Putting AnchorGuardian to the Test – A Pilot Study with Superyacht Captain Luke Windle

We interviewed Luke at the end of the pilot study in Port de Palma, Spain, late 2021.

When I asked Luke Windle, Captain of Yachts for 20 years, why he wanted to be involved in our pilot study, he was quick to respond: “I have never partaken in any kind of study before, but AnchorGuardian certainly struck a chord with me. Being able to have a good night’s sleep depends on us as a crew knowing we are safely anchored. If I can support the development of a technology towards that goal, then that is motivation enough for me.”

This is how the Swiss Ocean Tech (SOC) team got to know Luke and his crew of a 43m private superyacht last year. He is the first to participate in our pilot project studies, providing us with invaluable feedback, insights and patience. “Luke will always have a special place in our hearts because he was the first potential customer to put AnchorGuardian to the test. He not only trusted in us as a team, but he took almost 2 months of his time to provide us with regular and reliable updates on the performance of our technology”, says Thomas Frizlen, Managing Director of Swiss Ocean Tech. “Let’s be honest, there will always be ups and downs when in the development phase, but Luke remained committed to the cause throughout them all.”

Now that you have worked with AnchorGuardian for almost two months, would you say the industry needs such a solution?

The marine industry would certainly be better off with AnchorGuardian because it not only offers that additional safety factor, but we will have a better understanding of what is happening at the anchor when we are anchoring. As a captain you tend to sleep with one eye open, but it would be nice when that is not quite so literal.

When did your love for sailing begin?

I started sailing as a young boy together with my Dad. He loved to sail and so we would travel down to the south coast of the UK during the summer holidays and rent a boat. It has always been a part of my life and I have been able to discover much of our world thanks to it. I have been a captain now for 20 years, 7 of them on this beautiful yacht.

When is your favorite time on the boat?

There is that special moment after leaving anchorage when you turn off the key right after setting the sails and the engine goes quiet. You can only hear the water and the sails. That is my most favorite time on any day aboard the boat.

And what are the moments on a boat which keep you up at night?

The possibility of an anchor dragging. Anchor dragging is an issue for me because it typically happens when people are asleep in the middle of the night and it is one of those things where if you do not have an early warning system by the time you know there is a problem you are already in a lot of trouble and potentially in a situation you can’t get out of without damage to the boat or risk to the people on board.

We have minor anchor dragging occurrences a couple of times a year and we’ll have a major one about once a year. We’ve all seen boats which have dragged anchor and have been totally written off having come ashore on the beach. My greatest fear is that not only does the boat end up on the shore for a total loss, but somebody gets injured as a result of that.

Do you feel that sailors avoid the topic of anchor dragging stories?

Not many people want to talk about their anchor dragging stories which makes you unsure of how much it does or doesn’t happen. I do think anchor dragging is a bit of a taboo subject in yachting because there is an element of human error involved in it. If you have had a serious anchor dragging situation then it should have been spotted by the crew. People probably feel it doesn’t reflect well on themselves, but the thing is, it happens to all of us.

How do you feel AnchorGuardian would help you?

AnchorGuardian would allow me and my crew to sleep well at night. Obviously if we are anchoring in severe weather, we will always have somebody on watch. This technology does not detract from what we already do but adds another level of protection. It can pre-warn us so that we know there is an issue before we start dragging rather than after we have started dragging. It gives us time to react and avoid a crisis.

AnchorGuardian provides varies functionalities before, during and after the anchoring process. Which is your favorite one?

AnchorGuardian Functionalities

Ultimately, my favorite feature is the anchor dragging alarm and the indication of how far we have dragged. But I am also interested in the force readings it produces because over time, it will give us a better understanding of how well our anchor is holding. Put it this way, it will provide us with a better understanding of what scenarios have potential for dragging.
I think the biggest difference between our current method of monitoring by distance from the anchor drop point to AnchorGuardian is that AnchorGuardian can pre-warn us so that we know there is an issue before we start dragging rather than after we have started dragging.

How does the ocean benefit from an AnchorGuardian solution?

I think our oceans will be better off with this innovation because it will stop the anchor slippage situation where we are not dragging anchor enough to reanchor, but we are ploughing up the seabed. By warning us before our anchor drags rather than afterwards, it means we are not dragging our anchor through the seabed and destroying the environment we have come there to enjoy.

Do you worry about the health of oceans?

The health of the oceans and the environment is something we are all thankfully becoming very aware of these days, but I think it is after too many years of being oblivious to our effects on the environment around us. At the moment there is a lot of work on the posidonia seagrass which is heavily protected now in the Mediterranean and there are days when that is frustrating because we can no longer anchor in the places we would like to anchor, but when you understand that that seagrass is holding the sea bed together, doing as much to remove carbon dioxide in the air as the rain forest and creating shelter for marine life, you suddenly realise how relevant and important it is that we do do protection for the environment around us.

Hear directly what Luke has to say:

Luke, thanks so much for your time, expertise and insights.