Anchors, Drogues & Emergency Steering.

The newly installed winch on a plinth
bolted and bonded to the massively
reinforced aft bulkhead, a transverse
beam, the deck and bolted through the
hull deck join and the toe rail.


The equipment listed here could be considered over the top for cruising along the south coast but if venturing to the more rugged Scottish Islands, the west coast of Ireland or to Brittany, you need some serious ground tackle. And, especially single handed, if going far enough offshore that without an engine it could take days to get to a safe haven, consideration needs to be given to a drogue of some sort in case you get caught in a quickly moving storm. 

The need for emergency steering to cope with rudder failure, especially when offshore, will be evident to everyone especially to those with that figurative T Shirt (and I have 3 of those😒).

As with other equipment on Sancerre things changed somewhat as objectives did, first a decision to do the cancelled 2020 Jester Challenge to the Azores, changed my view on the drogue required then the decision to cruise the Scottish Islands and (hopefully) the west of Ireland which required a small upgrade to my ground tackle and warps. But if starting from scratch and still contemplating far off shore sailing and cruising the Scottish Islands I don't think the end result would be significantly different.


One of the first upgrades I did to Sancerre was to fit an anchor windlass to protect my back which is not ageing well. (Details of the installation here - opens in new window.)

This created a bit of a quandary, the recommended chain for a boat of Sancerre's size (and a good deal bigger) is normally 8mm although the 6-7mm capable winch I fitted is recommended for boats of moderate displacement up to 35 ft. At the time, a windlass capable of handling 8mm chain was considerably more expensive and bulky, with the introduction of anchor winches made of composites that gap has narrowed considerably but 8mm chain is also more expensive than 6 or 7mm and there are other considerations:

  • 8mm chain is heavy, 28 metres weighing about the same as 50 metres of 6mm. The anchor and chain are as far forward as they can be (unless the anchor is stored on the stem roller which I would not contemplate on Sancerre) and on the A9m they are right under the deck, the very worst place to add weight, especially on a boat with relatively low initial buoyancy forward. I wanted 50 metres of chain, and have used it all quite often, but I would not be comfortable with the weight of that much 8mm chain and a heavy anchor in the chain locker. In use to make up for the lighter weight more chain can be let out if there is room to swing and / or it can be backed up with additional weight (aka a chum).
  • There is not a lot of depth to the chain locker, as the chain comes in it will pile up and then jamb, this will happen quicker with 8mm than 6mm requiring more frequent (back aching) intervention to flake out a heavier chain.
  • 8mm capable winches are bulkier, although less so now (2023) than a few years ago.

My Lewmar V700 stainless winch. The slot to the
lower left is the return for the chain at the anchor
end. There are rubber flaps attached to the locker
lid to reduce the amount of water that can enter
and at sea the locker is stuffed with fenders to keep
out water and to stop the chain and anchor moving.
I therefore initially opted for 6mm but even with premium quality grade 40 chain with a breaking stain of 2,300 Kg this could be marginal in storm conditions, possibly off a lea shore but, as will be seen, I have considerable back up.

Update: After loosing 18 metres of chain after fouling a big old anchor I have found several sources of  a quality (Italian) 7mm grade 40 chain (I didn't earlier and I had checked with at least 2 of the suppliers that now have it) this has a manufacturers minimum breaking load (MBL) of 3,059Kg and is proof tested to 1,631 Kg. It fits the gypsy and gives a better margin of safety than the 6mm although it does weigh 0.2 - 0.3Kg / metre more so I compromised and now have 42 metres of the 7mm that weighs the same as 50 metres of 6mm. 

For convenience I now carry the dinghy on the coach roof rather than in the forepeak and have moved the water tank aft so if I were starting afresh I would probably have 50 - 55m of  grade 40 7mm chain and the same anchor and nylon warp, others might want a shorter length of 8 mm chain, a bigger windlass and more nylon.

The yard wanted about £2k plus materials to build a platform across the back of the locker and that excluding fitting the winch and repainting the deck. So I did it myself to what I consider a much better albeit a more labour intensive design with the winch in the corner of the locker keeping the full length available to port for better access. 

