Anchors for Muck, for Under 200 Bucks

In soft mud, the low-priced Lewmar Claw stands out in short- and long-scope testing

Anchors for Muck, for Under 200 Bucks

In a perfect world you’d be able to glide into your favorite anchorage during peak season, spill out a comforting 7:1 scope and retire below without worry. In reality, favorite anchorages are often crowded, and you’re forced to use less than optimal scope. Add a pudding-like soft mud bottom to the mix, and you can expect a marriage-testing drama to begin when the first squall rolls through. Curious to see what types of anchors holds best under this common combination of a short scope and a soft-mud bottom, we put 17 anchors that sell for no more than $200 to the test with both 3:1 and 7:1 scope (see “How We Tested,” page 22 for details). In a later issue, we’ll compare more expensive anchors under the same conditions.

Most of the anchors are rated by the manufacturers as suitable working anchors for boats from 28 to 35 feet, but this is pretty optimistic. Generally, for a working anchor on most cruising boats, you’ll want to go at least one size bigger than what the manufacturer suggests. The smallish “lunch hook” anchors we tested are the kind you might plunk on the family daysailer, use on a small cruiser for daytime anchoring, or keep as a spare. Prices start at just over $30 and designs vary from the common twin-fluke Danforth-style models to hunks of steel that resemble bear traps.

As it turns out, wacky-looking designs don’t live up to their billing. Bruce-type anchors and Danforth-style anchors seem the best for this sort of duty. However, when handicapped by the challenging conditions of our short-scope test, only the 25-pound West Marine High Performance anchor met the minimum holding power we’d want on a 30-foot cruiser (see “Holding Power,” page 21), although it took some trying to set. In other words, if you value your boat (and your marriage) be wary of soft mud bottom anchorages, don’t skimp on scope, and use heavier ground tackle — all chain rode would be a start ­— than we used here.

At first glance, two obvious highlights of the Barnacle are apparent. It features beefy cast steel construction and it can be stored flat. However, its radically curved shank might be a tough fit on some bow rollers. The Barnacle’s hinged fluke can dig in at a 40-degree angle — well beyond the 32-degree angle of most other fluke anchors — which the maker claims allows deeper penetration into the bottom and increases surface area for greater holding power. Although this anchor held up to 800 pounds in our previous test in hard mud, it maxed out at 100 pounds in the soft mud. Our 29-pound version of the Barnacle is priced at $179.

Bottom Line: The Barnacle has done well in hard mud, but performed poorly in this soft-mud test.

The Box anchor, made by California-based Slide Anchor, has sides constructed from hot-dipped galvanized steel; the hinge pins, stabilizing bar, and return spring are all stainless steel. It stores flat in the accompanying bag. In our testing, we found this hybrid design set easily but provided little in the way of holding power in the soft mud bottom. In both the long- and short-scope test, it dragged through the mud at about 100 pounds of pressure. Our large version box anchor weighed 25 pounds and is priced at $179.

Bottom Line: Pricey, hard to handle when assembled, and a poor performer. We’d pass on this one.

The venerable Bruce anchor has a proven track record, and is known for its ability to set in about any bottom. The only drawback we’ve found with this anchor is its lack of ultimate holding power in some types of bottoms. This time however it performed well. In the soft mud it dragged several feet but then dug in to hold 450 pounds at both scopes. We found our 23-pound Bruce priced at $169. It carries a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty.

Anchors for Muck, for Under 200 Bucks

Bottom Line: A versatile anchor that sets well in just about any bottom; past testing shows an occasional lack of holding power.

Lewmar, well known for windlasses and winches, also makes the Claw. This one-piece cast Bruce-style anchor is available in either galvanized or stainless steel construction. It comes in ten sizes ranging from 2.2 pounds all the way up to 176 pounds. Our test Claw was a 22-pound galvanized version. In both scopes, it rated “Excellent” for its ability to set and held 470 pounds with little dragging at the long scope. At the short scope it dragged at 400 pounds. The Claw is priced at $79.

Bottom Line: Half the price of a genuine Bruce and just as easy to set, we’d buy it.

