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2-Anchor System Update

By Joe Hyde, Lawrence, KS

Last fall I got a personal email from FAOL reader Alex Lee, a fly fisher who informed me that he recently bought a new solo canoe. Alex had just finished outfitting his new boat with essentially the same 2-anchor system I installed on my canoe – the anchoring system I finally succeeded in piecing together a while back after years of trial and error conceptualizing. (See "2-Anchor System Parts 1 & 2", in FAOL's Warm Water Archive.)

I say "essentially the same" because although his system functions like the one I devised (exploiting gravity and normal boat motion to operate just two simple mechanical devices), Alex's system uses components of a type that I feel are more practical, more attractive and easier to install – and not just easier to install on Alex's canoe but easier to install on a wide range of canoe models. (Possibly on kayaks as well, but kayakers will have to evaluate that themselves.)

The components I'm talking about are the fairleads. Looking at the attached photos in his email, I appreciated immediately that Alex's choice of fairleads is light years better than the crude U-bolts I pressed into service on my canoe.

For those not familiar with the term, a "fairlead" is a nautical fitting through which a line passes. When installed on the end of a canoe as part of my anchoring system, a fairlead functions like the tip-top guide on a fishing rod. The fairlead physically restricts within a very small area the movement of your outgoing and incoming anchor line. The fairlead allows no lateral motion; your anchor line slides in and out only while coming off the exact end of your boat.

Alex didn't say, but I surmise, that he's spent considerable time around more kinds of watercraft than I have, thus he's more familiar with marine hardware items and their uses. Whether that's true, the fact remains that when Alex's email arrived I clicked on the web sites he gave me and instantly I spotted not one but two kinds of fairleads that I would have happily installed on my canoe instead of the U-bolts I ended up using. (U-bolts can properly be called "home and garden fittings" whereas the fairleads Alex showed me are clearly "marine fittings.")

Again, like in the second of the two stories I wrote last year describing the 2-anchor system, my intent in giving you the web link to a commercial site (below) is not to show favoritism to this equipment supplier. Rather, it is to give you a quick link that lets you study different fairleads and learn their correct names. That way you can either purchase these devices quickly from this supplier, or conduct a faster search elsewhere with other suppliers once you've learned the proper name of the device you wish to buy.

So...here is the web link address to West Marine. This shop is where Alex Lee bought his fairleads.

Okay, so far so good.

Alex in his email told me that he has another canoe, and on this older boat he had been using a type of deck fitting called a "Fairlead eye strap." This device is exactly what I wanted to install on my canoe ends a couple of years ago, and would have installed had I been able to find them. Maybe I could have found them if I'd only known what they are called in nautical terminology. But I didn't know.

While conceptualizing the 2-anchor system, in my mind's eye I could see the basic shape of the deck fittings I needed, but once I began through my local hardware stores I couldn't find anything remotely like it. That's why I settled on common U-bolts as my anchor line fairleads: any solution would do so long as it finally got my butt – er, my boat – anchored stationary out there where the panfish are.

Here's West Marine's selection of fairlead eye straps. These are metal fairleads. Click on the link and take your pick; there's a bunch of 'em.

Once he bought his new canoe, Alex decided to install my 2-anchor system on it. He followed my basic design but made two significant improvements.

First, he decided against mounting metal fairleads on the ends of his boat. Instead, he went with molded synthetic fairleads. The web link HERE shows you a couple. The type that Alex installed is the Ronstan® Nylon Bulls-Eye Fairlead, model RF9.

Canoeists who transport their boat on a roof rack will appreciate one benefit of the nylon fairlead that is never mentioned in advertisements: When lifting your boat overhead to put it on the racks, sometimes a sudden wind gust pushes your boat? Should you momentarily lose control and one end of the boat swings around and whacks your vehicle, the nylon fairlead will not ding your paint job or chip your windshield glass.

Alex says he likes his nylon fairleads better than metal eyestraps because they don't stand as tall, plus the anchor lines slide through the rounded hole in the nylon fairlead easier and quieter. So for Alex, nylon bulls-eye fairleads improve his canoe two ways: they are less apt to accidentally damage his shuttle vehicle, and his two anchors are quieter in operation. One benefit financial; the other tactical.

Oh, speaking of financial, I almost forgot: these nylon bulls-eye fairleads Alex uses? They cost only a couple of bucks apiece.

The second improvement Alex made to my basic anchoring system design protects the aquatic habitat wherever he goes fly fishing. He employs the nylon stuff sacks I recommended for holding the lead birdshot used for the anchor weight, but his birdshot is nickel-coated. The coating prevents leaching of lead into the water.

Alright, enough talk. Time to show off Alex's rig. The photo below offers a close-up look at his nylon bulls-eye fairlead. Note how the fairlead's design enables a clean, easy-to-install, low-profile mounting. (I like it that this fairlead can be installed on narrower boat ends.)

Nylon bulls-eye fairlead

Before looking at the full-length shot of Alex's boat, try to get a grip on yourself. This is one pretty canoe.

The shot shows his boat in the lake with the bow and stern anchors cam-locked in the ready position. It's hard on me, looking at this photo. The boat and the way Alex has it set up makes me want to pull the anchoring hardware off my canoe then my boat off to a landfill.

So many great canoes and kayaks are getting made today, and this is one of 'em. What we have here in the shot below is a Wenonah Vagabond solo canoe with all-wood trim, foot brace and a hung web seat. The hull is foam core vacuum-bagged skin-coat Kevlar Ultra-light. Total boat weight empty: 32 pounds.

Let me put that another way: Suppose you own two mature, reasonably well-fed domestic house cats. Okay, bend down and pick 'em up both at the same time. Those two house cats you're holding weigh the same as what this canoe does. And that ain't much.

Alex's system

Latch onto a boat like this and outfit it with the 2-anchor system, and you and your family and friends will be eating fly tackle-caught panfish more often than you ever did before. ~ Joe

About Joe Hyde:

From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and federal police officer. In addition to fishing, he hunts upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe's 'day job' is with the U.S. General Services Adminstration.

Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor sports, writing and music have never earned him any money, but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the 'day job.'

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