It was completed in about 5 long days including the electrics with foot switches and a wired remote in the cockpit (rarely used but sometimes very useful single handed going into in a crowded anchorage, it can't be used to raise the anchor when single handed as the chain needs flaking). Also included was a stainless plate under the chain run to protect the deck and a chain stopper which is much preferred to taking the chain to a cleat - the windlass should never be left to take the strain when at anchor. 

The final cost of the installation work was less than £200 for some ply (with a lot left over for other jobs), epoxy, glass mat, consumables and some fixings. Details on the construction can be found on my page "Installing an anchor windlass on an Achilles 9m" (opens in a new window).

With the locker closed and the anchor stowed the low profile
gypsy only winch is nice and neat and there is not much for
ropes to catch on, although they occasionally do. The
chain stopper is just visible on the extreme left.
The boat came with a 24lb / 11Kg genuine CQR anchor. These are certified as having a "high holding power" by Lloyds but genuine ones are long and difficult to get past the headsail furling drum onto the bow roller and once there it is not self launching, a distinct disadvantage single handed. I therefore replaced it as the main bower and now have:
  • A 10 Kg Lewmar Delta, an excellent anchor also certified as "high holding power" by Lloyds and is a third of the price of a Rocna or CQR. It is self launching so I put it onto the bow roller before entering the anchorage and can then lower it immediately when required and from the cockpit if necessary. This size is recommended for boats 9 - 12 metres and upwards of 7 tonnes, double the weight of Sancerre, a 6Kg Delta (with 6mm chain?!) is recommended for boats up to 9.5m, but better safe than sorry; with anchors weight matters, if I were younger and a lot fitter a 16Kg would be nice (if it would fit), but I'm not.
  • Lewmar V700 electric powered all stainless, gypsy winch.
  • 42 metres of 7mm premium quality grade 40 ISO766 chain that is 25% stronger (MBL 3,059 Kg, 1,631 proof tested) than grade 30 and which is both calibrated (checked for size) and proof tested at the factory - many cheap (often Chinese made) chains aren't.
  • 40 metres of 12mm nylon (MBL 3,300 Kg) spliced to the chain.
This is an excellent combination and has held me in some quite difficult conditions. But, to be on the safe side, I wanted a serious kedge available that can deployed by itself or in combination with the bower.

Don't forget to seize the shackles / connectors attaching the anchor to the chain, if you are using a swivel with flush fitting pins, as I do, use some Loctite.

If the rode is a mix of chain and rope check the splice every time the splice goes through gypsy and at regular intervals if it doesn’t normally, it can get nipped breaking some of the fibres, shorten and re splice if there is any damage, it only takes a few minutes and could save a breakage.

Kedge / Alternate Anchors

11 Kg / 24 lbs of genuine forged CQR anchor. There are a lot
of poor quality often fragile cast copies about, some marked CQR,
lack of the forged I form shaft loosely coupled to the body can
 be a give away but not always. This one is 45 years old
and was just repainted. A CQR is expensive to make and a
new 11Kg one retails at about £300.
#1 Kedge & spare Bower:
  • The original 11Kg CQR, recommended for boats up to c 12 metres.
  • 10m of 8mm or 5 metres of 6mm chain.
  • 80m of 14mm 8 plat nylon (BS 4,400Kg) (also used with the conventional drogue) and / or
  • 100m of 12mm cable laid nylon (BS 3,300Kg).
However, although with the Bower this would be an good combination to anchor with two fore and aft in a narrow river with a sand or mud seabed, or with 2 anchors forward at an angle, it is always recommended that a kedge anchor should be of a different type to the bower to cope with different holding conditions. The CQR and Delta are both excellent plough types but they may not be up to some seabed conditions. 

