Boat Anchor Types Explained: 4 Most-Used Systems (With Pictures)

In Boating by Morten Storgaard

One of the most basic questions any boat owner will need to answer is: what type of anchor do I need for my boat?

Like most things, the answer is: it depends.

This article is going to break down the different types of anchors, their uses, and which will work best for your specific needs!

One thing you want to make sure of, no matter what anchor type or types you decide on, you make sure to purchase more than one.

I myself lost an anchor while out on the lake. It had been an accident, but we were prepared. I was so incredibly thankful we had a spare!

There are a lot of things that can happen on the water, and you want to make sure that you are prepared when they do.

1) Fluke Anchors

Let’s start with the basics!

The most common anchor used is the Fluke anchor. It is also referred to as a Danforth anchor or a Lightweight anchor.

Fluke anchors have high holding abilities that can be attributed to their wide and flat flukes commonly made from strong steel.

The Fluke anchors can firmly keep your boat in place. When the flukes at the end of the anchor dig themselves into the bottom a sand bed, it uses the momentum of the boat itself to keep it in place.

This anchor type is often the anchor type used for smaller boats. As the name suggests, it is lightweight and easy to handle.

This anchor also stows flat making it incredibly easy to store. This is important for smaller boats that may not come with high amounts of storage space.

Storage of your anchor, when not in use, is recommended. This is true for all anchor types. They are often sharp and painful when accidentally kicked or stepped on. They can also slide around if not stored properly, which could cause injury or loss of the anchor.

This is often the “go-to” anchor because you can use a lighter anchor for your boat compared to the weight you would need for other anchor types.

Choosing the proper Fluke anchor is dependent on the length of your particular boat. Fluke anchor weight can range from 4 pounds to 44 pounds.

Recommended weight of FLUKE anchors per boat length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
8-16 4
15-25 8
26-36 16
32-38 22
37-43 33
42-49 44

Some of the boat lengths that are listed above can be compatible with more than one size.

If your boat is on the heavier side or you are planning to anchor in more aggressive water you will want to consider using a heavier option.

2) Plow anchors

Another very common anchor type is the Plow anchor. You can tell it is a plow anchor because it will look like a large shovel or scoop.

The Plow anchor has strong holding power in more types of bottom conditions than the Fluke anchor.

This anchor is also used on larger boats. They are heavier and can handle more weight and length than the Fluke anchors.

This anchor is larger and due to its hinged design can be more difficult to store than the Fluke anchor. This is why most people purchase the Fluke anchor over the Plow anchor as long as the Fluke anchor will meet all their needs.

Plow anchors gradually plow themselves into the bottom, burying itself to create hold.

This anchor is designed to swivel so that change in pull does not cause it to lift out of the ground. This issue can be a problem for the Fluke anchor since it is not designed to swivel this way.

Like the Fluke anchor, choosing the proper Plow anchor depends on the length of the boat. The Plow anchor typically ranges between 26 and 60 pounds. This makes them heavier than the Fluke anchor which can make them more difficult to operate but gives them more holding power.

Recommended weight of PLOW anchors per boat length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
22-26 26
27-32 35
33-50 48.5
51-65 59.5

3) Wing Anchors

The Wing anchor is similarly shaped to the Plow anchor but without the ability to hinge or swivel. Like the Plow anchor, they use their weight to set and hold.

This anchor holds similarly sized boats as the Plow anchor but comes in a heavier option that can be used for even larger boats.

Like the Plow anchor, this anchor holds up in more bottom types than the Fluke anchor.

Also, like the Plow anchor, the Wing anchor is heavy to handle and difficult to store.

Unlike the Plow anchor, the Wing type anchor has some lighter options, making it a better choice for some smaller boats.

The Wing anchor type can range in weight from 13 to 66 pounds.

Recommended weight of WING anchors per boat length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
17-29 13
30-40 22
40-49 33
47-57 44
53-63 55
57-70 66

Like the Fluke anchor, if you have a heavier boat for its length or you expect volatile conditions, opt for the heavier option.

4) Claw Anchor

The Claw anchor is also a popular choice because it sets easily and deals well with the most types of bottoms. This includes rock, which the other anchor types mentioned are not ideal for.

The Claw anchor has a wide three-claw design that allows it to set and reset easier than the other options.

The Claw anchor, however, has the smallest holding power. This means you will need a heavier anchor for your vessel than you would with the other options above.

Like the Plow and Wing anchor, this anchor is heavy and awkward to stow.

Despite this, the Claw anchor remains a very popular choice among recreational boat owners.

The Claw anchor can range in weight from 6 to 66 pounds. This is the widest ranged offered by all the options.

Recommended weight of CLAW anchors per boat length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
13-22 6
18-25 11
22-34 16
25-35 22
30-40 33
35-50 44
39-55 55
40-60 66

Because of the anchor’s low holding power, quite a few options above overlap. You will want to make sure you opt for the heavier option to ensure your boat holds.

3 Factors To Choosing The Right Anchor Type

With a large variety of options, you are probably thinking: so, which one do I choose?

Most boaters agree that you should have two different styles of anchors. This will allow you to use one based on where you are and what you need.

This also allows you to set multiple anchors if needed. This can help with crowded areas or extreme weather. Setting an anchor off the front and back of your vessel can reduce swinging ability as well as allowing you to shorten the rode (chain, rope, or cable that attaches to the anchor).

There are 3 factors to look at when picking the right anchor for you.

One major factor to look at is the bottom of the body of water you plan to boat in.

1) Consider The Bottom Type For Where You Are Going

This is one of the most important reasons to bring more than one anchor, especially if you are not familiar with the body of water or its bottom.

Bottom Types include:

  • Sand: easy for setting and has a high hold.
  • Mud: requires a deeper and wider setting for a stronghold.
  • Rock/Coral: setting depends more on where you drop your anchor than what anchor you drop.
  • Shale/Clay/Grasses: relies on the weight of the anchor more than its design.

Recommended Anchors For Each Bottom Type:

Bottom Type: Anchor Type:
Sand Fluke, Plow, Wing, Claw
Mud Fluke, Plow, Wing, Claw
Rock/Coral Claw
Shale/Clay/Grass Plow, Wing, Claw

2) Choose The Right Anchor Size (Weight)

After you determine what type of anchor you need for where you are going, you will want to make sure you apply the size charts listed under each anchor. This is to make sure you pick the proper weight for your particular boat.

As I mentioned above, when in doubt with any type of anchor, opt for the heavier option. This will provide more stability and security no matter what conditions you might encounter.

The final thing to consider is what your anchor should be made from.

3) How To Choose The Right Anchor Material

There are three common materials your anchor could be made from. These include galvanized steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.

Some pros and cons of each metal type are as follows:

Metal Type: Pros: Cons:
Galvanized Steel Most inexpensive, strong, corrosion resistant *Galvanization can wear
Stainless Steel Attractive, strong, corrosion resistant Expensive, can become scratched or damaged
Aluminum Lightweight More expensive than steel types, not as strong as steel types

*If your galvanization begins to wear down, you can always get it re-galvanized.

Hopefully, by using this guide you are able to pick the anchor that is best for you and your boat. The proper anchor can help you be confident while you are out on the water and gives you one less thing to worry about!