When we left the Adelaide area, we had just mounted our new Manson Boss anchor as our primary anchor and stowed our old reliable Bruce anchor. The thought was that our Bruce was good for most sea bottoms, but not especially great for the thick grass and hard sand bottoms that South Australia is known for. After looking at a lot of alternatives, I thought the Manson Boss had the potential to do well in this area, as well as perform well in other types of sea bottoms.
We have been on the hook every night for over three weeks now in 13 different anchorages, and I thought it might be time for a preliminary update on how it's doing. How well does it set? How well does it hold?
First some caveats. I have always been skeptical of anchor tests and reviews. Even the best designed tests have just too many uncontrolled variables when attempting to compare a number of anchors. An anchor that is dropped in two different spots 50 feet apart might exhibit totally different holding capabilities just because of differences in the sea bottom. Some anchors require different techniques to properly set them. If two anchors are dropped and tested in exactly the same place, the first one might disrupt the bottom enough to affect the performance of the second. I can think of a host of reasons why even the most unbiased anchor reviews often result in different conclusions about the anchors being tested.
My evaluation has even more shortcomings. We've never before dropped a hook in any of these anchorages, so we have no first hand experience. I didn't try the old big Bruce or any other anchor as a comparison. There were no gales blowing and the wind didn't shift 180 degrees during the night. There are a whole host of reasons why this is far from a scientific evaluation of the anchor.
On the other hand, the anchorages in this area are known for their poor holding and difficulty in getting an anchor to set. The thick deep grass is difficult for most anchors to penetrate, and the hard sand, sometimes covering limestone, and grass roots make for poor holding once the grass is penetrated. Our anchoring conditions ranged from calm to 35+ knots of wind. So, while this is in no way an exhaustive test, I feel we have enough experience with it to provide a preliminary evaluation.
So here are our impressions:
Ease of Use: The Boss requires only a small nudge to deploy and it comes back into the bow roller quite nicely. The Bruce was a bit of a pain to push out of the bow roller, invariably smacking into the jib furler drum on its way out, and retrieval required pulling it into place the last foot or so. Overall – a definite improvement.
Ability to set: Our technique for setting the anchor is to come to a stop, then slowly start backing up, letting the wind, if there is any, push us back, or using the engine, if not. Once we begin moving backward, we use the windlass to lower the anchor. We continue to back up at a knot or so until all the required chain is out – usually a minimum of 5:1 scope (the ratio of anchor rode to water depth). Once all the rode is out, we continue to drift backwards until the bow starts swinging towards the anchor. When the boat stops and the rode starts to tighten, I put the engine in reverse and slowly tension the rode. If it appears to be set, I increase RPMs to about 2/3 full throttle and hold it there for a minute or so while I check the GPS and try to line up objects ashore to see whether we are moving. Sometimes the boat will drag slowly or sometimes you can feel a definite jerk if the anchor breaks free from the bottom. If it still seems to be holding, I slow the engine to idle, put it in neutral and attach the snubber. The new Manson Boss set on the first attempt in all but two anchorages, and in those two anchorages, it required two tries to set. In our discussions with local yachties, even the most commonly recommended anchor for this area, a variation of the old admiralty anchor called a Marsh Stockless often requires more than one attempt to get it to set. We give the Boss a good rating for the hard grassy bottoms here.
Holding: The Boss held firmly in all but one anchorage. In the Kingscote anchorage on Kangaroo Island, the anchor broke free in 30+ knots of wind, dragged about 50 feet (15m) then reset and held firmly the rest of our stay there. We had the anchor alarm turned on, which alerted us to the fact we were dragging, but the anchor had reset before we could get on deck to investigate. Again, given the bottom type, we rate the Boss as good.
We will have the opportunity to try the anchor in a lot more grassy/hard sand bottoms as we move west, but we are beginning to gain confidence in it. Overall, our initial opinion is that it is a pretty darn good anchor.