For serious cruising the Clyde Cruising Club's (CCC's) excellent pilot books, and other good authorities such as Tom Cunliffe, strongly recommend AT LEAST two anchors of AT LEAST two types, lots of heavy chain and a long line to run ashore. This is because the Scottish and other difficult anchorages can:
Tinker's Hole anchorage just off the Sound of Iona,
a popular anchorage at the west end of Mull, it is
handy for Iona and Staffa (Fingle's cave).
Chart [detail] copyright Antares charts

  • Have strong winds and tides.
  • Be susceptible to serious squalls, gusts or Katabatic winds coming down or around mountains, sometimes with the direction switching 180 degrees (often due to "rotor" and "mountain wave" effects).
  • Have Kelp or other weed.
  • Have little or no room to swing. 
  • Have steep too shores.
The point about narrow anchorages is that you may need to run one or more lines ashore or put out a kedge from the stern, or both, to haul the boat out of the current or to avoid swinging into obstructions or other boats. A long line ashore can also work wonders when anchoring over a steeply sloping sea bed, keeping the anchor pulling "up hill".

Tinkers Holes is a good example of a confined anchorage, although bigger than many. It is only 100 yards across at its widest point, including the 25 yard wide channel through which there can be a strong current. Yet half a dozen anchored here would be common with quite a few more during the season in good weather. The CCC have fixed steel rings ashore in the NE corner to take lines and make things a little easier and more secure. 

So what type of anchor to have as a third anchor? 

The "Danforth" and particularly the light weight "Fortress" anchors are often favoured as kedge anchors for lightness and ease of storage (if you have the right shaped locker or deck space available), they are very good in soft sand and mud but are pretty hopeless with any weed and very iffy on broken ground. "Bruce",  "Rocna", "Spade" and similar modern anchors are too close to the Delta and CQR to be considered, also most are expensive and difficult to store.

Whilst by no means infallible the best anchor for broken ground and weed (both to be avoided if possible!) is the traditional "Fisherman", but most versions can be tricky to stow and unless very heavy with lots of chain can be poor on soft mud, sand etc., whilst I have the two other anchors you never know when or where the third anchor might be required so reasonable performance on other ground would be useful. 

An Admiralty Pattern folding
stock anchor by Osculati. It stows
easily but needs a couple of cable
ties to hold the articulated parts
in place when stowed or used as
a chum, backing up another anchor.
A good compromise is a version of the Fisherman, the "Admiralty Pattern Folding Stock" anchor. Mine is heavy for its size and with the flukes and bar folded it is easy to stow, The short wide flukes are not quite as good at penetrating weed as the more spindly fisherman designs but it can be expected to be as good on broken ground and reasonable on sand, mud etc. The shorter flukes are also a little less likely to foul the chain, a sometimes serious issue with the fisherman if the boat rotates round it or if the chain is dropped onto it.

Mine is a 10Kg version and I can store it in the bilge, normally the best place to put heavy items and its surprisingly easy to retrieve with the design of my saloon sole. Unfortunately there is not room down there for the CQR. 

I also carry a 3.2 Kg Grapnel anchor with 5m of 6mm chain, this was purchased as a weight for my series drogue (see below) rather than the suggested diver weights or heavy chain so it could also be used as:
  • A shore anchor, preferably with its chain to protect the warp.
  • As a kedge, especially on rock or broken ground, when a larger anchor is not needed.
  • A "chum" or "Angel", explained below.
  • For the dinghy if the smaller one with that is thought insufficient.
  • As a grapple.
A folding Grapnel anchor.

So with all this gear I have an awful lot of flexibility from different combinations, the 80m warp has heavy duty stainless eyes spliced to each end and the 100m has one on one end so that  with high load shackles kept handy, I can quickly use the anchors and warps in any combination. 

On weed I could use the Admiralty pattern with 5m or 10m of chain and one of the warps or with a few minutes work I could swap if for the Delta and use it as the Bower.

