Plow Type Anchors
Plow type anchors were named due to their obvious resemblance to the farming implement. The plow anchor not only looked like a plowshare, but in some respects acted like one.
The plow anchor was designed as a single fluke anchor with extra weight being placed in the tip of the fluke. This extra weight in the tip was to aid the anchor to dig in quicker and set faster while the fluke itself provided resistance to dragging once the anchor was set.
The largest drawback to the plow anchor is due to its design and weight. The plow style anchor, whether articulated or fixed shank, is not easy to stow or handle. An anchor roller platform is almost a must have item to be able to conveniently stow and have the anchor available for immediate use.
The Major Players
The "CQR" Anchor
The "CQR" Anchor is the original and most famous of the plow type of anchors. Patented in 1933 by Geoffrey Taylor of the United Kingdom. The plow anchor quickly became a favorite as the primary anchor for pleasure vessels of all sizes and over time the CQR’s reputation with bluewater sailors increased.
While the new generation of anchors has now relegated the CQR anchor to 2nd tier status, it is still remains a favorite due to its overall performance.
The original CQR has always been well regarded as a good general purpose anchor and still remains well thought of today by many cruising sailors around the world. While not up to par with some of the most recent of anchor designs, it is known for its ability to be used under many different bottom conditions and generally proves to be adequate for the job. The use of drop forging in some models has also provided additional strength in the critical fluke areas.
Much like the Lightweight Anchor, the CQR anchor because of its popularity, has been copied and manufactured by many different companies, to varying degrees of quality. The firm “Lewmar Limited” of the United Kingdom now owns the original CQR name and design.
The largest drawbacks to the plow anchor were due to its design and weight. The plow style anchor, whether articulated or fixed shank, is not easy to stow and because of its weight, not easy to handle. An anchor roller platform is almost a must have item to conveniently stow and have the anchor available for immediate use.
Much like the Lightweight or Danforth anchor, the "CQR" because of its popularity, has been copied and manufactured by many different companies. The British firm Lewmar now owns the original CQR name and design.
The CQR Anchor is available in galvanized in sizes from 15 pounds (7 kg) to 600 pounds (273 kg) or in stainless steel from 60 pounds (27 kg) to 900 pounds (408 kg).
So Why Does The Shank On A CQR Anchor Pivot??
Over the years, there has been a lot of misunderstanding, dockside gab sessions, and probably even a few heated watering hole discussions about this topic. So let’s try to clear up the misconceptions!
Quite a few out there including some of the "Anchor Experts," feel that the design was intended to allow a vessel riding to a CQR anchor the ability to swing on her anchor to a greater degree before causing the anchor to break out.
So allow me to throw some proverbial gas on the fire:
"The only reason behind this particular design concept was to allow the fluke of the anchor to right itself and to remain in the correct position when setting the anchor or when the anchor is dragging."
Below is an excerpt from the original U.S. Patent application #1,974,933, filed 28 February 1934. Or in the inventor’s (Geoffrey Taylor) own words:
"The provision of the hinge between the two portions of the shank-which is an essential of the invention, ensures that in the first place, when the anchor falls on the ground or when drag is initially applied, the fluke will take up a position such that it will tend to dig into the ground. The hinge thereafter ensures the automatic righting action of the fluke and the maintenance of substantially stable conditions during the continuance of drag."
The "Delta" Anchor
The Delta Anchor was a derivation of Geoffrey Taylor’s CQR Anchor, and was developed in the 1980’s and patented by Philip McCarron, James Stewart, and Gordon Lyall of Simpson-Lawrence Ltd in 1992.
While maintaining a striking resemblance to the original CQR, with the development of the Delta Anchor, the venerable plow anchor took a giant stride forward offering a vast improvement in plow anchor technology.
While it retained the weighted tip of the CQR, the single fluke was enlarged and reshaped flaring outward at the rear. This allows a much higher fluke area to weight ratio ultimately providing more resistance to dragging and twisting forces. The pivoting shank was replaced with a fixed shank using a different geometry in order to force the tip downwards during setting of the anchor.
The combination of the new shank geometry and retention of the weighted tip purportedly aids in initial setting and then after dragging, the re-setting of the anchor. Although it is a plow type anchor, it sets and holds reasonably well in hard bottoms.
The Delta Anchor is available in galvanized or stainless steel in sizes from 9 pounds (4 kg) to 140 pounds (63 kg).
The Pro’s and Con’s of the Plow Anchor
When I began thinking about listing the pro’s and con’s of the plow anchor, I first began considering my own experiences of many years hanging on an original CQR Anchor.
But what if I was just lucky (or unlucky as the case may be). Maybe my personal experiences did not have enough data points to be a fair evaluation and what about biases? So with that thought in mind I decided a search on the "Pros and Cons of Plow Anchors" was in order. On to Google!
Without naming any individual websites, here is what I discovered about the venerable plow anchor:
On Clay Bottoms
- Best for clay bottoms
- Not so well in clay
- It is best for clay bottoms
- Limited or no holding in clay bottoms
On Grass and Weed Bottoms
- Holds more effectively in grass
- The plow dislikes weed and grass
- Ideal for weedy bottoms
- The plow anchor is said to not work well in thick grass or weed bottoms
- In weed it holds reasonably well
- Limited or no holding in grass
- Penetrates weeds
- Not suitable for grass, weed, & kelp
- This anchor is more effective in grass than other lightweight anchors
- Is said to not work well in thick grass or weed bottoms
- Plow type anchors excel at penetrating grass
- Double Hmmm…
And just when you thought it couldn't get any more confusing…
On Rocky Bottoms
- Is not good in rock
- They perform well in gravel, rocks, and coral
- Will not dig in on a rocky seabed
- They can be used on rocky bottoms
- Limited or no holding in rock
On Mud Bottoms
- Holds more effectively in mud
- The plow holds poorly in soft mud
- Very effective in mud
- Best for mud
- Firmly plant themselves sometimes several feet deep in mud
- It is best for mud bottoms
- Not so well in soft mud
- Ideal for mud
- Does wonders in mud
- Good in mud
- Penetrates mud
On Sand Bottoms
- Very effective in sand
- Not suitable for hard compact sand
- Firmly plant themselves in sand
- Has good holding qualities in sand
- They perform well in sand
- Does wonders in sand
- Great in sand
- Penetrates sand
- Holds more effectively in sand
Alrightyyy Then - So much for the experts!
OK, so now having read all of these experts comment about the best and worst in plow anchors, I’m thinking I may be better off getting a slip at the local marina.
For What Its Worth
My quick interpretation of these results added to my own personal experiences is that a plow anchor appears to work well in sand and mud bottoms; everything else is a crap shoot!