The Anchoring Challenge
A quick check of almost any marina demonstrates the overwhelming popularity of the classic CQR anchor and similar plow-type anchors. From the early 1930s, the CQR (coastal quick release) rapidly became the favorite of midsize cruising boats. Its sharp tip and the shank’s angle enabled the CQR to penetrate through grasses and seaweed into the bottom. The long lever arm of the shank made it easy to break the anchor free for hoisting. The hinge joint allows some 75 degrees of rotation to either side, helping to keep the anchor dug in when the boat swings on a changing wind or tide. As the lighter Danforth anchor became the favorite of smaller boats, the CQR was the anchor of choice for most cruisers for more than 50 years.
But the CQR was not perfect and sometimes pulled out (dragged) or refused to dig in (set). It might lie on its side and skip over the bottom instead of setting when the boat pulled back. If the direction of pull changed considerably, it might break free entirely at the worst moment. Through the 1980s and ‘90s, a dozen new types of anchors gained prominence with growing lists of advocates and endless test data. Then along came the Rocna anchor in the early 2000s, developed by respected New Zealand cruiser and boatbuilder Peter Smith.
The Rocna combines features of the newer spade anchor (concave rather than convex fluke) with the roll-bar of a German design. The roll-bar and skids at the top corners of the fluke ensure the point is always ready to dig in after the anchor hits the bottom. There is no hinge or other moving parts to jam or foul. And if the boat swings and changes the angle of the anchor rode, the Rocna is continually self-resetting.
What Matters Most in an Anchor?
Clearly what matters most is an anchor’s holding power—for the types of bottoms you’re most likely to encounter—but other factors matter too, including weight, durability, size and shape for stowing, and cost.
If you already have your boat but need an anchor, the Rocna wins in almost every category. But an anchor usually comes with the boat you buy, so you may need compelling reasons to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement—when most sailors already have a long wish list for other new gear.
So how much better is the Rocna’s holding power and will that really matter for your sailing?
Independent Testing and Reviews
In 2006 West Marine tested the setting ability and holding power of the 14 most common types and makes of cruising anchors of comparable size. The Rocna anchor never failed to set; the CQR did, sometimes. Once set, the Rocna had the greatest holding power of all the anchors (measured in maximum lbs of pull before releasing); the CQR had a respectable middle range of holding power. In a serious storm, the CQR is more likely to drag.
Other tests by Cruising World and Practical Sailor magazines had similar results, although to be fair, not all tests have shown the Rocna superior. In a test by Powerboat Reports using a different protocol, the Rocna did not fair as well. Yet overall, consensus has been building, supported by owner testimonials pouring in over recent years.
Specifications and Costs
Both the Rocna and CQR are well constructed of galvanized steel. Their comparable weights vary in part because the Rocna is built in metric kilograms and the CQR in pounds.
Following are the manufacturers’ recommended anchor sizes for two popular sizes of sailboats, at current West Marine prices:
For a 26-foot boat weighing up to 12,000 lbs.
- CQR: 9 kg / 20 lbs - $451
- Rocna: 10 kg /22 lbs - $399
For a 38-foot boat weighting up to 26,000 lbs.
- CQR: 16 kg / 35 lbs - $679
- Rocna: 20 kg / 44 lbs - $649
Your Own Conclusion?
So is there any reason not to buy a Rocna?
First, check for a fit on your boat. Bow rollers come in many sizes and shapes and are often tucked in tight among other gear at the bow, and a Rocna simply may not fit on your boat’s bow roller without expensive modifications.
Second, the slight difference in weight may matter to you, especially if you lack a windlass and have a bad back. For a larger boat, following the manufacturer’s specs for sizing, you’d be lifting 9 lbs more if you used the Rocna.
Given the expense of a new anchor, it’s really a question of your priorities. For those who must buy an anchor, the Rocna (and other newer designs like the Spade and Delta) have knocked the classic CQR out of the running—even though it is still being built by the highly respected Lewmar company. But is the Rocna so much better that you should turn your old CQR into an expensive lawn ornament? Lots of weekend sailors and vacation cruisers can anchor in most conditions for years or decades without serious problems using their CQR.