When you travel to the northern Channel Islands of Santa Barbara island, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel and it is these islands that have many cultural and natural resources and because of the proximity to the coast, these islands are a boater’s paradise.
There are many books that are written about stopping at these islands you will find that these anchorages are all rewarding and different. Some are just small fjords such as Santa Cruz and Pelican’s Harbor where only stern and bow drogues are allowed and some are on deserted beaches such as Santa Rosa and Betcher’s Bay where only floating reefs are the protection from swells and wind. Some of these areas will let you stop in them such as in Smuggler’s Cover which have steep slopes which stop the night winds.
If you pay attention to what you are doing, stopping at an island for a day, a week, or longer will give you plenty of sights, emotions and sounds. However, there are boaters that don’t enjoy stopping for many reasons. Some are afraid that their bowers will drag, and others are scared of the ocean at night. Most don’t have enough ground tackle and one of the biggest reasons though is that they don’t know how to properly stabilize the boat at all. It is actually really simple if you have the right equipment and some information.
There are a lot of types of drogues and they can have certain attributes that you need to keep in mind such as if it will hold in various bottom types, can it set quickly, can it stand heavy loads, is it able to be deployed and retrieved easily, and will it be easy to store?
These bowers are a huge piece of safety equipment. You want to have high quality construction for one such as strong materials, quality galvanizing, strong welds, and heavy-duty components. You need to have at least 1 heavy one for every type of bottom that you will anchor in. You should have multiple ones based on the bottom conditions and you need 2 for tight areas.
There are 3 categories. There are those that will have lightweight, deep penetrating flukes that pivot like the Fortress or Danforth. These are stated to have the best holding power per pound. Then you have plow styled ones like the Max, Spade, CQR, Delta and Bruce. These are great structurally but don’t penetrate deep like fluke styled ones. However, they set easily because of the increased weight. Then there are specialty ones that are for certain types of bottoms. There are variations for all of these designs and there are new ones being created all the time.
There isn’t a single one that will do best in every condition. So, it is important to consider when you are picking one out if the bottom conditions in your area will work for it. It has been shown in studies that the selection of bottom anchors is more critical than the design.
Sand can be easily penetrated, and they will often hold well in hard sand. The fortress and Danforth hold well in sand, but they don’t do well in mud as there needs to be one that has a wider shank fluke angle and a large fluke so that it can penetrate into the mud with more strength. Mud is often thin and layered with other materials, so it needs to be able to penetrate beneath the mud and the Fortress is best for mud because they can be converted to become a broad fluke angle.
Coral and Rock bottoms are a completely different challenge. It is here that the holding power is going to be much more dependent on where it is dropped than the type that you have. A grapnel types or plow shaped one will normally work best. These will include the Yachtsman, Delta, CQR, or Bruce. Grassy, shale and clay bottoms are a even harder challenge for any design. It is here that the weight of it more than the design is going to be the most important factor. The Yachtsman, Delta and CQR types are able to penetrate into vegetation, but you will need to be careful of a false set which means that your drogue has caught on the roots or other items on the bottom instead of something solid.
Normally you will set these with either a short length of galvanized chain and 3 strand nylon lines. Nylon is often used because it is able to stretch which reduces the load on the anchor itself. The chain is used between the nylon line to help with abrasion resistance and to help to keep the pull on the bower shank much more parallel to the bottom of the seabed. It has been recommended by experts that the amount of chain that is used to be equal to at least a half of the boats length to a full boat length and the diameter of the chain needs to be at least half of what the nylon strand line is. However, there are some boaters that prefer just a chain as it reduces the overall need to have a scope and because of the weight, it will lie on the bottom easily and without issues.
You need to also understand that wind will determine the force on your anchoring system. A larger boat is going to have a greater resistance to wind, which will cause a much heavier pull on the rode and the drogue. You need to select yours based on the wind velocities because it would be quite foolish as you are not able to run out and purchase one that is much larger whenever the wind starts to blow really hard. It is best that you size it based on its ability to withstand a lot of heavy weather.
You also want to ensure that you are inspecting the whole system for any loose shackles, bent flukes or chafe. The system is only going to be as reliable as the weakest part.