Anchoring - the basics
- Every boat should carry at least one adequately sized anchor, where a
general rule of thumb is that it should weigh 1lb for every 1ft in length of
- Ideally, each boat should carry a kedge (second anchor) which can be used
when either the main anchor becomes fouled and is irretrievable, or in
situations where using two anchors is wise (discussed in this article).
- For a boat with an all chain anchor rode, the length required is a minimum
of 4 times the depth of water at high tide
- For a boat with some chain near the anchor, but otherwise mainly using
warp, the length required is 7 times the depth at high tide
- The are several types of anchor (which will be discussed) and it is a
matter of personal preference as to which to carry - a brief description of
the pros and cons of each will be given.
- An anchor ball.
- An anchor (or riding) light. Light units are available which combine an
all-round white below a tri-colour, alternatively a Mega-Light is a light
which can be suspended from the boom, is powered from a cigarette lighter
socket and has the ability to save power consumption by automatically turning
itself off during daylight. Yet another option is to have a paraffin stove
suspended from the rigging.
Choosing An Anchorage
Detailed charts often show recognised anchorages by placing an anchor symbol
on the chart, and pilot books are another means of identifying such anchorages.
For a novice, there is some comfort in knowing that the type of holding ground
will be known (i.e. the nature of the bottoms such as sand, shingle etc from
chart legends or pilotage book description), and the anchorage will have been
'tested' under conditions in which it is likely to be used.
Low ground often affords better protection than steep group, and the
presence of trees provides benefit - in that they provide friction thereby
slowing the wind as it passes over them.
Ideally choose an anchorage which is either completely sheltered by land
which reduces the affect of the wind on the boats anchored within, or an
anchorage where the wind will be blowing offshore throughout the duration of
the intended stopover - hence the importance of keeping tabs with the most detailed forecast for the area. Should the boat drift if the anchor looses
grip - the boat will drift out to sea rather than onto the rocks.
Here an anticipated wind shift overnight shouldn't cause any concern - if the
anchor drags the yacht would drift safely out to sea.
Laying The Anchor
- Lower the anchor to the seabed and then when you feel it touch down, start
to motor the boat backwards away from the direction in which you expect the
wind to blow as the anchor is paid out by hand. Sometimes there will be no
need to use the engine whilst the chain is paid out as the wind will catch the
boat's bows and blow them off downwind - usually at a comfortable speed for
which to 'veer the cable by hand' (another term, used to refer to laying the
anchor chain or warp).
- When the chain has been paid out, use the engine to give it a good burst
astern to bed the anchor in. Look for transits ashore lying roughly abeam
(e.g. tree in line with a house), and try to detect whether whilst under power
the boat has taken up a stationery position or whether it is still moving.
- If movement is observed, and the correct amount of chain has been paid
out, you will need to raise the anchor and re lay. Sometimes the anchor may
have clogged up with weed, or become fouled with its own chain and raising it
will be the only way to be check.
Retrieving an anchor
- When ready to raise the anchor, ask the crew to stretch out their arm in
the direction in which the chain/warp is laid. When the foredeck crew is
ready, start to slowly motor (maybe in a short burst if the vessel can't be
motored very slowly). This will reduce weight on the anchor/chain and warp and
lessen the strain on the fore deck crew (if a windlass isn't fitted).
- Slick crews will devise a system of hand signals to assist in these
manoeuvres, with speech reserved for clear comments when necessary. E.g., if
my crew holler 'starboard' that means that the anchor chain/warp is to
starboard of the bow and that the helmsman should make a correction in the
boat's heading by 15 degrees or so.
Retrieving a fouled anchor
- There are various techniques for retrieving a fouled anchor other than
that described above ! vertical pull, taking up slack and waiting for the pull
of the rising tide to break it out (might be useful if anchor deeply buried in
glutinous mud), pulling the chain in the opposite direction to which it was
laid, using a line and buoy tied to the anchor's crown (before it was laid)
though remember to
paint an "anchor symbol" on the buoy so that other skipper's don't think it is a mooring buoy
and pick it up !
- Whilst writing about fouled anchors, I have to confess to having fouled
the anchor on four occasions over about 25,000 miles when we have been unable
to retrieve it. So be prepared to have to buoy your anchor and organise a
diver to free it.
Types of anchor
Photos and descriptions for the popular types of anchor (Bruce, Dan forth,
Fisherman, Plough, Bruce) are being prepared and will be added here - something
to look forward to !
Good in rock and weed, stock can be removed enabling anchor to be stowed flat.
Good in mud and sand, no moving parts to trap fingers, may be awkward to stow.
This image show a bow roller with tall checks. If using warp, it is a good
idea to pass it through a length of plastic hose to reduce the chances of the
warp being frayed by the edges of the bow roller cheeks. If you look closely at
the left hand side of the bow roller, you can see a pin (shown it's open
position) which when slid across to the starboard cheek and locked in its closed
position prevents the anchor warp or chain leaping out of the bow rope (and
causing damage to the topsides) in a rough anchorage causing the bow to pitch.
This picture shows that the boat is tide rode. Look carefully at the bow and
you can see the anchor warp leading astern as the tide is flowing from the stern
towards the bow, whilst the wind is blowing offshore (over the port side). Here
you can see the advantage of placing some warp above the chain shackled to the
anchor. The warp may rub off some anti-fouling but will do much less damage than
- Anchor or pick up a mooring buoy ? Some skippers tend to pick up a mooring
in preference to anchoring - often laziness. But can you be sure that the
mooring is maintained ? I have inspected some moorings and found that the pins
in the shackles have become so corroded away that the threads no longer grip,
and the pins are merely held in place by seizing wire !
- If you intend to pick up a mooring and there are other boat owners around,
and enquire whether the mooring is available for use, whether it is maintained
and what size of boat it is intended to hold. Be prepared to move your boat as
soon as it's owner returns.
- Sometimes you have limited choice and may be in an anchorage with poor
holding or limited room should you drag (shore or other hazards astern) with
the wind tearing through the an anchorage. In this circumstance, organise an
anchor watch. Each crew member takes it in turn to spend a period awake
regularly checking whether the boat appears to be dragging. This way the
anxiety of all is reduced, safety improved, and rest is possible.