ANCHOR WITH ATTITUDE
THE concept of a ground anchor is novel but I suggest, necessary in many 4WD situations. In simple terms, it’s a way of providing a secure hook-up point for a vehicle that’s in need of winch retrieval in a situation where no other solid anchoring point exists.
In this wide brown land of ours, opportunities for becoming bogged or thoroughly hung-up are never far away when a 4WD is taken well and truly off the road. From the desert sand hills of central Australia, a muddy slope on a clear hill side, a bit of black soil that’s gone bad from overnight rain or just plain old fashioned bogged on the beach, all it takes is a moment’s inattention or a wrong decision as to which set of wheel ruts look best and, with the wheels spinning, down she goes with all hands aboard!
Granted, a winch hand or power – will assist in pulling the car out but sometimes there’s nothing to hook up to and thatâ€™s just where the ground anchor or Portable Rescue Tree comes into its own.
There are other options, of course. You can bury the spare wheel as an anchor point but have you ever seriously tried this caper? Anyone who has given it a go in really boggy conditions will attest to the fact the it’s darned near necessary to use a bobcat or other excavator to get the wheel deep enough to take the strain of a winched vehicle. And the joined star picket business is really not much better because if it isn’t done just right the star pickets won’t hold together long enough to serve as successful anchor points either.
By way of complete contrast, so far as ease of application and reliability goes, the PRT can be removed from its storage space in a vehicle and put into service in a matter of seconds and when set up properly it will provide a solid hitching point that won’t let go.
Aptly named as a ground anchor, that is just what the device most closely resembles: a large anchor. Comprised of several sections, each component is designed to share in the task of effectively digging well into the ground to provide a strong anchor point.
Firstly, there is a strong shank to which a shackle connecting a winch cable can be attached. A small mast, as it’s called, connects the shank to the flukes proper. The flukes are constructed from very heavy gauge metal and when unfolded from stored position will extend to provide a span of about 685mm in width.
Right at the tip of the flukes is a separate and quite sharp breaker head, which is designed to force its way down into the ground when power from a winch is applied to the shank of the unit. A guide handle is located at the rear of the flukes as well.
All PRT’s are available in either powder coating or galvanized finish and prospective owners can specify finish in accordance with proposed use as regards inland or beach travel. Folding into a neat 14-kilo package about the size of a standard brief case (around 610mm long and 340mm high) for easy transportation, the PRT has its flukes folded upwards and the guide handle removed from its locating point on the mast of the unit and set up on top where it doubles as a carry handle. As a quite compact package (only some 90mm wide when folded), the PRT can easily be carried in its own storage bag.
Pleasingly, the design is such that very little protrudes or is likely to snag on other items in a vehicle. Using the unit to extricate a bogged car requires a winch and in this regards either a hand winch or an electric one would be suitable.
I’m not entering into a debate regarding suitability of winches but the dollar factor (in a time of sky-rocketing fuel prices and general post-GST fiscal tightness) sure favors the hand winch, which also has the ability to be hooked up at either front or rear when extracting a bogged or hung-up vehicle.
To set up a folded and dismantled PRT for use, the small locking pin is removed from the guide handle situated along the top of the unit in folded down mode. Undoing the large shackle at the front of the shank will then see the handle able to be lifted up and set in place in the rear of the unit’s mast where a small locating pin holds it in position. The handle is then in position to guide the PRT down into the ground if necessary. Next thing is to get the flukes out and into position.
The large fluke control nut (which locks the flukes in the chosen use or non-use mode) is now loosened at the rear of the flukes and they can be extended outwards. A few turns of the lock nut then locks the flukes into an extended position.
With the unit set up for use in three simple steps, the winch hook from the electric or hand unit is then attached to the bow shackle of the PRT and the flukes angled down into the ground while strain is applied via the winch. All going well, the unit simply digs itself slowly but surely into the ground and becomes the substantial hitching point required to extract a 4WD from sticky situations.
As an aside I would like to elaborate further on the use of the PRT. Although I was not able to secure one for personal use while compiling this article, I have seen a PRT in use on Fraser Island in southern Queensland, and I can attest to the efficiency of the unit.
The car was down to diffs and axles in the sand. The first job was to dig the sand away from the front wheels and chassis rails. Then the PRT was set up. Once the strain came onto the PRT via the winch it simply dug itself down to the point where only the top of the handle was showing above the sand. And the bogged vehicle could be winched forward without the slightest problem.
Given the depth that the PRT had burrowed into the sand I anticipated problems in removing it but all it took was to simply move behind the unit and the. Winch (a hand winch in this instance) pulled it straight up and out.
I’ve also had first hand experience with a PRT used when a 4WD towing a small camper van was stuck on a slippery slope in the Snowy Mountains near Kiandra where rain had made the fairly steep track virtually impassible.
With the wheels of the vehicle chocked, the PRT was un-bagged. To reduce the angle of strain on the PRT, the owner elected to use as long a length of cable as possible and left only a few turns of it on the winch drum before a small hole was dug with a shovel to allow the point of the device to dig in. At first the PRT slid forward, gouging a trench as it came towards the car but then it started to nose downwards to the extent that the flukes were buried. The car and camper could then be winched forward to where the wheels could again be chocked for the next section. Wriggling and pulling upwards on the handle of the PRT allowed retrieval of the device.
Owners should not necessarily expect the PRT to dig straight down into hard ground. Sometimes it may require a couple of attempts to get the altitude of the device just right so that it can dig in – breaker point or no breaker point – and at other times it will tend to trench a little before really going down. Body weight on the flukes or lock nut as the unit is directed downwards will also help it to bed down more easily.
As a last word it should be remembered that a winch cable under strain is a potentially lethal device. It is best to drape a tarp or ground sheet or even a soft bag of clothing on the cable before it comes under strain to prevent it from whipping back towards the vehicle and occupants.