So in summary I now have the following:
  • 10Kg / 22lb Lewmar Delta with 42m of premium 7mm grade 40 ISO chain + 40m 12mm nylon warp to a Lewmar V700 capstan.
  • 11Kg / 24lb CQR (original to the boat).
  • 10Kg / 22lb Admiralty pattern folding stock anchor. Can also be used as a Chum (see below).
  • 3.2Kg / 7lb Grapnel, primarily to be a drogue weight but also usable as a shore anchor, kedge or as a Chum.
  • 10m & 5m lengths of 8mm chain (can be shackled together).
  • 5m of 6mm chain (6mm because with the Grapnel it came to the recommended end weight for the series drogue).
  • 80m 14mm platted nylon (MBL 4,400 Kg) with stainless thimbles each end and a stainless 6,000 Kg Jaw - Jaw swivel (primarily for use with the standard drogue).
  • 100m 12mm nylon warp (MBL 3,300 Kg) with a stainless thimble on one end and a large spliced loop the other (to go over a bollard or similar).
  • Two 8mm trip lines with floats.(If necessary a third, using a fender as a float, could be made up very quickly from spare cordage).

Anchor chains should be well marked, every 10 metres is probably about right, and whipping markers on long warps every 10 or 20 metres can prove useful and take very little time to put on.

If really pressed the CQR with 8mm chain and 14mm nylon has a higher breaking strain than the bower but they might well be used in parallel, see my "Anchoring in Storm Conditions".

Anchor Chums

An anchor "Chum" or "Angel" is very useful to back up an anchor, it is a heavy weight or set of weights that is run down the anchor rode to weigh it down to:
  • Reduce "snatch", especially in shallow water or in very rough conditions that can pull an anchor out and make life on board uncomfortable.
  • Keep the pull on the anchor as near horizontal to the seabed as possible for maximum security.
Dedicated ones are great, if you can find one, but are expensive and additional weight on the boat so I use one of the other anchors, normally the 3.2 Kg Grapnel + some chain but in extreme conditions I could also use the folding stock or both. 
Anchor chain (top) with the Grapnel and chain below it acting as
an anchor "Chum" the water here was quite shallow but due to
refraction and angle the camera makes the curve of the chain
look "flatter" than it really was.
I have a carabiner shackled to one end of the anchor that clips over the anchor chain (be careful a large easy to use one can get stuck on the anchor stock if you bring the anchor up first as you might in an emergency, also having it hanging from a rope rode would be asking for chafe). On the other end I have 5 metres of chain for extra weight followed by some line that I use to lower the chum down the chain. In Scotland in 2021 I comfortably anchored in Upper Loch Carron using this method when I only had 32 metres of 6mm chain available and had no problems in > 40 knots of wind in 5 - 7 metres of water. If the water had been rougher or the wind stronger I may have used the 10 Kg anchor but that is harder work to setup and retrieve and was not necessary in the conditions I faced and with plenty of space behind me.

Sancerre rides very well to the anchor and its not strictly necessary but I normally use an elasticated "Shockles" anchor snubber to reduce snatch as it also reduces noise from the the chain moving in the bow fitting. 

Trip Lines

Are a pain to use, especially single handed, and there is always the risk of getting one round the prop, but they are often necessary and essentially mandatory using a fisherman type or near old moorings. 

The trip line can be taken back to the boat but that can cause problems, especially if the boat moves about a lot, in the worst case it could trip the anchor or be so tangled up it won't work when needed. Also you would need a trip line as long as long as the anchor rode, not very convenient!

Using a buoy also has the advantage of giving some indication of where the anchor is, at least at high tide and with an appropriate length of line. It is possible to organise a trip line with effectively variable length by using one large and one small float running through a block close to the anchor. Great to be able to see where the anchor is but in my view it is too complicated to retrieve single handed and another thing to go wrong.

