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Upsizing the old tackle

April Fooling in its partially solidified form.
Things on a boat refit don't happen in a logical order, as long-time readers of this benighted scribbler may already know. Which is why, during a very late breakup of the ice in the basin, I am assembling a new anchor for Alchemy.

It looked pretty shiny out of the box.
My ongoing relationship with Fortress Anchors involves my ludricious ranting about the marketing of anchors with the person tasked to persuade the world to try out the Fortress brand. Said person has, against all reason, I would suggest, found my laughable insights of apparent value and has sent me an anchor in the past. Perhaps it's his sense of humour at play. A refurbished model one size up from the previous one, which will move to the "secondary, stern or kedge" role, was offered as a courtesy for my blatherings, and was gratefully accepted yesterday from the Fortress distributor in my neck of the harbour. Said distributor is an interesting fellow in his own right, and vends a variety of boat-specific products under the "Natural Marine" banner.

Anyway, new (or evidently barely used) anchor! What is not to like on a sunny, if barely out of the frost zone, April First?

I have been told that the green lettering on the shank was special-ordered. I know it makes this harder to successfully steal as almost all the rest have red lettering.
The model in question is the 21-pound FX-37 model, recommended for boats 46-51 feet LOA. As is the custom of the sea, anchors are, by the thoughtful skipper, "upsized" one or two grades for extra sleep reasons. This is easy with the aluminum Fortress line, because even this large and purposeful-looking hook weighs comparatively little, and actually should have better holding than the 20 kilo (44 pound) CQR plow-style anchor it will be replacing.

I believe I can both see the active principle and can shave with this.
Now, I won't endorse stuff just given to me, although I like the price. They've got to work. I've been using the 15 pound FX-23 on Valiente for three seasons, and it works exactly as advertised. So well, in fact, that said smaller Fortress has been moved off Valiente and is now on Alchemy as the stern/kedge anchor. My son first hauled the FX-23 straight up at age 10, which is no small thing. A caveat to my success with the Fortresses is that I have never anchored with either of them in other than good, primarily firm sand bottoms, never without sufficient scope of at least 6:1 and recommended chain leader of at least four metres. I also haven't anchored with the Fortress in more than 20-odd knots. So the bar hasn't been high, but on the other hand, I think the key to successful anchoring is to grasp when anchoring is most likely to succeed. The so-termed "super-high holding power" of modern anchor designs is no excuse to forgo proper technique and methods, and even the Fortress folk will readily admit that there's no such thing as one anchor for all scopes, all bottoms and all situations of wind and current.

That said, if the Fortress proves, as I already believe it will, to be a decent "all-arounder", there are plenty of advantages to being a fraction of the weight of its competitors, and let's face it, most sailors, most of the time, anchor not to stay put in a Patigonian williwaw, but to enjoy lunch. Therein lies a big advantage for a light, lie-flat anchor.

Now, Alchemy has far more windage and mass than does the for-sale Valiente, and I intend with whatever anchor I use to have all-chain high-quality rode (3/8"/10 mm), and to make use of snubbers and bridles to reduce shock loading and to bring the "pivot" of the chain catenary down to the waterline or slightly below. Interestingly, the Fortress might prefer a rope leader between itself and a chain rode (see "Update: March 19" section) in order to keep its shank at a favourable angle of entry. I'm going to have to experiment. The opposite (a few metres of chain on 80 metres of nylon rode) works well on our smaller boat.
Why, yes, I am the suspicious type.
In other words, irrespective of the anchor we use (and there is going to be more than one anchor in use), certain safeguards and techniques will prevail. The exception to this general rule would be the "lunch hook" scenario so common on the Great Lakes (and on RYA training courses, I might add), in which a rope and chain rode and a light anchor is dropped in benign or predictable conditions in order to chow down, to rest the crew, or to do minor maintenance. This is not the same as proposing to sleep while at anchor, possibly with a large number of boats, which usually requires a different level of vigilance, and occasionally a Plan B.

What, me worry?
Assembling this new Fortress was only slightly more awkward than the last time, which I did in my garage instead of my pilothouse. It took under an hour, including the affixing of the "mud palms" which I've found work as advertised already. Only a screwdriver and a few wrenches and sockets were needed after I had finished "personalizing" the shank with a Dremel. I added Loctite to the fluke bolts because why wouldn't I? I will rarely, if ever, disassemble this anchor because I will rarely, if ever, move it off my foredeck and/or anchor rollers.
Ease the main or master Photoshop. There can be only one.
The phrase "ar, she's a big bugger" comes to mind, but the working principle of this style of anchor is its keenness to cut into the ground and the surface area of its flukes. Anchors with lead in their pointy ends, such as the Spade favoured by John Harries at Attainable Adventure Cruising, work on "plenty of weight concentrated" to guide themselves into a well-rooted condition desirable for those wishing to stay put.  In our own case, I suspect we will bring the Fortress, whatever anchor style can be viewed as its complete opposite, a Bruce for those rare bottoms that favour the Bruce (I have a decent-sized one in hand), and some kind of Luke/Fisherman's I can stow and forget unless we need to anchor over broken "pavement" or some sort of basaltic lava flow/kelpy forest.

Haven't quite worked out how this will be stowed yet, so consider this temporary for purposes of display. That CQR is twice the weight of the Fortress, but is actually a size too small for Alchemy, who is a Big Girl.
Sounds like a lot of ground tackle, doesn't it? And the answer to that is "probably, if you anchor in more or less the same ground more or less all of the time". But the weight and even the expense of multiple anchors and extra ground tackle is cheap insurance when one considered the damage a loose Alchemy could do in a gale, never mind that we could be sunk by a sufficiently rocky shore. So the Fortress is just one more welcome element in a ground tackle game plan we hope has just become more comprehensive. And so it has come to pass.


Ken Goodings said...

Nice Fortress Marc. Just to clarify then, you're shoving off for parts unknown with the CQR, Fortress, and a Bruce? Smaller Fortress as a stern or kedge?

Rhys said...

Hi,, not quite. I suspect the CQRs will go to a good home, and I will keep the Bruce for the rare bottom that demands it.

I am leaning toward a SPADE to share primary duties with that FX-37 Fortress. My FX-21 Fortress would be the secondary/kedge/stern anchor. The size of the SPADE is not clear quite yet, but would likely be 30 kilos or greater. I also have a Fisherman's that came with the boat, but again, few bottoms call for it. Until we leave, the bigger Fortress will be our primary. It's sized for a 45-51 foot boat. The chain is 250 feet of 3/8", but new chain won't be determined until I get the windlass sorted. Right now, I want to launch and (finally) get the stick back in...and reacquaint ourselves with actual sailing!