Choosing the Best Anchor for Your Boat or PWC
Getting the right anchor for your boat or personal watercraft can be a bit tricky. There are several different types of anchor, each with its own merits and drawbacks.
Finding the anchors you'll be happiest with comes down to choosing the ones suitable to the waterbody types you frequent the most. Besides securing your vessel in place, consider that the storage capacity on a PWC is a fraction of that on a boat, so make sure the anchor you choose is compact enough to fit in your watercraft.
Weight is also a consideration, and a lighter anchor won't affect a PWC's performance as much as a heavier one. Also take into account the quality and durability of the anchor. For example, an anchor with a protective coating (typically vinyl) will last longer than a bare metal alternative. An anchor that is easy to manage also helps your time on the water be much more enjoyable. Here are some of the most common anchor types used for boats and PWCs.
The grapnel anchor, or folding anchor, is similar to a grappling hook. Made of metal, it uses fold-out arms that hook against rocks, or dig into sand and silt to secure the anchor line. Being compact, easy to store and effective with most types of bottom surfaces, the grapnel anchor is a popular PWC and small boat anchor, but requires some skill to properly deploy and set.
A fluke or Danforth anchor has triangular fins that dig into the surface of the bottom to secure the anchor line. Fluke anchors are among the best for use with mud, sand or silt bottoms, but are not effective with rocks and gravel. These anchors also need plenty of anchor line and chain, which can take up valuable cargo space, and may be suitable for small boats but not PWCs. Fluke anchors can also be cumbersome, and they also require skill to use properly.
Like the fluke anchor, the plow anchor also digs into the bottom to secure the anchor line, and is very good with mud, sand and silt, but less so with rocks and gravel. Modern plow anchors made of aluminum alloys or plastic composites are very light and compact. However, plow anchors require lengthy anchor lines and chains, which take up storage space and also require some skill to properly deploy and set.
Mushroom anchors use their shape and weight to secure the anchor line to the bottom. Shaped like an inverted mushroom, the head acts a bit like a grapnel anchor, but the anchor uses its physical weight to keep it in place and secure the anchor line. Because the weight is doing most of the work, mushroom anchors can be used with sand, mud, gravel or rocky bottoms. They're compact, and have no sharp or pointed edges. Mushrooms are heavier than other anchors and aren't as secure in rougher waters, but are easy to deploy and retrieve.
Probably the most popular PWC anchor, the sand or sandbag anchor (pictured below with sandstake) is a bag you fill with sand (or rocks) and drop to the bottom to secure the anchor line. Once their job is done, they can be emptied and folded up so they're easy to stow, and weigh next to nothing. Because sand anchors rely on their filled weight alone, they can be used on any bottom surface, but aren't as secure in rough waters. They're not as durable as metal anchors either, but are a light, compact all-round anchor best used in calm conditions.
Screw anchors are sturdy poles with an auger at one end that is screwed into the bottom, and once secured, an anchor line is attached. Because it has to be physically screwed into the bottom, a screw anchor can only be used in very shallow water, and is better suited for sand, silt and mud bottoms, not rocky surfaces.
If you're using an anchor, you're going to need an anchor line, or in nautical terms: an anchor rode. The length of rode you'll need depends on the type of anchor you use:
Fluke, plow or grapnel anchor: Requires a rode 4-5 times as long as the depth of the water you're anchoring in (this ratio between the length of rode and depth of water is called the scope). So if you're anchoring in 3 feet of water, you'll need about 15 feet of rode.
Mushroom, sand and screw anchors: Use shorter rodes, such as the Yamaha Mini Buddy bungee rode line, designed specifically for PWCs. Fluke, plow and (to a slightly lesser extent) grapnel anchors all work best if the rode contains a length of chain.
The chain weighs the rode down and helps the anchors dig into the bottom. If you have a fluke or plow anchor, buy a rode that is made of both chain and rope, but remember that the chain is heavy and cumbersome to store on a PWC.