We tested two twin-fluke anchors from Tie Down Engineering, the Standard version and the more robust, and more expensive, Hi-Tensile version. As we’d expect of near twins, they peformed almost the same. With long scope, both set easily. The Standard managed 450 pounds of pressure, while the Hi-Tensile held to 425 pounds. These are all above-average performance numbers for our field. The Danforths don’t seem to like a short scope as well and performed only average. The Standard pulled through the mud at 400 pounds while the Hi-Tensile managed to hit 500 pounds, then dragged slightly, before digging in again to hold 400 pounds.

Danforth anchors carry a lifetime limited warranty. The 16-pound Standard S1300 we tested is priced at $69. The 22-pound Hi-Tensile is substantially more at $199.

Bottom Line: Unless we were looking for a working anchor, we’d opt for the Standard because it performed as well, costs less and comes with the same lifetime warranty.

Also from Lewmar, the Delta features one-piece construction with no moving parts, a plow-style design, and a brace to hold the blades in alignment. It comes in nine sizes up to 140 pounds, in either galvanized or stainless steel. The 24-pound anchor set quickly in both the short- and long-scope tests, rare in this field. With a 7:1 scope, the Delta held 480 pounds while dragging about 6 feet. The Delta had some trouble holding with short scope, dragging at 300 pounds. The Delta is guaranteed for life against breakage. We found the 24-pound Delta for $195.

Bottom Line: The Delta sets easy and holds well at longer scopes; it didn’t like the shorter scope though.

Fortress builds its Danforth-style twin-fluke anchors out of an aluminum alloy, making them significantly lighter than steel competitors of comparable size. The company markets two models: the more expensive FX-series with a bright-anodized finish and lifetime warranty, and the less expensive Guardian, which carries only a one-year warranty. Both models disassemble for stowage, making them handy kedges or backup anchors. Both models come equipped with “mud palms,” a plate that bolts to the anchor’s crown. Fortress claims the mud palms help the anchor set faster in any type of bottom and recommends they be permanently installed. We installed them on all test anchors.

The FX-series allows you to adjust the standard 32-degree fluke angle to 45 degrees to provide more holding power. Fortress recommends using the 45-degree position in only soft mud bottoms with very poor holding because the anchor will not set in firmer bottoms. We tested them in the standard 32-degree position, and all the Fortress anchors performed similarly. Most set easily, with the larger anchors generally providing slightly more holding power. With long scope, holding power ranged from 350 to 425 pounds. At the short scope, it varied from 350 to 400 pounds.

The FX-11 cost $129 while the slightly larger FX-16 is priced at $189. The Guardian G-16 is priced at $109, while its bigger brother the G-23 is priced at $169.

Bottom Line: The FX-series anchors look good, have an excellent warranty, and their light weight makes them easy to tote. Holding power was only average compared to the steel varieties.

Hans C-Anchor
A rather odd-looking anchor, the Hans C-Anchor seems to be a hybrid cross between a plow and a Danforth-design, it has plow-shaped flukes welded together with a hinged shank in the middle. It is made from galvanized steel and weighs 15 pounds. In previous Practical Sailor tests the Hans C failed to set in sand and only managed a 350-pound pull in mud. This time at the long scope it set easily but would only pull and hold 380 pounds. It took two attempts to set with 3:1 scope and then dragged at only 60 pounds. The Hans C-Anchor is priced at $149.

Bottom Line: This anchor is relatively expensive and has performed poorly in our tests.

This very inexpensive anchor from Tie Down Engineering is made of hot-dipped galvanized steel. Tie Down says its strong, wide flukes provide maximum holding power and its welded crown promotes secure penetration. The anchor is available in nine sizes from 3 to 96 pounds. With the long scope, this anchor hit 500 pounds then fell off to 450 pounds. With the 3:1 scope, it reached 500 pounds and fell off to 350 pounds once the pull stopped. It set easily on both tests. The Hooker is priced $34.

Bottom Line: Performance was above average, and when combined with a $34 price tag, it’s an affordable option for the modest daysailor. For this reason, it’s our Budget Buy.

