Boat Anchor Types Explained: 5 Most-Used Systems (With Pictures)

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

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!

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

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

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 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 with a sand bed, it uses the slight pulling forces 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 than 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 or more.

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 planning to anchor in more aggressive water, you will want to consider using a heavier option.

2) Plow Anchors

Another prevalent 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 original maker of these anchors called them a CQR. A more modern option is called a wing anchor, like the Delta.

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 more forgiving when the wind changes direction so that they re-set more easily.

This anchor can be more difficult to store than the Fluke anchor, but special chocks are available to mount them deck.  They also often fit well on bowsprit anchor rollers.  This is why some people purchase both a plow anchor and a Fluke anchor to meet the particular anchoring conditions.

Plow anchors gradually plow themselves into the bottom, burying themselves 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, making 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 45
51-65 60

3) Grapnel Anchors

The grapnel anchor can be either fixed or folding.  It does not have 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 is usually used on smaller boats.  Its major disadvantage is that the upright flukes can tangle with the anchor line and pull the anchor out.

Like the Plow anchor, this anchor holds up in more bottom types than the Fluke anchor.  It does not usually hold as well as a Plow anchor, though.

Like the Plow anchor, the grapnel anchor is heavy to handle and difficult to store, unless it is the folding style.

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

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

Recommended Weight of Grapnel Anchors Per Boat Length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
17-29 25
30-40 35
40-49 50
47-57 55
53-60 66

Like the Fluke anchor, if you have a heavier boat for its length or 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 most types of bottoms. This includes rock, which the previous anchor types mentioned are not ideal for.

The Claw anchor has a wide three-claw design that was originally known as a Bruce anchor.

The Claw anchor, however, can be more difficult to set and hold well.  This means you may need a heavier anchor for your vessel than you would with the other options above.

Like the Plow and grapnel anchor, this anchor is heavy and awkward to stow.  But like the Plow anchor, it will often fit well on a bowsprit anchor roller.

The Claw anchor is relatively less expensive than other anchors, so it remains a popular choice among recreational boat owners.

The Claw anchor can range in weight from 6 pounds to huge industrial sizes. This is the widest range 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
22-30 16
25-35 22
30-40 33
35-50 44
39-55 55
40-60 66

Because of the anchor’s range of 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.

5) Scoop Anchors

Galvanized Fixed Shank Scoop Anchors

The scoop anchor is the term for a number of the new generation of modern anchor designs.

The first of these designs was the Rocna, and now includes others such as Spade and Manson.  These designs are getting very popular because they work in many types of bottoms and have high holding power.

The scoop anchors have been tested thoroughly, and they will generally set and reset easier than the other options.  Because they set so well, you can often use a lighter weight.

However, the scoop anchor can be more difficult to manage and store on the deck or in a locker.

The early versions did not fit well on a bowsprit anchor roller because they had roll bars to help them set and re-set better.  Newer versions have resolved this issue.

The scoop anchor can range in weight from 6 pounds to huge industrial sizes, also.

Recommended Weight of Scoop Anchors per Boat Length:

Boat Length (in ft.) Recommended Anchor Weight (in lbs.)
13-22 10
18-28 15
25-34 25
35-40 35
40-45 45
45-55 55
55-60 65

Because the anchor’s holding power will depend on the boat’s weight and windage, it is used on quite a few options above overlap. If your boat is heavy for its length, 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 your swinging range when that is important.

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, Claw, scoop
Mud Fluke, Plow, Claw, scoop
Rock/Coral Claw, scoop
Shale/Clay/Grass Plow, Claw, scoop

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.

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

Some boaters like to have one lighter anchor (a “lunch hook”) for calm conditions and a more robust anchor for overnight anchoring.

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, no rust 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.

Final thoughts

There are many other important considerations with anchoring correctly and confidently.

These include the size (diameter) of the line or ride; and the length of the rode for the water depth, called scope.  For instance, an all-chain rode will hold better than a short length of chain and rope.

This is another whole topic, though.

Hopefully, by using this guide, you can 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!

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