Mailport: January 2012
Until last winter, I had never heard of the Northill anchor that PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo used to secure his Cape Dory 19 during Hurricane Irene (PS, November 2011). I had been having a hard time securely anchoring my Starwind 223 in the increasingly weed-covered bottom of the Great South Bay near Atlantique, Fire Island, N.Y., when I acquired a Northill simply for its beauty, thinking it was too large and unwieldy to easily retrieve, de-mud, de-weed, and stow on my boat. With some experimentation, I figured it out and now use it in that area, though I still use my Fortress in most other situations.
Would you share with me any knowledge you have gained in your use of it? I saw an old ad stating it was made of 18-2 stainless, but I wonder if it was a grade less corrosive. Have you used it where the wind shifted around in a circle?
Designed by aviation guru John Northrop and Harry Gesner in the early 1930s, the Northill seaplane anchor was fabricated from corrosion resistant 18-8 stainless steel. Its folding arms and stock allowed the appendages to be tilted up against the shank for more compact storage. The large flukes are tapered to spike-like tips, ready to jab their way into a hard-packed bottom or work their way through a tangle of weeds. Even the stock adds holding power when the anchor buries itself in a soft bottom. In short, this patented anchor was a very clever alternative to the deadweight approach to staying put, and it’s worth keeping a lookout for one of these vintage beauties at a flea market or yard sale.
The Northill comes into its own when it’s time to get a high holding power anchor to windward in a hurry. Its grab per pound is impressive, and for kedging off a sandbar or adding some safety margin in a blow, it has a lot to offer. A handy trick for CQR users is to tie a 7/16-inch Spectra line (at least 20-percent longer than the HW depth at the anchor) to a shackle attached to the crown of the CQR. Add a float that shows your anchor’s location, and if bad weather approaches, simply untie the float and attach the Northill with two turns around the anchor’s shackle, then fasten with a bowline and enough of a tail to add two more locking hitches, and drop it to windward. The tandem-aligned combo is very drag resistant.
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