June 1, 2014

Grapnels and the power of advertising

I’VE JUST RECEIVED the latest edition of a catalog published by a nation-wide marine outfitter. It mentions that I might like to buy a small gadget that can help me get my boat to shore without the help of an engine.
The gadget is a small steel grapnel of the kind the pirates used to tangle in their victims’ rigging and haul them close in. It comes with 50 feet of nylon line and instructions for its use.

Apparently you simply hurl it forward of your boat to the extent of the nylon line, and let the grapnel sink, whereupon it will hook itself on a convenient rock or piece of driftwood so that you can haul your boat closer to land. Once you have the grapnel in hand, you hurl it forward again and repeat the process until you run aground, or drift gently backwards out to sea, whichever is quicker.

I have seen this same idea espoused in connection with a baby Bruce anchor, and I don’t believe a word of it. How lucky would you have to be for this system to work consistently? I can think of many reasons why it wouldn’t work, and very few reasons why it would.

On the other hand, if experience is the best teacher, you wouldn’t be too badly out of pocket after learning this lesson. The grapnel and line cost only about $30. You could, of course, get a decent pair of paddles for that price, which would stand you in better stead in your quest to move the boat closer to shore, but then you wouldn’t have learned an important lesson about believing everything you read in a glossy marine catalog, which is a shame.

I suspect that almost everything to do with anchors involves a steep learning curve for beginners. For example, people often say it’s the shape of your anchor that counts, not the weight, but that’s not entirely true. Weight matters, too.

No matter what kind of anchor you use, heavier is better. It’s weight, sheer weight, that helps an anchor penetrate the bottom. And, remember, things weigh less under water. Some of the new alloy anchors are so light they almost float in air, never mind water. When you toss one overboard with a nonchalant flick of the wrist, it zigs and zags drunkenly through the water like a falling leaf. There’s no knowing where such a thing might land, or where you might end up anchored — if, in fact it ever manages to scritch itself into the sea bed.

No thank you. On a little 22-footer I once owned I carried a 25-pound CQR. People sniggered and said it looked out of proportion, but when I dropped my anchor it didn’t prance and glide like a ballet dancer. It fell like a ton of bricks. It sent waves halfway up the bow. It crashed into the sea bottom and buried itself in a massive crater.

When I was anchored, I was really anchored. Shape is OK, but weight is what really counts most.

And no matter what anyone else says, I still say the best anchors are the CQR, and the Bruce. The genuine Bruce, that is, not the cheap knock-off. Oh, and I guess you could substitute a Delta for the CQR if you had to, and a high-tensile Danforth for the Bruce if you were planning to anchor in really soft mud.

Today’s Thought
I think a great many copywriters in this business [advertising] earn their living because they haven’t been caught.
— Rosser Reeves, Chairman, Ted Bates & Co., 19 Apr 65

“I told you Willy was stupid.”
“Why, what now?”
“He had to call 411 to get the number for 911.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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