How To Choose The Best Anchor For Your Boat

An anchor is not just something to allow you to ‘park’ your boat, yacht, or other watercraft. In times of bad weather or other emergencies, a boat anchor is a very necessary item of equipment that is needed for your safety. Naturally, you need the anchor to be heavy and secure enough to keep your boat in place once it has been dropped. However, this isn’t the only consideration as there are multiple types of anchor designs, all with their own pros and cons.


Anchor Uses

Understanding the use of your anchor is important when you are looking to buy a new one. That is the first step to making the right choice. While most anchor uses are primarily to keep you in place when you have reached a destination, the main reason you need to buy a reliable and good quality anchor is the safety aspect.

If you find yourself in trouble on the boat, for instance, if you lose power, it is better to secure yourself in position and either seek help or make repairs on your boat. This is far better than letting it drift and potentially end up in an unsafe position or in perilous waters.


Types of Anchors

There are multiple anchor designs, which have their own specific functions. When browsing for anchors online you will see anchor descriptions like ‘sand anchor’ and ‘reef anchor’. For those, it’s obvious where they are best used, but in many cases, you will want an anchor that can be used in a variety of locations.

One type of anchor might be more suitable for your needs than others. We’ve provided a brief overview of some of the most popular boat anchor types below:


Bruce™ / Claw Anchors


A Bruce/Claw anchor has a similar look and feel to plow anchors but they have more than one claw instead of the single metal “plow” attachment. The claw design is good for rocky ground, allowing the anchor to attach better in uneven ground. These are even heavier than plow designs, so aren’t really the best for smaller boats.

The Bruce, or Claw, remains one of the most popular anchors among recreational boaters in North America. This is our anchor of choice as well. The Bruce was developed in the 70s by the Bruce Anchor Group. Once their patent expired in the early 2000s, they stopped production of this anchor but many imitations have come along since.

The Bruce is an excellent all-purpose anchor as it performs well in most sea bottoms including mud, sand, rock, and coral. It has a harder time penetrating harder surfaces, such as clay, and bottoms with heavy grass. The three-claw design sets more easily than other anchors. It also resets easily if it is ever broken loose. On the downside, the Bruce has a lower holding power per pound than other anchors, meaning you’ll usually need a larger anchor than say the Delta/Wing.

Pros: Performs well in most conditions. Sets easily.
Awkward one piece design. Lower holding power per pound.
Performs well in most bottoms; Struggles in hard bottoms such as clay, or heavy grass.



CQR™/Plow & Delta™/Wing Anchors


A plow anchor consists of a metal wedge and a shank. The wedge looks a lot like a hook and creates a heavy-duty finish which makes these really suitable for anchoring in hard surfaces such as rocky, muddy areas. The plow anchor is usually kept on a roller on the bow, from where they can be easily controlled and tied down. Plow anchors are quite heavy, and they need to be if you are dropping them in tough ground.

Both the CQR/Plow and the Delta/Wing are a plow style anchor. The most significant difference between these anchors is the fact that the CQR has a hinged design whereas the Delta is a one piece design.

The CQR is one of the oldest styles, dating back to the 30s and to this day, it remains one of the most popular anchors among blue water cruisers. Despite this, it has relatively low holding power and it consistently struggles in independent tests. Despite these shortcomings, the hinged design makes it more responsive to wind and tide changes as compared to other anchors.

The Delta is arguably the most popular anchor on boats today, and is the standard anchor of choice used by most boat manufacturers. It has a good holding power per pound (about 50% more than the Bruce).

Both the Delta and the CQR perform well in most bottoms, struggling the most in rock.

Pros: Performs well in most conditions. Fits most bow rollers.
Hinged design can make stowage awkward. "No such thing as a small CQR/Plow anchor".
Performs well in most bottoms; struggles in rock.



Danforth™/Fluke Anchors


A Danforth/Fluke anchor has a shank as well as multiple spades, also known as flukes. These catch in the sea or river bed as the boat moves forward and provide resistance. If the bottom of the body of water in question is made of sand or mud then these fluked anchors do a great job of digging in and keeping you secure. Flukes can hold larger boats without being too heavy themselves. For instance, a 15-pound fluke anchor can keep a boat secure which is over 30 feet long.

