts get comments too!

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