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There’s a difference between tossing out an anchor and actually mooring your boat.  Mooring means to secure your boat to a fixed object, such as a dock, wharf, pier, or jetty. 

Some people even choose to moor their boats to a mooring buoy.  

In this article, we’ll help you choose the best mooring anchor by discussing the various kinds of anchors available and highlighting several that work well when you want to secure your boat both temporarily or on a more permanent basis.

What’s a mooring?

In its simplest form, a mooring is straightforward construction: something heavy at the bottom and attached to a chair that ends in a buoy connected to a pendant and your boat. 

The bottom component must be heavy and can be anything from mushroom anchor to a pyramid cast iron anchor or even a chunk of concrete block. 

Mooring weights can be confusing to understand because many heavier objects, such as concrete blocks or chunks, lose as much as 42% of their weight when fully submerged in the water. 

It is really important, then, to determine if the weight recommendations you may follow are weights submerged or on dry land.

For larger boats,  many launch operators recommend incredibly heavy mooring objects, suggesting you moor your boat with an anchor or object weighing anywhere from 500 to 1000 pounds. 

Again, depending on the object’s composition, this may be dry weight.

How is anchoring different?

Anchoring refers to dropping a heavy weight you’ve attached to your boat down into the water where it will latch itself to the sea bed or lake bed below. 

You can anchor a boat anywhere as long as you have enough anchor rode, or cable.  

The key difference between anchoring and mooring is the gear and ground tackle necessary. 

Anchoring can happen in wide open water, too, while mooring often occurs inshore where permanent structures exist to help secure boats for the long haul.

Is it better to moor or anchor?

Many boaters, especially new boat owners, wonder whether it is better to moor or anchor their boat. 

This is a question to fuel an endless debate there may never be a single good answer to; rather, the decision to moor vs anchor largely depends on several factors, such as length of time you want your boat stationary, the mooring field, and weather.  

Many boaters prefer to drop an anchor rather than moor and this is perfectly acceptable — but only if you have an anchor truly rated for a boat that is actually larger than the boat you’re on. 

That’s right: if you plan to anchor, you need to use an anchor rated for a much bigger boat combined with a very long scope of chain.

Forecasted weather often guides boaters in their decision.  Many boaters ruh out to move their anchored boats to moorings when rough weather is on the horizon. 

When moving to a mooring isn’t a suitable option, ensuring your anchored boat has plenty of proven ground tackle and perhaps even a second anchor is a good idea.

The anatomy of an anchor

As you research the best kind of mooring anchor for your boat and situation, it will be very helpful to know some key terms and to understand the basic anatomy of an anchor.

Anchors consist of the following parts:

  • The shank is the main shaft of an anchor
  • A chain attached to the shank at the head of an anchor
  • Flukes are the parts of an anchor tasked with digging into the lake or seabed
  • Flukes attach to an anchor at the crown

Another set of terms you’ll want to know describes what boaters commonly refer to as ground tackle. 

Ground tackle has nothing to do with fishing, but consists of the very important parts of an anchor system that, together, keep your boat securely in place.

Ground tackle refers to:

  • An anchor or anchors
  • Chain
  • Rope
  • Shackles used for attachment

The anchor rode is the system for attaching the anchor to your narrowboat or pontoon boat.  In fact, anchor rodes are necessary for any larger boat, even sailboats and yachts. 

Scope, another term you’ll see used when boaters discuss their anchoring system, refers to the amount of rope let out when you moor your boat with an anchor.

Avoid these common mooring mistakes

If you’ve ever been out on the dock and seen broken pendants hanging from nearby bows, you’ve seen the evidence of mistaken anchoring. 

This is especially evident after a storm.  Anytime winds pick up in excess of 25 knots, but can be extra challenging to secure a mooring.

If you want to remain safe and keep all of your limbs in their present working condition, you must be safe and methodical as you let out the ground tackle. 

Keep your feet and arms clear or rope and tangles, never letting the anchor go if your foot is caught in the anchor line.

