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Five Easy Steps To Anchor Any Boat

     Anchoring your boat is easy but if you don't follow basic rules, 
your pride and joy will float away.

      Take a look below at # 1, when you lower your anchor it will  just be sitting there on the bottom, and that's not good enough for anything but the calmest most temporary of visits. To be secure, the anchor must be set by pulling it (blue arrow) sideways,  # 2 with a  little tugging by your boat, the points will dig in creating a strong temporary home for your boat, # 3 & 4.


       There can be an endless discussion about anchor types and anchoring techniques but for now, lets just help first timers get hooked.  Notice in the drawing below, the anchor line (rode) is laying on the bottom.  When this vessel pulls on the rode it will dig the points in and stay put.  If the rode were shorter, say almost straight up, any pulling would lift the anchor right out and you would be set free to drag somewhere bad. (rocks, or into another boat) So it is obvious that the longer the rode is, the better your anchor will set and stay set.
anchoring in the San Juans
Drawing courtesy of West Marine
Okay, you have the basics, lets talk through what you do to anchor that monster. 
        As skipper you should instruct your crew beforehand what you want them to do, that way when you start frantically yelling or waving, they might have a clue what you want.  BTW other boaters will be watching and disparaging remarks carry well over water.
1st Determine where you want to anchor and try to head into the current or wind  (hopefully they are both going the same way) until the boat is right over where you want the anchor to set. Next have the crew carefully lower the anchor (don’t heave it, the rode may tangle and the flukes will cause the anchor to fly sideways out of position) to the bottom, you want to hold the boat steady in position while the crew gets the tangles out.
2nd  When the crew signals the anchor is down, put the engine in neutral and let the current or wind pull the boat back while the crew pays out the anchor line. If there is zero wind and current you will need to motor slowly backwards, assuming the anchor rode is coming off the bow.  You will want to motor the direction you expect the wind or current to be headed while you are anchored.
3rd  When the crew has let out rode about seven to ten times longer than the water is deep, put it in neutral and have the crew cleat the line hard letting the momentum of the boat stretch the line taught which will dig in the anchor points setting the anchor.
4th Don’t skip this step. Put it in reverse and take tension on the line (rode) give it a little power (not too much), now take bearings  on shore or something stationary to determine if your dragging.  If the anchor tears out, either it was not set good or you overpowered; in any case you must go back to step #1, and pull the anchor all the way to the surface to clear it of mud and weeds, and try again.
5th  When the anchor is firmly set, and tested, you can leave it with the 10 to 1 scope, but unless you're expecting bad weather, wind or currents,  you probably will want to pull some line in, (moving the boat closer to the anchor) until you have a scope of 3 to 1 up to 5 to 1 depending on conditions

Here’s some obvious pitfalls to watch out for:
  • Too much scope out and the boat will swing in a large radius, hitting other boats or run aground. 
  •  Too little scope and the boat will float the anchor when the tide rises. Or simply pull loose, allowing you to drag later (when you're asleep or ashore) when the wind or current picks up.
  •    (know your tide fluctuation)
  •   If wind or current changes direction the anchor may pull out, and not reset--take this to heart - muddy weed clogged anchors don't reset well in spite of what mfg's say.
  •  Anchoring your boat does not mean you can forget about it.  With practice you will learn when to trust or not trust your set and when to set multiple anchors.
  • Note: Some anchors work poorly in certain places, (rocks, weeds, etc.) after several failed attempts, you may have to move and try again in another spot.
What about chain you may be saying,  Yes, Yes, you should have six feet or more.  The chain protects the line against chafe on the seafloor and adds some weight to keep the rode pulled down into a more horizontal pulling direction. On many boats, the chain weight is more than the anchor. Without chain the anchor will pull out much easier.  Your anchor rode should be three strand nylon because it stretches well and provides a shock absorber effect. If the rode does not absorb shock you may easily pull out your anchor simply from normal wave action rocking the boat; then when the wind or current comes up,  away you drag into the dark night.

Retrieving the anchor is easy, simply slowly motor forward  while the crew hauls in the line.   When all the slack is gone the boat will be directly over the anchor, snub the line on a cleat and motor forward or backward, the boat will easily pull the anchor straight up.   Warning You must  break out the anchor carefully and slowly, in the event the anchor (or chain) is snagged and never breaks out, you risk pulling the bow of your boat under water and powering yourself to the bottom. Smaller boats with low free board can do this very sad unfortunate maneuver in an eye blink, big yachts will probably break some gear or hurt the crew instead.

Take it easy on the crew, this can be difficult messy work, and most likely the anchor will need to be cleaned before bringing it on board. (I use gloves and place muddy chain in a bucket for later cleaning, drying and storing)

Smart cruisers will carry a spare anchor or two.  Some prefer a folding grappling hook type because they store easy.

 Don't say to your crew "just let out a hundred feet," they can't tell how much is out.  Instead, consider  marking your anchor rode at intervals of fifty feet.   Practicing your anchoring ahead of time in good conditions will teach you and your crew what to expect. 

 Just remember to let out more than you need, set it well, then pull it back in positioning the boat exactly where you want it, then take bearings and wait a bit to see if you got it right.

See  articles about anchoring etiquette   Article "Anchoring Etiquette 

1 comment:

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