There are almost as many anchors out there as there are differing situations for which they’re best suited. There are hundreds of opinions and thousands of words written about the subject. For the sake of brevity we’ll just cover the basics and not make your head spin right off the bat!
Your basic anchor needs will be determined not only by the type of boat you’ll be piloting, but the type of conditions, and the environment you’ll be boating in.
A plow anchor looks pretty much like the name implies. For years it was known as a Coastal Quick Release (CQR). The fluke pivots on its shank so it is effective in situations where moderate winds, tides or currents keep changing the direction of the boat’s pull on the anchor. This design works well on a variety of bottoms, and allows for a relatively easy release when pulled up vertically.
This wing anchor is very similar in shape to the plow anchor—the main difference is that the shank is fixed. This design allows the anchor to set quicker. Since the flukes have more outward surface area, this anchor provides both added resistance, and a quicker catch in a wide variety of beds. Remember with this type of anchor to buy a lighter weight than you would similar anchors for your boat—it’s very powerful, and you don’t want to end up stuck.
This anchor, also known as a Danforth anchor, has 2 hinged flukes attached to a shank. It performs best in clay, mud and sand. You need to ensure you’re getting just the right size and weight anchor for your boat; otherwise this type of anchor is prone to rolling on the bottom. And being semi-anchored is not what an anchor is for.
If you’re going to be boating in areas where the bottom is rocky, this is the anchor you’re looking for. These anchors normally have 3 claw-like projections coming off the fixed shank which cause it to roll upright. These are also sometimes referred to as Bruce anchors, which were originally designed for offshore gas and oil drilling rigs. Obviously the one made for your boat is quite a scaled down version! This anchor tends to hold fast, even when the direction of pull changes 360 degrees.
This anchor looks pretty much like what the name implies. It’s an upside-down mushroom shape. These are easy to maneuver. They’re coated in vinyl so you won’t have to worry much about the little sailors on your crew banging up the boat while they’re “helping” with setting the anchor. The vinyl coating is a bit soft, so a slight ding against the side of the boat is not going to make any noticeable damage.
Unless you’re piloting a huge ship you’re probably never going to see one of these classic anchors in use. This is the cartoon version of an anchor you picture in your mind when you think of Popeye the Sailor Man. For recreational boaters, it’s more suitable as a tattoo.
As you can see, you’re going to need to match up your boating habits with the suitable anchor for the situation. If you’re a serious boater who spends a lot of time on different kinds of water, you may even need to invest in 2 different types of anchors. If in doubt, consult with your local knowledgeable professional at a boating supply store near you. As always, consult the owner’s manual for your particular boat in regards to anchor size and weight recommendations.