When letting out your anchor, avoid the temptation to just toss the anchor and let it hurdle at the bottom.  When anchors sink quickly they tend to spin and this spin can result in tangles in the anchor and mooring ropes. 

This may not be a problem initially, but you’ll definitely be reminded why it is important to release your anchor slowly as you try to bring up a tangled mess from the sea floor below.

Best Mooring Anchor

SEACHOICE Mooring Anchor, 50 lbs, Heavy Cast Iron

Mushroom anchors are one of the most common types of mooring anchors.  These anchors dig into the bottom and create suction for great holding power. 

Mushroom anchors aren’t as effective when you’re mooring in rocks or course sand but they work really well on silt or muddy bottoms.  

The Seachoice mushroom anchor is designed for permanent moorings. 

Built strong, this mushroom anchor works well for boats as short as 10 feet in length and up to 39 feet in length. 

Seachoice crafts their mushroom anchor from heavy cast iron for paramount security in mooring.  The anchor shaft features large diameter eyes to accept heavy duty shackles.

This is a new and improved mooring anchor design, Seachoice upgraded the eyes, making the diameter larger to accept the over-size shackles more appropriate for permanent mooring as well as increasing the thickness of the shaft.

Pros:

  • Upgraded design now accommodates oversized shackles
  • Mushroom shape provides great staying power and suction
  • Heavy duty cast iron construction resists rust and corrosion 

Cons:

  • This is not the best mooring anchor for rocky bottoms but works great when mooring over silt of mud.

Extreme Max 3006.6530 BoatTector Vinyl-Coated Navy Anchor, 28 lbs.

If you’re mooring in heavy grass, weeks, rocks, or even hard sand, you’ll need an anchor that can withstand the potential damage these bottoms can inflict on ground tackle as well as an anchor capable of digging in and standing up to these destructive bottoms. 

The Navy Anchor by Extreme Max is specifically designed for delivering excellent hold in these conditions.  

This anchor combines anchor weight with flukes and swivel action to produce superior hold in challenging conditions.  Its design incorporates reverse action that creates quicker, easier shank retrievals. 

Though quick anchor retrieval can cause damage and problems, this reverse action paired with a durable vinyl coating prevents damage to the boat and anchor. 

This coating also makes the Extreme Max Navy anchor a good choice for both saltwater and freshwater boats. 

It folds flat for easy storage.

Pros:

  • Weight, flukes, and swivel action produce superior hold
  • Designed for holding power in the most challenging conditions
  • Works in both saltwater and freshwater

Cons:

  • These anchors only work when flukes can dig in, so they aren’t recommended for mud or loose sand bottoms.

Danforth Hi Tensile Anchor 12H

If your mooring location requires a tougher, more durable anchor, Danforth’s Hi-Tensile anchor is a great option. 

This anchor features a beveled fluke design engineered to quickly dig into common sea bottom materials. 

Danforth’s Hi Tensile line of anchors is made from high tensile strength 4139 steel and then heat treated to imbue each anchor with extra holding power and strength. 

Enhancing and extended protection, each anchor is then hot dip galvanized.  The holding power of a Danforth anchor

Danforth anchors aren’t recommended for softer bottoms or soft mud, and they aren’t best on rocky bottoms because the flukes can’t penetrate the rocks. 

These are the go-to mooring anchor for hard sand, though, and work very well with harder mud bottoms as well. 

On these bottoms, Danforth anchors develop a holding power to weight ratio of as much as 20:1.

Danforth provides a handy anchor selection guide to ensure you invest in an anchor best suited to your boat.  The guide can be found here. 

The recommendations are based on normal wind conditions and average currents, and also take into consideration a minimum scope ratio of 5:1. 

Pros:

  • 20:1 holding power to weight ratio
  • High tensile steel and galvanized for ultimate durability and strength
  • Quickly digs into the bottom for quick penetration and security

Cons:

  • These anchors aren’t great if you’re cruising over grassy bottoms, which can grab onto and rip off the shackles on a Danforth anchor.

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