  • Mark the buoy(s) with the name of the boat, if all else fails and you have to abandon the anchor and chain if you come back to retrieve it you will know which one is yours and have registered your claim to it. Also...
  • Make sure your trip line is strong enough, in
    this case I was (just) able to winch up the
    fouled anchor on the chain until I could get a
    heavy line around it, you might not be
    as fortunate.
    It has been known for people to mistake a trip line buoy as a mooring pick up or even a mooring buoy and there is at least one documented incident of a large yacht  mooring on one during the night to be discovered by the owner of the trip line in the morning. So mark your buoy "TRIP".
  • A simple float is probably less likely to be disturbed than one with a grab handle, is cheaper and anyway can you reach the handle or get the boat hook through it? The boat hook to the line is usually the easiest thing to do.
  • Some whipped markers along the line will help set it to an appropriate depth allowing for rise and fall of the tide, in shallow water doubling the line up will save loose line floating about and give you more to pull on if it has to be used.
  • Use a sensible size line, remember if you have to use it you will be lifting 10Kg or more of anchor plus several metres of chain and the anchor may be well buried or under a cable, pot line or similar. 6mm should have adequate strength (Lyros Pre-stretched Polyester 3 strand has a breaking strain of  820Kg) but 8mm (BS 1,400 Kg) is easier to handle.
  • Have a plan for the second anchor, if you need two out together you will want to know where both are, either have a second set or spare rope you can use with a fender. I have two sets, both about with 12m of line that is long enough for most situations (40 metres of chain / 4 (for scope) and a couple of metres extra) and some spare line so I can extend one or both if required.

Storage & Spare Cordage

Storage of long mooring and anchoring warps needs to be given some thought as with length they quickly get heavy and difficult to manage, the last thing you want in an emergency is to get your kedge warp tangled up. The best option is usually to flake or stuff them into a bag, ensuring that both ends come to hand. Purpose made bags, usually circular, can be bought from about £20 and up but I favour simple rectangular tool bags which come in various sizes.

This 24" heavy duty builders bag is water resistant, very strong and easily holds 100 metres of 12mm warp or 80m of 14mm and cost £11 on eBay. 


To avoid tangles have your kedge / long line(s) in separate, dedicated bags.

Platted rope will flake better and does not cockle but is considerably more expensive and a bit trickier to splice.
Nylon is preferred for rode for its elasticity, avoid Polypropylene like the plague, it is not as strong, floats, is more likely to give you rope burns and has poor UV resistance. Only use when a floating line is necessary such as for mooring lines from stern to shore in the Mediterranean style. 
I also have a bag for spare cordage - everyone should have some, see my Stores and tools for extended cruising.

Anchor Warning Systems

Many turn their noses up at electronic anchor warning systems as unnecessary but the unexpected can happen, a sudden change of wind, Kelp that holds with the tide running one way (and against the engine test) but not after the tide turns, or anchoring on something foul which fails after a couple of tides, as happened to me off  Holy Island when the anchor went through a car tyre

Modern chart plotters include an anchor (and depth) warning but they use quite a bit of power, especially if the brightness is not turned down and on my boat there is also the possibility of not hearing the warning as the plotter is topside. 

In both of the following pictures the alarm will sound if the boat goes outside of the (adjustable) green ring.

A few hours in Osbourne Bay shown on the plotter. It was a good
F5 when I arrive off of Cowes in the late evening so I anchored
overnight before heading for the Hamble in light winds and with
no tide to speak of when I picked up the trot mooring - on Springs
there is a long stand at HW. With the tide running its a bit of a
challenge to get on the mooring single handed.
The better option is one of many free or very cheap apps that will run on an iPad or smart phone with GPS. I use AnchorPro and like several other Apps it records where the boat is at any given time and displays the history so you can see that has been happening. Alarm limits can be set in various ways and it  includes the useful ability to specify an offset to the relative position of the anchor when set. It has a good loud alarm but of course does not include a depth warning so check the tide tables etc.

Riding out bad weather for a couple of days in Broadford Bay (Isle of Skye)
as recorded by AnchorPro on the iPhone. There was not much tide so
Sancerre was lying to the wind. The anchor symbol is where the anchor was
within a few yards. Once the boat had settled I had entered the bearing to
the anchor and the length of chain out, adjusted for the depth, The alarm circle
is therefore relative to where the anchor actually was rather than to where the
boat was then the alarm was set. As can be seen I had a lot of chain
out (c 50 metres), the water was only c 4m deep at low tide.


A "Jimmy Green" standard
I started off with and have now reverted to a simple 0.5 metre drogue which I believe to be quite adequate for sailing around the UK where under engine you are never more than a day or two from good shelter.

The 80m of 14m platted nylon mentioned under anchoring is used (and was specified for use) with this drogue with a strong stainless jaw and jaw swivel and a bridle originally taken to the toe rail forward of the cockpit.

