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How to Select the Best Bow Roller for Your Anchor and Boat

Storing a large bulky piece of metal like an anchor can sometimes be tricky. In this article, we'll discuss the most popular options for storing your anchor, including using a bow pulpit, anchor roller, or anchor well.

Anchor Well or Other Storage Compartment


Many boats, especially smaller ones, come with an anchor well at the front of the boat to store an anchor and rode. For those that don't have a built in well, under the captain's seat is also a popular location for a quasi anchor well! If your boat has an anchor well, it's the most logical place to store your anchor. The main downside to using an anchor well is that the anchor needs to be retrieved from the well for use and they're normally built to accommodate only folding flat anchors like a Danforth, opposed to other bulkier anchors like a Bruce or Delta. If using a windlass, you'll want the anchor to be permanently fixed to the bow of the boat, making the use of an anchor well impractical.

Anchor Well Anchor Well

Anchor Well Pros and Cons

  • Keeps the anchor out of the way
  • Convenient as often requires no installation of additional hardware
  • Difficult to store many non-flat anchors like Bruce, Rocna, Delta, etc.
  • Anchor cannot be easily deployed
  • Can't use a windlass

Bow Puplit

If you're so lucky, your boat will come with a bow pulpit, which is a protrusion at the bow of your boat specifically for holding an anchor. Pre-installed bow pulpits are normally constructed from fiberglass but do-it-yourselfers will often construct them from teak or marine lumber.

Because a bow pulpit mounts the anchor further away from the bow of the boat, it allows for a wider range of sizes and styles of anchors to be used (the design of plow and claw style anchors often requires for them to be mounted a fair distance from the bow of the boat). A bow pulpit keeps your boat cleaner as it doesn't involve muddy chain and rope being dragged up the deck of your boat and they offer convenient access to your anchor (especially important for use with windlasses). For better or worse, a bow pulpit adds to the overall length of your boat, which is nice if you're selling your boat but not so nice if you have to pay for an extra 2' of moorage because of the puplit.

Bow Pulpit Bow Pulpit

Bow Pulpit Pros and Cons

  • Keeps the anchor far away from the bow, allowing for a larger range of of anchor sizes/styles to be mounted
  • Provides quick and easy access to your anchor
  • Ideal for use with windlasses
  • Expensive to install
  • Adds to the overall length of your boat (meaning more moorage fees)

Standalone Bow Roller

The happy medium between an expensive after-market bow pulpit or simply storing your anchor in an anchor well, is to use a standalone anchor roller.

Many boats come with an anchor roller pre-installed, however, if your boat did not, they can generally be simply installed on to the bow of your boat. A bow roller functions in much the same way as a bow pulpit, allowing you to keep your anchor permanently mounted on the front of your boat. The bow roller can be used for storing the anchor but it also makes retrieving the anchor by hand much easier.

There's often a limit to how far a standalone bow roller can protrude off the bow of your boat meaning there can be limits of the size and style of anchor you can use.

Standalone Bow Roller Standalone Bow Roller

Standalone Bow Roller Pros and Cons

  • Provides quick and easy access to your anchor
  • Ideal for use with windlasses
  • Allows for easier retrieval of the anchor
  • There are often limits to the size and style of anchor you can use
  • Doesn't keep the anchor as far away as a pulpit, meaning mud/dirt may be strewn across your deck upon retrieval and the anchor may potentially bang the hull when stored

Tips on Selecting a Bow Roller

Picking the right bow roller for your boat is predicated largely by what size and style of anchor you are using. Most bow roller manufacturers will give you a selection guide for the most popular styles and sizes of anchors. However, the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a bow roller are:

  • Does the bow roller keep the anchor an adequate amount of distance away from the boat?
  • Can the shank fit through the loop of the roller?
Selecting a Bow Roller Checklist Selecting a Bow Roller Checklist

In our experience, Danforth/Fortress, CQR, and Delta anchors generally fit interchangeably on an anchor roller such as the Universal Bow Roller. Bruce/Claw anchors can fit on similar bow rollers as CQR and Delta anchors, but fit well on a special type of specific Bruce Anchor Roller shown here.

When purchasing a bow roller, keep in mind how much mounting room you will need (again, most manufacturers should include a diagram of this). Installing a bow roller is a fairly basic installation undertaken by even the most novice do-it-yourselfer. Installation normally takes just 2-4 bolts mounted, through the fore-deck (gasp- holes!). A mounting plate should be used.

Remember when using a windlass and a bow roller, the windlass should not be holding the weight of your stored anchor for long periods of time as this creates unnecessary stress and the anchor can potentially be released unexpectedly. Instead, either tie the chain/rope to a cleat or use a chain stopper.

chain stopper Chain Stopper being used to relieve tension on the windlass and avoid accidental anchor deployment.