Everything You Need to Know About 8 Major Boat Anchor Types
There are quite a few types of anchors you can use for your boat and they are not all interchangeable so it’s key that you pick the right one. Many boaters carry more than one type as not all anchors work well in all conditions. It’s good to have an anchor that can work on soft, muddy surfaces as well as one that can work in hard or rocky conditions. If you know where you’ll be boating and what conditions are like ahead of time, you can prepare by ensuring you have the right anchor.
All an anchor needs to do to be functional is hold your vessel in place in the water. But this requires an anchor suited to both the size of your boat and the conditions below the surface of the water.
Let’s take a look at 8 of the most common anchor types to see what they’re good for and how they work.
Fluke Anchor or Danforth Anchor
Fluke is the type of anchor, but Danforth is a trademark name. It’s like tissue versus Kleenex. The name “fluke” is a reference to the pointed parts of the anchor that stick out like teeth.
- Description: Some fluke designs can come apart, and some are solid. Typically, they are made of lightweight aluminum and offer remarkable strength and holding power even when they are rather small and light. There are several fluke designs, and some may have multiple flukes, but there will be at least two present. These are great for bass boats, pontoons, and much more.
- Boat Type: Small to medium boats under 30 feet
- Ideal For: Muddy, sandy, and soft seabeds
- Bad For: Rocky bottoms, hard bottoms, coral
- Advantages: The flukes can dig in like a scoop and bury themselves deep, allowing the pressure of the mud/sand and water to push down on the flat parts of the flukes, creating a strong hold to keep your boat in place. This is arguably the best kind of anchor to use in these situations
- Disadvantages: If the ground is packed hard or covered in rocks or weeds, the fluke will be less effective at getting any grip and may not be able to lock into anything at all, making it essentially useless.
- Cost: Fluke anchors run a range of prices based on size and quality. Some smaller flukes that still perform very well can be purchased for under $25. Higher quality and larger flukes can be found for $100 to $150.
Claw Anchor or Bruce Anchor
Bruce is the trademark name for a kind of claw anchor.
- Description: Claw anchors resemble plow anchors but with a broader scoop section and typically three teeth or claws that it uses to dig into the substrate to gain hold.
- Boat Type: Mid-sized boats up to about 60 feet
- Ideal For: Soft bottoms that are muddy but also rock and coral
- Bad For: Loose seabeds like sand are not ideal for the claw, and hard clay bottoms will offer no purchase. Claws do not perform well in weeds, either.
- Advantages: Claw anchors are considered some of the easiest to use. Setting a claw anchor is usually quick and easier than other anchor types. It’s also easy to reset when it comes loose, so many boaters prefer it and consider it a good, all-around anchor for most conditions. It works best when the bottom is soft so it can get some purchase, and it also does well in rock and coral because the teeth or claws can wedge into place.
- Disadvantages: Pound for pound, the claw anchor also has less holding strength than most other anchors so in poor conditions, you may find a claw anchor coming loose on its own far more than you’d like.
- Cost: The smallest Bruce or claw-style anchors start around $30 to $40 and are best suited for smaller vessels. Larger and heavier claws, especially stainless steel ones, will increase in price to as much as $150 or more. Marine-grade claw anchors that weigh over 40 lbs can even break $500.
These are more often used for permanent moorings, like for buoys, as their holding power only increases over time as silt and debris builds up on top of it. They work by simply sitting in place and allowing the cup part to fill up over time as the current deposits material inside.
- Description: Mushroom anchors get their name from their shape, which resembles an upside-down mushroom cap.
- Boat Type: Tiny boats or permanent moorings
- Ideal For: Sandy or loose bottoms so the sediment can collect in the mushroom.
- Bad For: Large boats as well as rocky or hard bottoms
- Advantages: Mushrooms are some of the cheapest anchors and they come in small sizes that are ideal for very small boats. Larger mushrooms can hold things in place permanently if they are given time to really take root.
- Disadvantages: Most mushrooms are not ideal for temporary mooring because they need time to become buried and provide resistance. They have very limited holding power for larger vessels, especially for short term anchoring. On a bottom that is hard or rocky, a mushroom anchor will not be able to provide any holding power as they need soft material and silt to fill in the cup and provide resistance.
- Cost: A cheap, cast iron mushroom anchor made for a small vessel might cost you around $20. Heavier mushrooms, up to 20lbs, that have a vinyl or galvanized coating can cost as much as $70 or more.
Grapnel Anchor Or Grappler Anchor
They are designed to work on a rocky bottom where the hooks can wedge in between and around rocks to form a strong hold.
- Description: These anchors resemble a grappling hook and tend to have four or more hook-like fingers spread out around the central column. The claws usually fold down when not in use, making this one of the most space-saving anchor designs.
- Boat Type: Smaller vessels under 15 feet
- Ideal For: Rocks
- Bad For: Soft or muddy bottoms
- Advantages: Grapnel anchors are best for smaller boats like canoes because of their compact size and holding power. Once set, it’s very hard to release a grapnel anchor so the hold is reliable.
