Everything You Need to Know About 8 Major Boat Anchor Types
Ian Fortey Updated on March 14, 2023. In Boatsby
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 you might see used to describe the same thing. It’s like tissue versus Kleenex. The name fluke is a reference to what are called flukes, the pointed parts of the anchor that stick out like teeth.
Some fluke designs are able to 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 a number of fluke designs and some may have several flukes but there will be at least two present. These are great for bass boats, pontoons, and much more.
- Advantages: This type of anchor is able to grip into soft bottoms that are made of mud and sand very well. The flukes are able to 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: A fluke anchor is not the best for use on a hard surface. If the ground is packed hard or covered in rocks or weeds, the fluke will be less effective at getting any sort of 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. 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.
- Advantages: Claw anchors are considered some of the easiest to use. Setting a claw anchor is usually quick and easy compared to 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 are able to wedge into place.
- Disadvantages: If the bottom is too hard, like flat clay, then the claw anchor will have a hard time finding anything to grab hold and set into. The same goes for a bottom that is too full of weeds as the claw shape is not designed to hold onto them. 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 weight over 40 lbs can even break $500.
Mushroom anchors get their name from their shape which resembles an upside down mushroom cap. 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.
- 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
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. They are designed to work on a rocky bottom where the hooks are able to wedge in between and around rocks to form a strong hold.
- 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 do look like an old timey plow you might find in a field. 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. These anchors are very old and, as such, are very common as well. Though any boat can use a plow they work well with mid sized vessels.
- Advantages: A plow anchor is one of the best anchors when it comes to 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. The reason we have them separated at all is that a Delta is a single piece anchor while the CQR is a hinged piece so the operation is slightly different. Delta anchors are some of the most popular anchors in use today and are, in general, solid, all purpose anchors. These are ideal for most sized vessels including larger boats.
- Advantages: The Delta anchor is reliable in many conditions and, as a plow type, is able to get a decent purchase in sand, mud, clay and more. 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: Though a Delta anchor is great in most circumstances it will struggle to maintain any kind of hold if the bottom is rocky.
- 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. Like the name suggests 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.
- Advantages: The box anchor uses less line than a traditional anchor and can hold a 45 degree angle. The down-facing flukes are able to dig into the surface without catching on debris and the anchor can also reset itself when it comes loose. The box anchor is able to 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
These anchors are often used on jon boats, flats boats or any vessel that is used for fishing in very shallow water. Unlike a standard anchor which is attached to a line and dropped overboard, a shallow water anchor is essentially just a pole that extends 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 with no need for a line.
Power pole anchors do this work automatically by using what looks like a hydraulic arm to raise and lower the pole and root it in place. But a DIY shallow water anchor can be something as simple as a fiberglass pole that is attached to the hull by some kind of clamp.
- Advantages: It’s no surprise that this kind of anchor is ideal for shallow water. 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 a minimum of movement while fishing. DIY poles are often cheap and easy to make and there are many video tutorials 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 end up costing 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.