The QuickSet is made from hot-dipped galvanized steel and is available in six sizes, from 14 to 125 pounds. Kingston says the QuickSet’s cylindrical shaped flukes that bury deeply, and fins to stabilize the anchor and prevent premature breakout. The 22-pound version performed poorly in our tests. At the short scope it took several feet to set, then dragged at 200 pounds. In three attempts at the long scope, it failed to set. Kingston anchors carry a lifetime warranty against breakage. We found the 22-pound QuickSet priced at $169.

Bottom Line: The QuickSet was difficult to set and lacked holding power.

The Sascot Plough is a hinged-shank plow anchor reminiscent of a CQR, made from cast steel with a hot-dipped galvanized finish. It is available in three sizes. We tested a Plough 30 that tipped the scales at 32 pounds. One of the “cons” of this anchor listed in the West Marine catalog is limited holding power in mud. We found this to be the case as the anchor failed to set with a short scope and dragged through the mud at less than 200 pounds with a long scope. The Plough 30 is priced at $199 and carries a 1-year warranty.

Bottom Line: A poor performer in soft mud.

The Oceane features one-piece welded construction from galvanized steel and is available in four sizes from 9 to 35 pounds. We tested a 27-pound O-12 model. It has a pair of shackle attach points, one at the end of the shank for normal anchoring duties and a second several inches down the shank for soft mud bottoms. We used the normal attachment point. The Oceane has a one-year warranty and the O-12 is priced at $189. In the long-scope test it set well, receiving an Excellent rating while displaying a lack of holding power as it dragged through the mud at 250 to 300 pounds. It worked somewhat better on the short scope, hitting 500 pounds then falling off to 380 pounds while dragging about 8 feet.

Anchors for Muck, for Under 200 Bucks

Bottom Line: The Spade Oceane set quite easily, but, as tested, it showed a lack of holding power in soft mud.

West Marine
A pair of galvanized steel twin flukes from West Marine, the Traditional and the Performance² brought the total number of Danforth-style anchors included in this test to nine, more than half the field.

The 25-pound Performance², priced at $189, experienced a bit of difficulty setting in one test but racked up impressive holding power numbers at both the long and short scopes.

The 24-pound Traditional, less expensive at $79, set straight away on both tests and earned two Good set ratings. It held 450 pounds on the long scope and 400 on the short. Both anchors carry the West Marine No Hassle Guarantee.

Bottom Line: The Performance² had the best holding power in soft mud of any anchor, but had some trouble setting. The Traditional performed above average and has a reasonable price. Both have excellent warranty protection. Both get our recommendation.

As a group, the steel Danforth style anchors did very well. Both anchors from West Marine and the pair of Danforth’s from Tie Down Engineering performed best out of the twin-fluke group. All were fairly easy to set and provided good holding power in the soft mud bottom. The genuine Bruce and its knock-off the Claw are right in there too. They set even better than the steel Danforths, held exceptionally well, and will sit a little quieter on a bow roller. We’d opt for any of these anchors as mud hook, but given its $79 price tag and slightly better performance, the Claw is our top pick.

On the inexpensive end of the anchor spectrum, the 17-pound Hooker yielded above-average performance results while carrying a price tag less than half of the next expensive anchor. It’s a good bet that this anchor might not last as long as the more expensive models, but at $34 a copy it’s hands down our Budget Buy.


Also With This Article
“PS Value Guide: Anchors for Soft Mud (Under $200)”
“Holding Power”
“How We Tested”

• Barnacle, 800/295-2766
• Box, Slide Anchor, 888/445-4869,
• Bruce, Bruce Anchor Group, +44 1624-629203,
• Danforth, Tie Down Engineering, 800/241-1806,
• Fortress Marine Anchors, 800/825-6289,
• Kingston Anchors, 613/549-2718,
• Lewmar, 203/458-6200,
• Spade Anchors,
• Hans-C, 800/728-4645,
• Sascot Plough 30, 800/262-8464,
• West Marine, 800/262-8464,

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Darrell is booking speaking engagements in Colorado, Idaho, California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Colombia this summer. You can reach him by email at