HOW TO - Winchless anchor retrieval
Lack of space or money to fit a winch? Sick of sore hands and an aching back? There is a better way. NORMAN HOLTZHAUSEN explains.
Yes, the easiest way to retrieve an anchor out of deep water is with an electric winch, but sometimes for a variety of reasons a powered winch is not an option.
"The basic premise is to use the floatation of a buoy plus the motion of the boat to break the anchor free of the bottom and lift it to the surface"
Perhaps an electrical fault has put the winch out of service or maybe there was never one installed in the first place. Whatever the reason, when faced with straining one’s self to the point of nausea lifting a weighty anchor and chain from the dark and mysterious depths, a person’s inventive powers go into overdrive.
Fortunately for you and me, great minds have come up with an excellent solution. It is cheap, simple and can be operated with minimal effort. And it’s called the Alderney ring.
The basic premise is to use the floatation of a buoy plus the motion of the boat to break the anchor free of the bottom and lift it to the surface. With the load of the anchor and chain suspended under the floating buoy it can easily be pulled into the boat.
The original Alderney ring is a large split ring that is clipped over the anchor rode when needed. It needs to be large enough to allow the shackle and chain to also pass through freely. If you are a handyman it is possible to make one yourself out of a stainless steel or aluminium rod.
A number of variations are also available commercially, including the Ezy Lift Anchor Clip, AnchorLift and the Anka Yanka. Many of the commercial versions are smaller devices, which only allow the rope to pass but not the chain. A non-return setup prevents the rope from sliding back down.
The Anka Yanka is a variation of the Alderney ring that includes a patented clip enabling it to be attached to the rope when needed. The Ezy Lift version can also be connected when needed, but care must be taken to put it on the right way around so the rope passed through the tensioner correctly. The AnchorLift differs in that it must be put in place before the anchor is deployed.
The process of retrieving the anchor is simple. If it is not already attached, clip your buoy and the pulling device to the rope and drop it into the water. Check the direction the anchor warp is laying and choose a safe side to drive around it. Look for obstacles that may include mooring buoys, crayfish pots and obviously, other vessels.
Slowly motor at about 30 degrees to one side of the anchor line between you and the anchor, as per the diagram. Ensure the anchor rope continues to pull through the fairlead at the bow and not over the side of the boat, where it could conceivably damage the bowrails. Do not run over the anchor rope — it should always be out to one side. The water pressure will cause the buoy to slide down the rope, and as it gets closer to the anchor end it will exert a vertical pull on the anchor.
As the boat goes past the position of the anchor you should feel or see it break free. With continued forward momentum the rope will continue to pass through the clip until it reaches either the chain or the anchor. As discussed, some variations will allow the chain to pass until the anchor hooks into the device and remains suspended. Other versions will be held in place by their rope tensioner, with the anchor and chain dangling the same side below the buoy.
Now simply take the engine out of gear and pull the anchor in.
As always, safety first — make sure you have clear water to drift in, while manually retrieving the complete rode.
These devices are simple and cheap, typically under $50. The only consideration is to make sure that your buoy has sufficient lifting volume — it should be able to hold roughly twice the weight of the anchor and chain. The standard commercial orange buoys have a volume of around 15lt (and hence 15kg of lift), while a 20lt plastic drum will provide 20kg of lift. Either of these will provide you with the cheapest and simplest anchor winch available!
Editor’s note: I once completed an entire fishing season operating a 50ft boat using only a homemade anchor-lifting device. It does work and is a first-rate backup to a powered winch.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 424,