Which anchor sets and holds best?


Anchor Video Series by s/v Panope

A recent series of anchor tests bears mention. Steve Goodwin from s/v Panope has created a series of videos in which he set out to answer questions he has always had about anchoring. He wondered what happened when he dropped an anchor to the bottom and what happened when the wind shifted or current reversed. Would the anchor hold, would it flip around and reset, or would it just pull out?

Steve rigged a float and GoPro camera to a dozen different anchors. Then he dropped each one on multiple types of sea floors with different scopes to record what happened. Then he also simulated 180 degree swings and recorded what happens then, too.

Steve has posted all of the videos on his YouTube Channel (SV Panope) and made them available to the public. The last in the series, Number #56, which runs for just over 40 minutes, is a compilation of many of the earlier videos. It gives a good overview of Steve's work and can be seen at https://youtu.be/l59f-OjWoq0.  It is worth watching to see how different anchors behave when setting and resetting at different scope and in different bottom compositions.

Most interesting is Steve’s test of several anchor copies (starts at 13:37), including a Danforth copy, a CQR (whether copy or genuine was unknown), a Bruce copy, and a Luke copy, all of which failed to set.  

The results were quite interesting and support all the things we’ve been pointing out about anchor performance for years. Thanks for all the hard work, Steve. Fair warning: you might get hooked on the video series which will eat away hours of your time.

Bottom line:

  • Some anchors work better than others in different bottom types
  • Some anchors veer better than others without pulling out
  • Knock-off copies often do not work at all
  • The CQR does not set reliably
  • The Bruce does not hold reliably
  • Damaged anchors never behave the same way again
  • How an anchor looks can have as much bearing on your choice as how it works
It's too bad the video does not include our favourite anchors, the Ultra and Rocna. Maybe he can be persuaded to keep going, but I think he's had enough anchor testing to last a lifetime.

Watch it yourself and let us know what you think.


  1. Curious about one thing. I don't question Steve's intent nor his observations - valuable data indeed. But his finding that the CQR "doesn't set" the Bruce "doesn't hold" flies in the face of 60 years of cruiser experience, during which time the CQR was THE gold standard against which all other anchor designs were measured - and against which they frequently failed.
    Which suggests to me that there is more to it. There are conditions under which ANY anchor will fail to set and/or hold, or fail to reset. I think it's possible that Steve may have lucked into exactly the bottom/test conditions in which the CQR he was using (and was it really a CQR, made in Scotland, or a knockoff?) was weakest.
    Not that the new designs (ie: Rockna, Mantus, etc.) don't show improved performance over the venerable CQR - they absolutely do, and if you can afford one, then by all means do!
    But don't throw away the CQR that's served you well on the basis of what may, in fact, be a flawed test scenario.
    And for that matter, I used a 16# Bruce and 30' of 1/4" chain plus nylon on our 25' Tanzer for 4 years and a lot of anchoring, and NEVER had a failure to set or reset. Luck? I don't think so - I learned to anchor with that very rig, and knew almost nothing about it when I started.

  2. Keith & Nicki,

    I think you actually hit the nail without realizing it. "In 60 years of cruiser experience..." indicates that the CQR was great for a long time, a huge advance over hooks. But, technologically, we know a lot more today. Plough shares, of which the CQR is shaped, are meant to plow. Dive on any bottom in the Caribbean and you'll see it plowed in every direction. The surface area of the CQR is quite small in comparison to newer anchors, even another plow like the Delta. The more surface area, the more substrate will be above it when it digs. It makes sense that the newer anchors would hold better. In our experience, whenever a boat dragged in an anchorage during a year of cruising across the Atlantic and Caribbean, it was either a CQR or a Bruce in question. Our own experience is that our CQR dragged several times in storms in different substrates especially if there was a reversal in wind. The hinge is prone to wear and when worn will never keep the anchor stable. In all the times we've deployed an Ultra, a Rocna, or a Spade, we have not dragged once. Yes, anchors will fail under different circumstances because they are not meant for certain substrates, but the scoop anchors work in almost any bottom. It's no longer a matter of carrying a Danforth for soft bottoms and CQR for hard bottoms. It's a matter of getting a good set and then a good night's sleep.

    Steve Dashew swore by Bruce anchors but always overspec'd the size. The reason was he knew they would set faster than any other anchor, but to hold they needed more weight(unless they caught a rock which renders the Bruce ineffective). He has now switched to the scoop type anchors entirely.

    The Ocean Cruising Club has about 2000 members who have done at least a 1000 mile passage, most are truly intrepid cruisers. Ten years ago, a survey of their members showed that 80% of the respondents relied on a CQR. Today, less than half do. It's not a matter of affording a good anchor. Getting the best performing anchor is your best insurance against disaster. All it takes is one.

    1. No argument here, certainly. The spade anchors are a marked improvement over anything else available. And as soon as we head off shore, Sionna will be sporting one! I only object to what seemed to be a blanket statement of "CAR's don't set"... But perhaps I misunderstood what was intended. In any case, we have so far been very happy with the CQR and Bruce. Perhaps we've simply been very lucky ourselves? It's possible.

  3. Then he dropped each one on multiple types of sea floors with different scopes to record what happened.Consumerism Inc.


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