Anchoring seems simpler than it is. When you were in a canoe, just throwing over a brick tied to the canoe was plenty to keep you from drifting. In a large pontoon boat that catches waves and is pushed by the wind, anchoring has to be done properly or you are sure to drift.
The Only 3 Anchors Pontoon Boat Owners Should Consider
No anchor is a “one size fits all” but you should be able to get one style of anchor that works well in the conditions where you usually boat, and find it to work well every time. I did some digging across the internet and found tons of different recommendations from pontoon boat captains. Turns out there are three that are very well regarded, and one of them will surely be a match for the conditions where you usually launch your toon.
Works best in sand or gravel on the bottom. Get it on Amazon.com here.
The purpose of a fluke style anchor is for the arms to dig down into the bottom and grab a hold so your boat doesn’t drift at all. They don’t necessarily have to be incredibly heavy, which is a nice benefit. In fact, a 15 pound fluke style anchor can often hold even a big 30′ pontoon boat in calmer conditions, or a 24′ pontoon boat even in rougher conditions.
When selecting a fluke style anchor, keep a few things on mind. First, choose your fluke based on the size as the primary consideration and weight only as a secondary consideration. The weight only does a little to hold the boat. Weight is really only necessary to drive the arms into the ground enough to get a good hold. So if you boat on muddy bottoms, you may find that you don’t need as heavy of an anchor as if you boat over sand, which needs more weight to drive the arms into.
Not all anchors are equal. While a fluke style anchor is for the most part a fairly generic product, this test proves that not all perform quite the same. The Fortress anchor seems to stand out even among other fluke style anchors with that extra bit of holding power.
Option 2: Box Anchor
Works best in muddy river/lake bottoms or light vegetation. Get it on Amazon.com here.
If you’ll mostly be in mud (lakes and rivers), then it’s tough to beat a box anchor. Box anchors work by maximizing the amount of surface in contact with mud to get a firm hold.
It is essential with all anchors, but especially important with box anchors to make sure you have enough line out. If your line is too short, the arms will not have the correct angle necessary for digging into the ground and a proper hold will not be achieved. You should have 5 times more line out than you are deep. So if you are in 20 feet of water, you should have out 100 feet of rope.
If I could only pick one anchor, it would be this box anchor linked to above. Very well made and gets excellent reviews.
Option 3: Grapnel Style Anchor
Works best on a rocky bottom. Get it on Amazon.com here.
Rocky bottoms require a specific anchor. With many boating situations such as mud, sand, and vegetation, you may find that one anchor will do fine in each of the conditions. With rock bottoms, however, it really is best to get a grapnel style anchor. Some pontoon boat captains use a fluke style anchor on rock bottoms with good results, but others report it not working at all.
The good news is that this type of anchor is quite inexpensive usually, and it will fold up to be stored neatly in the boat in much less space.
The grapnel anchor has at least 4 large arms which reach out to grab a firm hold of rock below. Any grapnel style anchor may take a few feet of drift to find hold on a rock, but once it’s set, it’s probably the most secure hold you’ll find from any anchor.
Understanding the Dangers of Anchoring
In my home state of Idaho, 3 people in two separate incidents have died in the last 6 years while trying to anchor a boat. In one of the cases, a man got his leg tied around the anchor line and then tossed in the anchor–pulling him to the bottom and drowning him. In the other case, a family was on a small craft and threw out the anchor line which was too short. The boat flipped and was held upside down by the anchor which hadn’t reached the bottom.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that 2 NFL football players and a college football player died when improperly anchoring their boat. The anchor was stuck on the bottom 120 feet below and was unretrievable. Having lost an anchor the previous weekend that was unretrievable, the group fought hard to retrieve. They decided to tie the anchor to the stern of the boat, which is unsafe as it is not as sturdy or a platform as the bow. They then proceeded to gun the motor in hopes of pulling the anchor free, but anyone with knowledge of this type of anchor knows that this would only drive the anchor further into the ground. The force flipped the 18′ boat and left the four boaters in 65 degree water. Even with life jackets, three of the men died of hypothermia and were lost at sea. One survived.
In 2013, the Homer Times reports another anchoring death when a man’s hand got caught in an anchor chain as the motor for the anchor was activated, dragging him down to his death.
Anchoring is not an inherently dangerous activity, but incidents such as these prove that there is always need for caution when boating. Be careful out there.