Starting with a Clean Slate | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Starting with a Clean Slate

Getting a new boat means we have a chance to look at all the systems on the boat and try to get it all right - not realistic I suppose but we can try ;-) . So over the next few months I am going to blog the thought processes that go into designing systems for the perfect cruising boat – at least for us. Over the past 17 years of cruising I have seen a lot of clever ideas on other peoples boats, and have had the chance to improve Two-Step as we tried things, and cruised to different areas. Actually it is surprising how the perfect boat seems to vary as you cruise in different places. Motoring down the ICW we wanted a slightly larger fuel tank – and wouldn't want a mast too tall for the ICW bridges. Also we would have been happy to motor faster than our 5.5-6 knots. And with marina prices well over $1 per foot we would be happy to have a shorter boat! So the perfect boat expands to 50 feet for fast motoring and shrinks to 27 feet for frugal marina fees ;-) - oh well we can't have everything. Anyway, the next few months I am going to go over the various systems and design considerations as we design our new boat. I hope these ramblings might be of help to others of you who are considering a new boat – or just updating your old one – or dreaming of the future!!

Anchoring Systems
So today I have been trying to assemble all the info we have accumulated over the years to plan out the perfect anchoring system. There are only a few topics more likely to invite heated discussions from cruising sailors than what is the perfect anchor, but I am more concerned with how to set up the best overall system, not just the anchor itself.

For the past 17 years we have used a 45lb CQR as our main anchor. This anchor has held very well in a variety of conditions HOWEVER it has not ever set very well. By this I mean it works great to hold the boat after it has been set well in the bottom but it doesn't tend to set itself. Consequently I have taken to diving down and checking the anchor, and on many occasions helping it set, or even moving it to a better spot then setting it (see underwater footage of this in the Distant Shores Volume 3: South Italy & Adriatic Sea DVD in episode #21 Rogoznica Croatia).

Thanks in part to this questionable setting of my CQR I have now become somewhat of an expert on anchor setting performance since I regularly swim around to nearby boats and check on their anchors as well. Over the last few years I have swum down to inspect a variety of anchors in the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Aegean and Red Seas. Many of the bottoms in these areas include a covering of grass and are therefore more challenging for anchors than the typical mud of the US east coast or the sand of the Bahamas or Caribbean.

The Bruce and CQR anchors do not tend to set well in these conditions and I often found them lying scarcely dug in, or with weeds balled up around them. Certainly our CQR sets poorly in grass, tending to lie on its side and slide along, not enough weight in the tip to get it to set. As it is sliding back I can just lift it up a bit and push the tip in. Then it suddenly sets and digs in well. Since I only sleep well knowing it is set, and I have lost faith in its ability to set itself, I have been looking around for the better solution!

One of the most popular anchors is the Delta. Although it was originally conceived as a budget version of the CQR it has proven to be a big improvement! Much more of the weight is in the tip of the anchor and because of this it sets far better than the CQR. I have watched the Delta slide along a grassy bottom for just a few feet before the weight in the tip pushes through the grass and the anchor starts to set itself. Very impressive.

Another anchor commonly seen in the Mediterranean these days is the Bugel and although I have seen it also setting quite well in the grasses and hard sands in anchorages here I have wondered if it has large enough flukes to match the overall performance of the Delta in softer mud and sands. As a general all around anchor we have now switched to a Delta for Two-step and the new boat will have the same.

2nd Anchor – My favourite second anchor is the light Danforth style (like the Fortress). They are fabulous in mud and sand and hold stronger than almost anything in those bottoms. They will not reset themselves if you start to pull from the opposite direction so I plan to set them for situations where they won't be asked to reset. Going stern to the shore or a key, setting as a second anchor in a Bahamian mooring or when bow and stern anchoring.

Windlass and Anchor Chain
Since we added an electric windlass to Two-Step there has been no looking back. And the Lewmar V3 we have now on Two-Step is surely the most beautiful piece of stainless steel engineering ever to pull an anchor! Although we never shirked our responsibility to re-anchor until we got it right, it sure is less daunting to consider pulling the anchor and chain up from 16 meters and resetting it 3 times just to get it correct. So the new boat must have a powerful electric windlass and 70 meters of chain. More info on this in the future!!

Stern Anchoring
Cruising in Croatia and Turkey the past few years we have many times had to anchor in a deep bay and back up to the shore or a jetty to take a line ashore. This is a common method of anchoring and allows 10-15 boats to be securely tied up in a small bay where only 1-2 could have swung freely on their anchors. To do this many cruising sailors have added a reel on the stern railing to allow 50 meters of line to be easily deployed. Just jump in the dinghy or swim ashore pulling the line and tie it on a tree or rock at the shoreline. The reel allows a swimmer to do the job almost single handedly and beats our method of having someone on deck manage our 50 meter bag of line – always in danger of tangling. A line on a reel also is available for emergencies such as offering a tow or whatever – ready to go!

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