How Does A Fluke-Style Anchor Hold A Recreational Boat In Place?

Anchors are those large iron objects that hold watercraft of all sizes in one place. From the smallest recreational boats to large cargo carriers such as the famous Ever Given, an anchor is used. Unless you grew up around a boating family, chances are you saw your first anchor in a cartoon. However, they are legitimate pieces of boating equipment, and their purpose is invaluable. 

Technically, a large block of concrete or lead can be an anchor, but due to the uncertain nature of the river, lake, or seabed, anchors usually tend to be designed in irregular shapes. There are many types of anchors, and the most common styles include the Bruce, Fisherman’s, Danforth and Delta, Fluke, Spade, Mushroom, Grapnel, Bruce/Claw, and others. In this article, we will focus on the fluke-style anchor.

Anchors: An Overview

The purpose of an anchor is to create a temporary, semi-permanent, or fully permanent connection between the watercraft and the bottom surface, otherwise known as the bed of the water body in which it is floating. This practice is highly desirable when the craft must be held relatively stationary instead of drifting about, typically caused by winds and water currents. Even the calmest of lakes can be susceptible to minor wind currents. For example, if you leave an unmoored watercraft in one place and come back after a while, don’t expect it to be in the same place! Watercraft are true wanderers by nature.

The use of the term watercraft includes boats and ships of all sizes. Additionally, buoys, floating piers, decks, and platforms may also use anchors. Some anchors must temporarily hold the watercraft, as in the case of boats and ships, while others may be for semi-permanent duties, like floating restaurants or some buoys that are closer to shore. Permanent anchoring is typically employed for long-term fixtures such as deep-sea buoys and oil rigs.

Types Of Anchors For Recreational Boats

Recreational boaters tend to float around in relatively calm water bodies of shallow depth at sedate speeds and like to park their boats in particular spots while engaging in activities such as fishing and photography. Certain anchors are designed to suit this purpose, including fluke-style, plow-style, mushroom-style, and claw-style. These anchors are designed to be relatively lightweight. An excessively heavy anchor will not be beneficial or easy to deploy and disengage from the bottom once the boater has decided to move on. Some boats may be occupied by a single person only. Thus, the anchor must easily disengage, haul aboard, and safely stow without needing assistance. It’s worth noting that this is a sharp contrast to the powered winches and teams of seamen utilized on large ships for the activity of stowing their anchors.

What Is A Fluke-Style Anchor?

Traditionally, anchors were made from rocks — hollowed stones tied with ropes and known as a deadweight anchor. These date back to the Bronze age, if not earlier. However, using a large rock as an anchor made it challenging to move, as it would have to be hauled aboard, safely stowed on board without upsetting the boat’s balance, and redeployed when necessary. Contrast this to the relative lack of understanding in the dynamics of water, and it was not uncommon for an improperly-handled anchor to sink the very same vessel it was designed to serve!

As we progressed through history, iron became increasingly popular as a material for anchors, mainly because it could be easily worked and shaped as required. Thus, designs evolved to include teeth-like protrusions called flukes. The purpose of the flukes is to allow the anchor to dig into the bottom. Therefore, the flukes give the anchor extra holding power instead of merely dropping a hefty weight that can easily slide along low-friction surfaces and defeat the purpose.

Fluke-style anchors are typically constructed from high-strength, galvanized steel. They perform well on muddy or sandy bottoms but are less efficient when the base is rocky, coral, or grassy. They can also get stuck on rocky or coral bottoms, making retrieval difficult. Thus, seasoned recreational boaters will carry two types of anchors; usually, a fluke anchor, as well as another type, called a plow or scoop variety. They may deploy one or both types depending on circumstances such as the bottom of the water body and weather conditions.

How Do I Choose An Anchor?

Anchor performance is measured in holding power, and this can vary significantly based on the anchor type, weight, weather conditions, and bottom of the water body. Anchors can typically secure between 10 and 200 times their weight, meaning that a 20 lb anchor should hold between 200 lb and 4000 lb. Thus, you need to determine the best fit for your boat, considering its loaded weight, the type of water bodies you typically traverse, their bottom composition, and weather conditions. Add a safety margin as well and choose accordingly.

If My Anchor Is Stuck, How Do I Free It?

If you are reading this while your anchor is stuck on the bottom, don’t panic. It’s safe to say that this is the Achilles Heel of fluke-style anchors — getting stuck in rocky or coral bottoms. First, take some deep breaths and reassure your passengers. 

Options to free yourself include:

  • Pure brute force: Ask everyone on board to grab the anchor chain or rope (otherwise called a rode) and pull with all their might. Ensure you do not upset the boat, especially if it is a small one.
  • Use the boat’s motor: If your boat is motorized, tie the anchor rode to a cleat and drive in different directions. The anchor may come free after a few tries.
  • If the water is shallow and safe to enter, you may dive down and manually attempt to free the anchor. It is always best to keep a pair of swim goggles on hand for this activity to aid underwater visibility. Before you dive in, release some rode to create slack if you need to maneuver the anchor in different directions. If there is an entire boat pulling on it, this task will be extremely challenging. Don’t forget to surface periodically and take breaths as required.
  • The final option, if nothing else works — cut the rode, abandon the anchor, and buy a new one.

Summary

The fluke-style anchor is an excellent choice for the recreational boater as it is relatively lightweight, compact, and the flukes help it hold above its weight. However, be warned that it works best in sandy and muddy bottoms only, and if there are many rocks or corals, it has the propensity to get stuck.