The Danforth, or Fluke anchor, remains a very popular anchor choice. The Fortress is also a popular Fluke style anchor, different from the Danforth in that it comes apart and it constructed of light-weight, high-strength, aluminium.

The Fluke performs well in mud and sand, potentially the best of any anchor style. The downside is that outside of these bottoms, it is not a good performer. Therefore, it is a mud/sand only anchor, which fortunately is what most bottoms are comprised of.

Whether or not it is used as a primary anchor, a Fluke anchor makes an excellent choice as a secondary or stern anchor.

Pros: Performs well in mud and sand. Stows easily on most bow rollers.
Does not perform well outside of mud/sand.
Top performer in mud/sand. Performs poorly in other bottoms.



Rocna ™/Plow Anchor with Roll Bar


There are several anchors on the market today that are essentially plow anchors with roll bars. These include the Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Bugel.

Each of these anchors are essentially a variation on a plow style anchor. If you look at the plow portion of these anchors, you can see they are a lot sharper than traditional plows like the Delta/Wing and CQR. Analogous to a knife through butter, these anchors can penetrate the sea bottom a lot easier than the other anchor styles. The roll bar also helps them orient themselves upright when setting.

These anchors have performed extremely well in third party tests. The biggest downside to these anchors is that they can be very expensive. The roll bar along with the elongated plow can also make storing these anchors on bow rollers difficult.

Pros: Very high holding power.
Difficult to stow on a bow roller. Expensive.
Performs well in most bottoms.


 Anchor Materials

It’s not only the style of anchor on which a decision has to be made, but also the type of material from which it is made. There are some brilliant options on the market which are made out of stainless steel or aluminium. This means they are strong when purchased, but due to the fact that you are repeatedly putting them into the water, they need to be galvanized and coated to ensure that they aren’t going to rust.


If they do corrode in this way then anchors can lose their ability to dig into the sand and other surfaces, which is the key way they keep you in place. Without a sharp (yet safe) design, the anchor may not take into the surface and therefore effectively just be providing a weight, rather than performing the anchor function to hold your boat still. 

Good quality materials and a sharp, sturdy design mean that you can rest assured of your safety. If an overnight stay is something you are considering then it is even more essential that when you drop anchor, you know that you will not move during the night.

Quality materials can be expensive, but you can’t put a price on your safety at sea or elsewhere on the water.

As you can see, choosing the right style of anchor and materials depends on where you will be boating and the type (and size) of your boat. There are a lot of options available on the market no matter what type of boating enthusiast you are. If you still feel you need help in choosing the right type of anchor for your boat, then speak with an expert at a boating equipment retailer. 

All steel anchors (except stainless steel) should be galvanized. Galvanization has a tendency to wear down over time, but an anchor (as well as nearly any other steel product) can be re-galvanized.

Stainless steel is identical to galvanized steel in terms of holding power but differs significantly in appearance. The shiny gloss is essentially the only difference between stainless steel and galvanized steel. Stainless steel is also very corrosion resistant and will resist most rusting over time. You will often see manufacturers describing stainless steel as either 316 Stainless or 304 Stainless. 316 is a different chemical composition than 304 and is more corrosion resistant. It’s also more expensive.

For most boaters, a Bruce/Claw or Delta/Wing is the best balance between price and performance. Both perform similarly and are similarly priced (Narrowly, the Bruce/Claw is our favourite of the three).

If you've used a Danforth/Fluke in the past, and you have had luck with it, choose a Danforth. If you've never used one before and if your setup allows it, choose a Bruce or Delta instead.
If you're a blue-water cruiser, choose a CQR/Plow, or consider one of the new generation of anchors discussed below.


Boat Anchor Names: Trademarked Names and Generic Names

Trademarked Name


Generic Name






Plow/Hinged Plow









Plow Anchor with Roll Bar


A special note is needed on the naming of anchors. Many anchors have a trademarked name, such as a Bruce or CQR, and a generic name like Claw or Plow. This is the same as how Xerox is a trademarked name for photocopier and how Aspirin is a trademarked name for pain killer. Trademarks effectively never expire whereas design patents expire after approximately 20-25 years. Therefore, manufacturers are free to clone an anchor design that has an expired patent but cannot use the trademarked name.


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