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An anchor that babies the bottom

Florida angler says he’s come up with a hook that holds, but doesn’t damage grasses or coral

A triple combination of necessity, a conservationist ethic and plain old aggravation were the mothers of invention of Mike Moran’s easy-retrieval anchor.

Moran, 55, owner of a prop reconditioning service in New Port Richey, Fla., has fished for 40 years and lived half that time in the Florida Keys, where protecting seagrass and coral is the 11th Commandment.

“When I was a kid, I was the one always pulling the anchor for my dad,” says Moran. He hassled with dislodging anchors from rocks and wrestling them up with a mess of grass and mud or barnacled rocks hanging on them. It hasn’t gotten any easier with time, he says, and he has come to see something else: An anchor can damage grasses, corals or live rocks when it gets stuck or when a boater pulls it in across the bottom. Multiply that damage by 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 boats, and it has become severe enough now that it is illegal to damage seagrasses and coral in the Keys’ marine sanctuary, or to anchor over coral in less than 40 feet of water or where the bottom is visible.

“People are getting fined,” Moran says.

Moran’s Hunter Boat Anchors, launched 2-1/2 years ago, are more easily dislodged than most other types, he says, saving time and grief for the boater and minimizing sea bottom damage. The anchors are designed so all parts are rounded. There are no square edges to catch on bottom features. But Moran says the real genius of his anchor is a pivoting sleeve that slides freely up and down the shank.

When the boat is at anchor, the sleeve is at the end of the shank where the line attaches. If the anchor becomes stuck on the bottom, the operator maneuvers the boat over the anchor, and the sleeve slides down to the crown. Moran says the anchor is balanced such that when the boater pulls on it with the sleeve at the crown, the anchor pulls backwards out of the bottom and is retrieved crown-first. Anchors retrieved with a windlass are balanced a little differently so that after they dislodge and begin to come up, the sleeve slides back to the line end of the shank so the anchor can be properly stowed on the anchor roller.

Moran makes the patented anchors himself, in stainless and galvanized steel and in three models: the plow, a classic design for larger boats with winches; the spade, a Danforth-style multipurpose anchor designed for sand, grass and rocks; and the grapnel, for rocky bottoms. Prices start at $210. Sizes range from 13 to 80 pounds, his biggest anchors designed for holding boats up to 85 feet, Moran says.

Son of a design engineer and machinist who invented the first liquid-nitrogen freezer for quick-freezing food, Moran spent a lot of time in the shop helping his dad with projects. The two teamed up to run a prop repair shop in the Keys for almost two decades. That’s where Moran first began thinking about a better anchor. He opened his own prop shop in the early ’90s in Port Richey, a part of Florida’s west coast known for its grouper fishing and rocky bottom, which bangs up props and gobbles up anchors. “I use one [of the Hunters] on my own boat,” he says. “I love to fish for grouper.”