When I was planning to do the later cancelled 2020 Jester Azores Challenge I decided that an upgrade was necessary and I built a Jordon Series Drogue. With potentially very high loads in an Atlantic storm I also fitted dedicated attachment points to each quarter of the boat.

Stainless steel straps (with similar inside as backing plates)
to attach the Jordan Series Drogue, made to Jordan's spec.

The first section on my series drogue, in total there are
100 cones on 2 lengths of nylon joined end to end.
Building your own takes a serious investment in time.

The bagged series drogue with the Grapnel anchor
and chain used as the required end weight, as
described above a carabiner attached to the free
end of the anchor turns it into a "Chum".
To retrieve the drogue the bridle has a third line, slack when the drogue is in use and long enough to go to a spinnaker winch, without that it would be extremely difficult to get hold of the drogue line to get it in board. 

That line and the bridal are permanently rigged as it would be difficult to do at sea with the Seafeather self steering in the way, loose line is in bags on the push pit.

The retrieval line and the port part of the bridal can double as part of the emergency steering system described below.

The drogue is deployed from the port side to avoid the autopilot ram but is retrieved to starboard to give the best lead onto the winch.

The bagged drogue is bulky and rather heavy so I don't carry it when coastal sailing. Those professionally built usually come with more sophisticated storage for ease of deployment but in a small boat this should be fine.

Emergency Steering

A much degraded pic of Green Dragon in
Scheveningen, rudder intact. She was the
same length as Sancerre but lighter and
much quicker, at least with a crew of five.
I have three times been on boats that have either lost the rudder entirely or had the tiller disconnect from the rudder which stayed attached. The latter was during the 1978 Half Ton Cup (the world championships) being held in Scheveningen, The Netherlands. It occurred during the long offshore race off of the Texel as we headed for Smith's Knoll and in mixed conditions it took us a day and a half to sail to Ramsgate, in such an important event we were carrying the minimum amount of fuel allowed. Going east would not have been easy and although inconvenient with cars and gear in The Netherlands,  UK was going to be easier for some of us and to get the boat fixed in time for the Fastnet Race due not long afterwards.

With a top crew of five (we were by far the most successful half tonner in UK that year and won the trials, the RORC yacht of the year award amongst a lot of other things) using the then traditional method of a spinnaker pole over the stern, an attached board and relieving tackles, (the same method used as on the previous two occasions I was involved in), it was hard work, frequently requiring two of us or more to manage the boat. These days it is not a sensible approach when single handed, if ever.

Few small boats can have the luxury of an auxiliary rudder such as sometimes found on self steering on larger boats as they are usually big and seriously expensive. If the boat has a near vertical transom, reasonably wide with some spare room it may be possible to add some permanent spare pintles and take a spare rudder and tiller assembly. For the rest of us some improvisation is needed.

I have a spare tiller and tiller head with an autopilot pin attached in case the tiller should break - falling on the tiller is a good way to break it. For more drastic failures I plan to use a drag device using lines carried for other purposes. A bridle is set up, preferably from the toe rail at BMax, although the port leg would go to the quarter drogue attachment point. The starboard leg goes to a strong block on the starboard side toe rail and back to the spinnaker winch which gives a better lead than that to port. 

The line (which should be tighter!) used for emergency
steering and for retrieving the drogue shown rigged.
 The bridle is also rigged and stored in bags on the push-pit
with a mouse line rigged ready to connect the ends -
trying to attach everything at sea in a storm would be difficult
especially with the wind vane steering in the way.
Update: after years of having a dedicated line for initial drogue retrieval and emergency steering I realised that the starboard spinnaker guy (or one of my spares) would serve just as well so I ditched the dedicated line.
Attached to the bridle would be a warp with some drag to it, the 0.5 metre drogue would probably be too much but one of the warps with a weight on the end should be sufficient, or perhaps with a bunch of lines or the drogue attached backwards. The boat is then steered by adjusting the starboard side of the bridle. In trials by others this has proved to work quite well and should be enough to get close to land.

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