Rethinking Anchor Shaft Strength

Posted by at 11:48AM - Comments: (1)

JL Robertson
JL Robertson

Anchor proof tests do not account for significant side loading on the shaft.
One topic often overlooked in any anchor discussion is shaft strength. Yet bent anchor shafts are hardly rare, especially among low budget varieties. We accept that sometimes an anchor gets wedged into a crevice where bending is unavoidable, but it seems increasingly more common that anchors are bending during what would be considered normal use.

In the April 2013 issue of Practical Sailor, contributor Jonathan Neeves explores this topic in great detail. In his view, the reasons behind bent shafts are many.

  1. Industry tests used to rate and certify anchors do not test the shaft’s ability to resist bending when subjected to side loads. In fact, these certifications often have little bearing on how a recreational anchor might perform in the real world.
  2. Manufacturers are using thinner plate steel, or lower grade, lower-tensile steel than is specified in the original design. 
  3. Newer anchors tend to set deeper, remaining immobile when the wind shifts and the load changes direction, causing side-loading on the shaft that can cause it to bend. We examine the mechanics behind the ability to deep set in the article, "An Inquiry into Anchor Angles," in the February 2017 issue of Practical Sailor. 
  4. Anchor makers are using the same design to make anchors of metals with different tensile strength—aluminum, stainless steel, galvanized steel, etc.—which is the same as building below spec.
  5. Plate stock used to make anchor shafts are sold in specific thicknesses. In order to cut costs, some off-brand anchor makers are using poorly laminated thinner stock to achieve the required shaft thickness.

At the heart of our study is a critique of the existing test protocols used to certify these anchors. Neeves points out that these tests were principally designed for anchors used on commercial ships. As he describes, commercial ship anchors have radically different shafts than we find on recreational anchors—shafts that are equally strong no matter what direction they are loaded—and the anchors are used differently. Most ship anchors are, in effect, lunch hooks—not something you try to ride out a storm in.

Accompanying the April 2013 article are photographs of a pretty impressive collection of bent anchors from some of the biggest names in anchor manufacturing. If you have a bent anchor photo you’d like to add to our rogues' gallery, send it by email to, and tell us how it happened. 

For more more guidance on selecting and using anchors, check out our four volume E-book on Anchors at our online bookstore. 

Comments (1)

Under paragraph (4) you'd certainly have to include cast vs drop-forged construction and the difference in performance between the two under bending loads. The original CQR by Simpson-Lawrence was drop-forged, but they did make (maybe Lewmar still does) a cast version, identical in appearance, that they marketed only as a "galvanized plow." I have one - it was much less costly and performs as well as the "real" CQR - but I do ponder the difference in construction. Of course, there are other cast anchors out there too. A "real CQR" is on my wish list, but for now I've convinced myself that, in the mud of the Chesapeake, sudden loading of the shaft in bending is not a big concern.

Bruce Barber

Posted by: | March 6, 2013 11:55 AM    Report this comment

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