Tightline Anchor, A Game Changer for Kayak and Canoe Industry
Being in the military for more than a dozen years has had a positive impact on the approach and dedication Greg Linton applies to his entrepreneurial endeavors. The discipline, leadership skills, focus and attention to detail he has used in his job as an aircraft technician in the air force has been a boon to his most recent and most promising and inventive business venture – Tightline Anchor Canada.
Tightline’s ‘anchor’ product, painstakingly developed, tested and refined by Linton and his partner Thomas Langton, is the K4x, “an innovative anchoring system for your kayak, canoe, SUP or Jet Ski,” according to the firm’s website.
Snagging the Right Design
“All of our anchors are hand assembled using 316 stainless steel, military grade hardware and commercial fishing swivels,” it continues.
According to Linton, he and Langton, a successful entrepreneur with a wealth of experience in the manufacturing and fabrication sectors, became friends when Linton was stationed in Petawawa while with the army [he later transferred to the air force] and the pair would spend time excitedly swapping ideas for inventions and business endeavors. While on a trip to the U.S., Langton found out that small craft owners had a hard time anchoring in the Gulf of Mexico. So, he and Linton began trying to figure out an effective, easy to use, durable and – most importantly – marketable high-quality anchor for the burgeoning personal watercraft, kayak and canoe industry.
“From our original design, which was literally created using carboard from beer cases and cereal boxes, we are nine designs deep now to get to the point where we are now with the cable running through the middle with the shark fishing swivel, and the solid, military grade rivets. Nine prototypes later, we had our finished K4x model.”
Catching on in the Fishing World
The target audience for these sophisticated anchors are people who spend a lot of time on the water, recreational canoeists and kayakers, especially the burgeoning kayak fishing market which is growing exponentially each year throughout North America. Many of these are folks who treat their water-borne vessel like a tricked-out car or truck on land, spending lots of money on the best vessel possible, with all the bells and whistles to give it its own identity. In short, it’s become a showcase for the owner’s personality, another aspect with Tightline is addressing by offering several different colour schemes for the K4x.
“Thomas really pushed for that. I really just wanted to stick with the plain stainless steel initially, given the cost and the time needed to coat those parts and how many colour options there could be. I was worried that we would have people wanting hundreds of different combinations. And we have run into that problem a little but in the end, the colour really helps us market the product. People are really excited that they can get an anchor to match the hull colour of their boat. I guess the thinking is it’s a piece of safety kit that you have to have, and if you can have it the colour that you want, all the power to you, right?”
Military Experience, Military Grade
Langton brings decades of business acumen and experience to Tightline, as well as years of design and fabrication experience. Linton brings impressive technical qualifications as well, from his years as a tool and die maker through to his experience in high tech maintenance jobs within the Canadian Forces.
“Definitely there are lessons learned in joining the military that have helped me through this process, as well as certain parts of the design of the anchor itself. All the hardware that is used is military grade, and I only sort of know of the existence of a lot of that hardware because of the job I do in the military. Solid rivets are something that have been around since the days of the steam trains in the 1800s. its one of the strongest fasteners known to mankind and it’s not something you typically see in products on the shelf any more,” he said, adding that the military has also given him a confidence and boldness that he didn’t have before joining a dozen years ago.
“I was really shy before joining the military, so having a network of people and being involved in a lot of stuff that was outside of my comfort zone has given me the confidence to walk into meetings, like Quintevation and show off my product. And I didn’t have that before. I was social, but I definitely didn’t have the confidence that I have now.”
Reeling in the Future
What is both a challenge but also a key factor in the early buzz for the K4x is the realization for Linton that because of its unique design and relatively high price point, the adage ‘seeing is believing’ comes into play.
“It’s been a big education for me over the past two years, especially the last year for sure. The intent now that it’s spring is to kind of do a road show and take my bag and my anchors along and call on some stores along the way. I want to do a road trip and get around meeting some of these people that have the outdoor stores. We’re also working to get some deals with some big box stores, but it’s really tough to get your margin down to where a big box store will even talk to you,” Linton said.
“I really want to put the anchors in people’s hands because they are always shocked once they actually hold them. We can direct people to our website all we want, but until they actually hold the anchor in their hand and see it, people don’t have the appreciation and that connection to the product. And in a world where you can buy something off Amazon or whatever and you can get it in two days, and you know you’re getting the best price, well we don’t have that sort of brand recognition yet. It’s a hard pill to swallow to get people to follow us down that rabbit hole on a $75 anchor, so that’s why I need to hit the road.”
He’s also going to get out and about to as many fishing events and talk to as many residents and visitors to the Bay of Quinte Region, looking to spread the word about Tightline. There is a market out there, especially among kayak-based anglers and the increasing number of younger folks who are taking up kayaking and canoeing.
“Educating people has been a challenge, but the more people we educate, they go and tell their friends and hopefully talk about the anchor on social media and that brand awareness will grow. The price point is high – higher than anything you can buy on the market. But our product is Canadian made, it’s well made and it’s hand made. The closest thing we consider competition isn’t really competition because it doesn’t function nearly as well as our anchor does. It’s just a cheap little thing that you can buy at Canadian Tire or whatever,” he said, as he explained that besides not working as well, these mass-produced, imported anchors are also much heavier and more unwieldy.
“The problem with it is that it weighs several times what our anchor weights. If you’ve already got your cooler and six fishing rods and all this other stuff on your boats, the last thing you want to do is have to paddle around another couple of pounds of anchor that you may not use that day. Our anchor weighs the same as a pop can, maybe slightly less. Because it works so much better and is so light and because they can get it in different colors to suit their taste, as people on online forums and Facebook and stuff like that start to talk about the product, we can actually see surges in our sales.”
Built in the Quinte Region
Linton said as a responsible, responsive local entrepreneur [Tightline is basically based out of his Carrying Place home] he does whatever he can to source materials, and subcontractors close by.
“We have several subcontractors in the area that we support, and they support us in helping keep up with the supply and demand. We have build these partnerships and knocked on a lot of doors to get the best pricing we can and get components made that go into our final assembly, which we do ourselves,” he explained.
“It’s neat to be able to literally get in my car and drive to Belleville or into Trenton and have subcontractors I can work with who perform and do excellent work. Through working with them, and a lot of patience and sometimes constructive criticism on both sides we have been able to integrate with the local economy, which is awesome. We’re not spending money in Toronto, we’re not spending money in the United States, we’re getting everything, except for one small component to the cable system that we can’t find anywhere but Cincinnati, locally.”
As well as the anchor itself, Tightline is also distributes the Anchor Wizard, which is mounted on the side of the vessel and which holds and deploys/retracts the K4x itself. It’s made by a father and son company in the United States. Both and the anchor and anchor wizard can be purchased as a package.
For more information on Tightline Anchor Canada, visit www.tichtlineanchors.com.