Chandlery August 2009 Issue

Ground Tackle

The Anchor Rescue offers a new take on retrieving lost anchors.

As Practical Sailor prepares for a new round of anchor tests, we’ve been on the hunt for new anchors, as well as new accessories. One of the most interesting devices to come our way is the Anchor Rescue developed by Richard Provonchee, a sailor and principal in Boxer Marine Inc., based in Cushing, Maine.

Retrieving Lost Anchors

The most common complaint about anchors is their lack of holding, but an anchor that refuses to budge—can also have serious consequences. The Anchor Rescue uses an innovative two-part system to free fouled anchors.

The typical antidote to fouling is to attach a buoyed line to the anchor crown so that it can be hauled backward out of its snag. Most anchors have an eye at the crown for attaching a buoyed retrieval line. (Danforth-style anchors are an exception).

The retrieval line must be attached before you anchor, adding one more complication when setting and hauling. For this reason, most cruisers use buoyed lines only in known trouble spots—deep unfamiliar anchorages, rocky or foul ground, wreck-strewn harbors, etc.—often marked on charts as "Foul Ground." In most anchorages, however, you can’t be sure of what’s on the bottom.

The effectiveness of a retrieval line will depend upon anchor design, what the anchor is hung on, and sea conditions. In a dire situation, when the anchor still won’t budge, the rode is cast off and the buoyed retrieval line (and a buoyed rode, if there is time) mark the anchor for pickup later.

There are a variety of hooks, claws, and rings designed to rescue anchors that aren’t fitted with retrieval lines. Weighted claws and rings can theoretically slide down the road and over the anchor shaft, and the boat can be positioned to pull backward on the anchor. But in practice, this is not easy, particularly if the shaft is buried in rock or sand. If the rode itself is fouled, these rings or claws won’t help.

Retrieving Lost Anchors
The Anchor Rescue comprises the nylon car, the stainless-steel retrieval tool, and a Starboard wedge for releasing the device.

How It Works

Provonchee’s Anchor Rescue uses two components to replace the usual retrieval line. The first is the slider, a stainless-steel tube with two raised lips and a short length of stainless-steel chain welded to it. The slider is installed over your anchor chain and secured with plastic wire ties to the chain, just above where the rode shackles to the anchor shaft. The slider’s short chain tether is shackled to the crown of the anchor (see top photo, above). Cable ties are then used to secure the chain in place along the length of the shaft.

The retriever body is a hinged plastic cylinder that is sized to fit easily over the slider. Lead weights help the slider descend down the rode during rescue. Spring-loaded stainless pins inside the retriever body lock the slider in place when the two components mate.

To retrieve a fouled anchor, pull the anchor as taught as possible and then clap the retriever onto the top of your anchor rode. Then send it down the cable with a retrieval line attached. The retriever mates with and locks onto the slider. Slack the anchor rode, haul on the retriever line, and viola! Tugging on the retrieval line breaks the cable ties so that you are effectively pulling from the crown of the anchor, just as you would be with a conventional, permanently fixed retrieval line.

Once the anchor has broken free, you can continue pulling on the rode itself. After rescue, the retriever is unclasped, and the slider and its tether are repositioned and re-secured with wire ties.

Does It Work?

We tried the device several times with a 24-pound Delta Fast-set plow anchor (see top photo) in waters up to 30 feet. It worked just as claimed. Getting the retriever unclasped from the rode could be easier, but we wouldn’t expect to do it too often.

Buoyed retrieval lines are inconvenient, particularly when re-anchoring several times. The anchor retriever eliminates this hassle, but it is no substitute for a buoyed anchor.

For instance, it doesn’t solve the more common problem of a wrapped or fouled rode, something that a buoyed retrieval line can help fix. We also wonder whether the tether chain may effect an anchor’s ability to set. So far, we have not noted any difference.

The Anchor Rescue comes in two sizes: the AR-312 for 5/16-inch chain ($229) limited to 350 pounds of pull, and the ARSQ-375 ($314) for 3/8-inch chain limited to 500 pounds. It’s more interesting than it is necessary, but the developer earns our respect for his creative approach.


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