- Disadvantages: These anchors don’t work well without rocks to hold onto. They also tend to come loose easily if the winds and currents change which doesn’t make them ideal for any sort of long term anchorage.
- Cost: Grapnel anchors can be incredibly cheap with dinghy-sized anchors at under $15. Larger galvanized or stainless steel versions can range from about $60 to $90.
Plow Anchor or CQR Anchor
CQR is a trademark name for a kind of plow anchor. These get their name because they look like an old-timey plow you might find in a field. These anchors are very old and, as such, are very common as well.
- Description: Where a fluke has two or more teeth, a plow has that center fluke or tooth that will dig into the bottom to give the anchor the needed hold.
- Boat Type: Medium-sized boats around 60 feet
- Ideal For: Soft bottoms like sand or mud and also weeds
- Bad For: Hard or rocky bottoms, also very loose bottoms
- Advantages: A plow anchor is one of the best anchors for handling changes in wind and current. They are less likely to break free and need to be reset in these conditions. They tend to work well in many conditions and are fairly reliable and predictable as a result.
- Disadvantages: Plow anchors don’t offer as strong a hold as many other anchor types, and, as a result, to get one that works, you may need to opt for a heavier anchor than you would if you used a different type.
- Cost: Galvanized steel plow anchors can be just over $100, while stainless steel plows can get up around $250 or more.
This is another kind of plow anchor and sometimes it’s called a wing anchor. Delta anchors are some of the most popular anchors in use today and are solid, all purpose anchors. These are ideal for most sized vessels including larger boats.
- Description: Delta is a single-piece anchor while the CQR is a hinged piece, so the operation is slightly different. Otherwise, this is much the same as a typical plow anchor.
- Boat Type: Up to 70 feet
- Ideal For: Soft, muddy bottoms but also sand and clay.
- Bad For: Rocks
- Advantages: The Delta anchor is reliable in many conditions and, When it does grab hold because it’s one solid piece, it offers a surprisingly strong hold as well, especially when compared to similar anchors.
- Disadvantages: May be too large or expensive for many boats.
- Cost: A Delta anchor for a boat around 30 to 40 feet may set you back $400 to $500. A 22lb stainless steel Delta can be over $700. That said, you can find many Deltas for smaller boats that cost between $100 and $200.
Box anchors are a relatively new anchor design but have proven to also be extremely versatile. They are not designed for any specific size of boat and seem to work well with all kinds. They say you can even anchor a houseboat with box anchors.
- Description: They are designed in a box shape lined with hooks or flukes along the outside edges. It works in any bottom condition by digging into harder surfaces or scraping softer ones to fill the box and add weight. Because of how this anchor sets, you may need less anchor line to use it.
- Boat Type: Potentially any boat, though it may be overkill for smaller vessels.
- Ideal For: Any seabed
- Bad For: May be unnecessary for smaller vessels
- Advantages: The box anchor uses less line than a traditional anchor and can hold a 45-degree angle. The down-facing flukes can dig into the seabed without catching on debris, and the anchor can also reset itself when it comes loose. The box anchor can set almost immediately after dropping it. It offers some extreme holding power with less anchor rode than many other modern anchors, making it one of the more popular up-and-coming anchor styles.
- Disadvantages: Because they’re so new, they are not as well tested or trusted yet, and they can also get a little pricey, especially for casual boaters or those with smaller vessels.
- Cost: You can get box anchors from about $100 for a basic version up to around $300 for a stainless steel one.
Shallow Water Anchor or Power Pole
Power pole anchors work automatically by using what looks like a hydraulic arm to raise and lower the pole and root it in place. A DIY shallow water anchor can be as simple as a fiberglass pole attached to the hull with a clamp.
- Description: Unlike a standard anchor attached to a line and dropped overboard, a shallow water anchor is essentially just a pole extending from the side of the hull down to the surface below the water. Because it’s for use in shallow water, it anchors the boat directly to the ground below without requiring a line.
- Boat Type: These anchors are often used on jon boats, flats boats, or any vessel used for fishing in very shallow water.
- Ideal For: Shallow water
- Bad For: Deep water, larger rocks.
- Advantages: With a power pole set up, these anchors can be set into nearly any kind of bottom and then released again in just moments. They also offer an extremely secure hold that roots the boat in place to ensure minimal movement while fishing. DIY poles are often cheap and easy to make, and many video tutorials are online.
- Disadvantages: A Power Pole type boat anchor can be a major investment, and not every boater wants to put that much money into an anchor. By the same token, a DIY version will be cheaper but may take some time and effort to produce, and also you may need to do some trial and error to get it to work.
- Cost: Power Poles can cost over $2000 and also require maintenance. A DIY pole, however, can cost you $20 or $30 depending on the design.
The Bottom Line
There are a number of types of anchors which work with whatever sized boat you have and whatever surface you are trying to anchor in. It’s always important to test your anchor out to make sure it meets your needs, can hold your boat, and is easy for you to both set and release when needed.
Most anchors don’t cost a lot of money but some larger or more complex designs can set you back a considerable sum of money so make sure you’re investing in something you truly need before committing to any purchase.