Choosing the right anchor for your boat is crucial for anyone who will ever anchor. And anchor you will, quite often, if you own a boat.
Anchors are an important feature and you should pay attention making sure you're outfitting your vessel with the right one. The wrong anchor may not set or drag later on, potentially causing damage to the boat and injury to the people on it.
Before setting out to shop for an anchor, several factors should be taken into consideration. You want to get to know a number of your boat's features and characteristics. But more importantly, you'll want to think about the environment and setting of the places you're most likely to anchor. Sandy, muddy sea bottoms ought to be treated differently than say weedy and rocky areas. Also, is this anchor you're looking to purchase going to be the only one, or merely a backup? Finally, you should decide on a choice of anchor rode -- chain, rope, or a combinations of the two.
As far as size and other specifics of that nature, the best starting point is consulting your boat's manufacturer, which will provide you with its recommendations for size based primarily on the vessel's length.
Let's zoom in on some of the more common and popular anchors, and detail their strengths and probable best use.
Featuring a single swivel at the shank base, the plow anchor (like the CQR and Delta) is generally effective as general-purpose anchors for sand, thick mud, and light-grass bottoms. The plow isn't that effective when it comes to thick sand and heavy grass, which actually goes for most anchors. Don't be fooled by apparent luck to anchor the plow in those bottoms, as it can surprise you with suddenly breaking free.
This anchor can be handled easily with bow rollers. They plows are large and fairly heavy and usually stowed in a bow roller.
Claw and Scoop
Popular in midsize cruisers, the claw anchor is a fairly new addition to the anchor family. The claw will set in thick-grass and rocky bottoms such as gravel, but aren't suited for soft sand and muddy, clay grounds. Similar to the claw is its cousin, the scoop, which differs mainly with its inverse fluke angle.
Both, the claw and scoop, have one-piece construction and should be stowed on rollers.
With their wide, sharp flukes, this type of anchor does an excellent job in holding power-to-weight ratio. While great for sand and mud, these Danforth-type anchors are not particularly helpful in rocky or very grassy bottoms.
As is the case with all anchors -- none of which is one-size-fit-all, across-the-board perfect -- the fluke has it's weak spots and sea circumstances which it's not ideal for. Flukes tend to be a tad unwieldy, for instance. So, if for example the wind leads the boat to drift in the opposite direction from which the anchor has been set, it can potentially, albeit rather seldomly, pull the anchor out of the bottom. Burying the anchor deep enough should protect it against this in most instances.
One big plus this anchor offers is easy and compact storage. You can hang it from a bow pulpit rail or stowe in a flat anchor locker. Some members of this anchor family can even be disassembled.
Also known as the Herreshoff anchor, these classics are the best for rough bottoms, like rock, marl, or coral. Given their small flukes, the fisherman's should be fairly heavy, and wholes small, in order to hold. These anchors also perform pretty well in weedy bottoms, and are stowed dissembled.
While not recommended for most vessels in most situations, mushroom anchors are useful for inflatable dinghies, and also only for temporary use, such as when anchoring on a beach. Very large, heavy mushroom anchors are used for permanent moorings in some areas where they sink or can be set into soft mud.