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Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

How Does an Anchor Hold a Ship?

How Does an Anchor Hold a Ship?

The weight of a simple cement-can anchor can keep a fisherman’s small boat from drifting away. The iron anchors of ships have flukes (pointed ends) that dig into the ocean bottom, holding a heavy ship in place. The anchors on old sailing ships had hook like flukes on curved arms at the end of a shank. A stock, or cross-arm, near the top of the anchor prevented it from laying flat, ensuring that one of the flukes would dig into the mud.

Modern anchors have no stock. Their flukes are pivoted to the shank, so that both flukes catch in the ocean bottom. Today, stock-less anchors have replaced most of the old-fashioned stock anchors.  The arm of the stock-less anchor pivots, or turns, so that both flukes dig into the ocean bottom. Most large ships carry two or more anchors. To “weigh” anchor means to pull the anchor up.

The weight of the heavy chain also helps hold the ship in place. The anchor chain is made up of heavy links that are connected in “shots”. A shot is so many fathoms (6 feet to a fathom) and the chain length is measured in total fathoms. You count your shots so you know how much chain is payed out. All those links hopefully fall on top of the anchor or at least in a pile and that is how the ship stays in its position.

Content for this question contributed by John Lavin, resident of, San Juan, Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines