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Which Type of Anchor Has Little Holding Power?

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on October 17, 2022. In Boats

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Mushroom anchors arguably have the most limited holding power of any anchor that you can get for your boat. This doesn’t necessarily mean a mushroom anchor is a bad anchor, it just may not be the right anchor for the right circumstance. There are many types and variations in anchors, after all, and the mushroom anchors design is not one that lends itself to actual grip and holding once it has been deployed.

Mushroom Anchor

 

Given the dozens of potential anchors out there is can be difficult to compare them head to head because they are often designed for different purposes. Some work really well in one situation but poorly in another. But a mushroom anchor would be, for most boaters, the least efficient and least functional of them all.

Like the name suggests, a mushroom anchor is shaped a bit like a mushroom or an upside down bell. The holding power it does have comes from sinking to a bottom lined with soft sediment and that sediment and mud and silt settling into the mushroom, sort of burying it and holding it in place.

Because of how a mushroom anchor works there are two important things to know about it. First, this type of anchor does become better, so to speak, and offer superior holding power the longer it’s in use. So the moment you drop it, it will have little holding power. Close to none, in fact. But as time passes, as the current moves things around and the mushroom anchor works itself deeper into the muck, it will have more holding power overall.

The second thing to know about a mushroom anchor is that their limited holding power only makes them really useful to smaller vessels. Kayaks and canoes would do much better with a mushroom anchor than something like a sport fishing boat. In all honesty, I would only recommend a mushroom anchor for the following kinds of boats.

They are not up to the task of holding a heavier boat in place. That said, if the conditions on the water are rough and there is a lot of chop, a mushroom anchor will likely be unable to even hold one of these small boats in place.

Who Uses Mushroom Anchors?

This kind of anchor is actually useful for mooring buoys and other things that are likely to stay in place for a long time. If a buoy is in place for years, a mushroom anchor will be very securely buried beneath it and that would make it a great choice.

The small vessels listed above can make good use of them in areas with soft, sandy bottoms. Because a mushroom anchor is usually pretty cheap, easy to deploy and easy to pull back in again, it’s not a terrible choice in certain circumstances where you know you don’t need really strong holding power and just need to prevent your boat from gently drifting.

Other Anchors With Limited Hold

While mushroom anchors offer what I consider the worst hold of any anchor, there are some other styles that have limited hold as well in certain circumstances.

River Anchor

This looks like a bit of a modified mushroom anchor and they have basically the same design except a river has been split to turn the solid cup of the mushroom into a trio of flukes. This gives a river anchor slightly better holding power than its cousin because it does have some gripping power now with the flukes. That said, it’s still only good for small vessels and will have very little holding power for larger boats or in stronger currents.

Fluke Anchor/Danforth Anchor

SeaSense Slip Ring Fluke Anchor

Flukes can be really great anchors in the right circumstance which is a sandy or muddy bottom. The flukes really dig into that soft material and grab hold keeping smaller vessels anchored securely in place.

Your problems with a Danforth anchor come when you have different bottom types. On a rocky bottom this kind of anchor will provide just about no hold at all unless you get lucky and wedge it somehow. Likewise, if you have a bottom full of grass and weeds it won’t find much purchase. You’ll likely pull it back in covered in weeds and muck and have no success getting anchored in place.

If the bottom is really deep mud, the flukes on the anchor will not be able to firmly grip into anything. You may get some reasonable hold in very still waters, but a reasonable current or wind will likely pull the anchor right out and have you drifting again.

Another issue with a fluke style anchor is that if the wind changes direction after you have it set, you can cross the line and end up pulling the anchor in reverse and, as a result, pulling it free.

Grapnel Anchor

Crown Sporting Goods Galvanized Grapnel Anchor

Grapnel anchors look like grappling hooks and fold up into themselves which make them great for storage. They have good holding power on a bottom that has something for it to actually grapple onto, which means rocks or even trees. However, if you have a soft muddy bottom a grapnel anchor will be very ineffective and offer limited hold.

Another issue with a grapnel anchor can be considered one of its strengths. These are compact and lightweight anchors which are great in some cases but not so great in others. Because they are so lightweight these are not ideal for any long term hold. You’d do well to use this on a rocky bottomed lake or river while you stop to fish in a smaller vessel, not unlike some of the ones that are best suited for using a mushroom anchor. But if the water gets chopping or you plan any long term anchorage, this will probably not offer you the kind of hold you need.

CQR/Plow Anchor

This one may be considered controversial because plow anchors are hugely popular and see a lot of use. But if you ever compare plow anchors to other anchors, and to themselves, you’ll notice right away that a plow anchor is almost always a bulky anchor.

Plows usually hold well in most types of bottoms, though they have some struggles if you use them in heavy weeds. But you need a big plow to get them to work. Relatively speaking, a plow actually has relatively low holding power compared to other anchors of a similar size. That’s why plow anchors tend to be a lot heavier than their counterparts. If you had a plow that was the same weight as a grapnel of the same size,, that plow would not be impressing you with its holding power.

They can still hold up well, especially with wind changes, and if you don’t mind an anchor that’s a little heavier than its counterparts it won’t matter that much. Strictly speaking, however, a CQR anchor does not have the best holding power out there.

Bruce Anchor or Claw Anchor

This style of anchor offers good holding power in more circumstances and is sometimes mistaken for a plow style anchor. The chief concern I’d have with claw anchors is that they do not offer the best hold if the bottom is a harder surface like claw, or even hard mud.

Box Anchors

These are not the most popular anchors out there but you do run across them every now and then. They are popular with pontoon boat owners and have some unique properties such as not needing a lead chain and requiring about half the length of anchor line recommended for traditional anchors.

The problem with a box anchor is that it does not offer a lot of long term hold and is very weak against current or poor weather conditions when compared to other styles of anchors. If the line gets pulled because of wind or the current is too strong, a box anchor may flip over and dislodge half of the flukes that were keeping it in place. That will drastically reduce overall holding power and may cause the boat to start drifting.

Anchor Materials

Typically your anchor is only going to be made from stainless steel, galvanized steel or aluminum. Aluminum is the weakest but that by no means makes an aluminum anchor a bad choice as an aluminum anchor’s holding power will likely be more than another even compared to boat anchors made from heavier metal. Aluminum also means a lighter anchor, which is a big selling point for many boaters. That said, in some very rare circumstances an aluminum anchor may prove to be too light or too weak to offer the best holding power but I don’t think this would ever be an issue, at least not compared to anchor type.

The Bottom Line

Mushroom anchors arguably have the least holding power of any popular anchor style available. They are best used for long term anchoring as in the case of buoys, where the anchor can be set and allowed to bury itself deep in the mud and sand below. It offers no holding power at all in heavy weeds or on a rocky bottom where there is literally nothing to keep it in place. Other styles such as box anchors, river anchors, flukes, grapnels and plows all have situations in which they too will offer only limited hold for a boat.

Make sure you know what the bottom of the water is like before choosing an appropriate anchor and then set it accordingly to ensure the best holding power you can get. Having more than one anchor, a primary anchor and another as a backup is always a good idea. As always, stay safe and have fun.

About Ian

My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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