Visit any online sailing forum and there is one subject that will rouse more furious debate than any other subject known to man, beast or Poseidon: anchors. Already I sense the temperature rise as our sailing comrades read that word, so I’ll shout it out a second time: ANCHORS! Sounds like a swearword, doesn’t it? In some parts of the world it is a swearword. At the very least it’s an excuse to start verbal warfare on anyone who dares ask the question “what is the best anchor”?
We had a bit of cash to spend on an anchor last year and we spent months researching the subject. Finally we opted for a Rocna due to its success in various sailing magazine bench tests. We struck up a dialogue with its designer, Peter Smith, an honest man who requested that we be honest too should we write an article on our experiences of it.
Here, then, is our initial review. It is not a comparison of various different anchor designs; neither is it a recommendation on what the best anchor is on the market. Instead we are documenting our personal experience of a Rocna and comparing it with our old anchor, a CQR.
After receiving our Rocna 33 we dropped the hook in Fethiye Bay in November 2008 and didn’t move until April 2009. Actually, I lie, we did do a visa run to Rhodes at Christmas but essentially that anchor was stuck in the mud for six months. And thank God it was. Do you remember that video clip of the Marmaris storms? It saw us through those same gale force winds.
An anchor, then, is all about holding power. We were down the coast when the 70+ knot winds whipped through Marmaris and we were seeing gusts of up to 60 knots in Fethiye. It’s worth noting that over the winter Esper’s stern was tied to a jetty; we had deployed a second anchor 90 degrees off the bow; the holding in Fethiye is notoriously sticky; and there is little fetch. This should help put our initial comments in perspective. Our experience of our Rocna so far then is based upon the six months we spent in the same spot under these conditions, plus the few times we anchored in various bays over night, and our time now anchored in the middle of Fethiye bay, where it has been pouring with rain!
One thing Craig warned us of was how quickly the anchor sets. The recommendation is to drop back slowly rather than whacking the boat into astern at 2,000rpm. Do all this gently and there is no need to twang the boat around the anchorage, ripping the windlass out the bow as your crew run round sighting transits. I have to say I was amazed how quickly this thing bites. We took Craig’s advice and barely went beyond tick-over (enough to get some steerage in astern). With Liz at the helm, dropping the boat back into neutral I could see the chain had straightened very quickly and the boat was traveling forwards, indicating that the anchor had successfully bitten. “I love this anchor!”, Liz shouted across the deck when we last dropped our Rocna, from where I pen this article.
Although I’m not here to write about anchoring technique I should make it clear how much easier it is to set the Rocna compared to our previous CQR. The latter is not called a plough for nothing as it furrows some way before it bites. I check my anchor most times by diving down to it with snorkel and mask and the CQR was often preceded by a 10m gash of sand, which would explain why the boat continued to travel backwards after our required scope had been deployed. Not any more. That Rocna hits the seabed, sets immediately and the whole thing is over before the skipper can holler “get the beers”.
Initially we are very impressed and encouraged by the Rocna
The fact we’ve been hanging off our Rocna for months on end is encouraging. The bay in which we currently reside sees afternoon gusts of around 15-20 knots and we no longer bother with the second anchor. We’re sitting pretty on 45m chain in 10m of water and that Rocna hasn’t budged. Of course we could be doing the same with the CQR but knowing how quickly that Rocna set I just feel more comfortable on the Rocna. (It’s worth noting that for three of those six months tied to the jetty we had but 25m of chain out in 10m of water, which possibly indicates how settled that anchor was once set.)
I was initially bothered by the shape of the Rocna’s shank. It is more square than the rounded design of the CQR and I did have some problems getting the Rocna back over the bow when weighing for the first time. Fortunately this problem was short-lived as it just required a slight change to our weighing technique. Also Craig was quick to respond by directing us to a page on the Rocna website that gives suggestions on improved bow roller designs. We may consider this at a later date but our Quick windlass, rated at 800w with a 60a circuit breaker, copes with the 33kg Rocna using this alternative technique. The new technique, by the way, is to stop bringing up the chain when the anchor has just reached the water’s surface and pause for a few seconds to give the batteries a rest before bringing up the last couple of metres. This creates enough momentum to get the anchor over the bow and back home comfortably.
We will be spending the summer in various bays around the Lycian and Carian coasts of Turkey and will continue to use the Rocna as our primary anchor. More importantly we’ll return at the end of the season and give you a low-down on how it performed and perhaps offer some really qualified pros and cons.
Initially, though, we are impressed. Very impressed. If there is one standard by which to measure a good anchor then it must surely be the question ‘can I sleep tonight as all hell breaks loose around me’? The Rocna, so far, has certainly ticked that box.
Finally I conclude with a comment on old versus new anchor designs. It was only 18 months ago that I was caught up in a debate, describing how happy I was with my CQR. Someone responded “The CQR may work for you but don’t think anchor technology hasn’t moved on. These new generation anchors are designed differently for a reason: they work better”. As a liveaboard on a budget there are many things I can compromise on. I can live with our 20 year old sails whilst monitoring the wind on 15 year old instruments, but I couldn’t settle for anything other than the best anchor. We went out and bought the best we could afford and that meant moving from the 80 year old design of the CQR to a new generation Rocna. Somehow I don’t think we’ll be looking back.
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