Anchoring – some advice and useful tips

Anchoring – some advice and useful tips 

by Simon Phillips 

There are many ways, tips and tricks for anchoring, however, my basic anchoring technique generally works very well for most vessels and conditions;

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1. Carefully select your ideal anchorage site, taking into consideration the following;  

a) Wind speed and direction,

b) Forecasted wind speed and direction – (this may be different in a few hours’ time, so be aware what may happen to the weather) 

c) Sea bed type 

d) Tidal prediction

e) Nearby depth and contours

2. Steer the vessel head to wind and stop the boat. 

3. Lower the anchor using a windlass or by hand.

4. Let the boat drift backwards, letting out the chain as she goes.

5. Ensure the anchor has held by going gently astern once the anchor and chain are paid out. The chain will ‘jump’ if the anchor is dragging. If it is holding, the chain will be at a shallow angle from the bow of the boat and upon selecting neutral, the vessel will immediately move forward due to the weight of the chain.

6. Use a snubber or attach a separate line from the chain with a rolling hitch to a cleat to take the pressure off the windlass.

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7. Fix your position by electronic methods of by taking bearings, ideally

of 3 equally spaced fixed objects. 

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Some advice on different seabeds – 

All seabeds will affect the anchor differently,  this will determine the setting and holding of the anchor, so before dropping the anchor, it is prudent to examine the chart for the seabed type.  The type of anchor will play an enormous part in determining the holding power, generally the majority of seabeds will be one of the following:

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Clay: This holding is very good, and can be difficult to break the anchor out of!

Gravel: This may not provide the best holding, as the anchor may drag through it – particularly in strong tides or winds

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Mud: Very good holding, although very soft mud may not provide very good holding as the anchor slides through. Mud makes for a messy deck when weighing anchor!

Rock: This is best avoided as the anchor may not initially set, then it will jam around / under the largest of all rocks, determined not to budge again. Traditional fisherman’s or grapnel style anchors are best for rock.

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Sand: Good holding. Lightweight and flat design anchors may have trouble breaking the surface.

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Silt: between sand and mud in particle size, this offers the best holding material for anchoring. 

Weed: This is not a good idea to anchor on. The anchor is likely to drag as the weeds will stop the anchor holding. Whilst the anchor is dragging, it is ploughing up and damaging the plants on the sea bed. 

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Some golden rules when thinking about anchoring:

Do not anchor on a lee shore. If the anchor drags, you will be blown onto the land. 

Check the tidal height, will you have enough water for the boat plus safety margin for the entire circumference of your anchor chain. The boat can and may move 360 degrees around your anchor. For example, if you have 20m of chain out, you may find yourself 40m away from where you are now!

Check you are allowed to anchor there! A symbol of an anchor indicates it is ok, power lines / cables are to be avoided! An anchor symbol with a cross through it, indicate that anchoring is prohibited.

Display an anchor ball in daylight, and a white all-round light at night when at anchor to let other craft know you are indeed anchored.

Be sure to leave enough room between yourself and other vessels. Seaway Yacht Delivery

Raising the anchor:

• Get the crew to point in the direction of the chain as you motor slowly in that direction

• The crew to bring in the chain, being cognisant of how deep the anchor locker is – flake the chain in the locker so it will run free next time

• If the chain / anchor will not raise, then something is caught! Ways of freeing yourself may include – dropping the anchor quickly, changing the direction of the boat to pull from a different angle, if suitable and safe, then put a mask on to see what is going on!

• Stow the anchor and chain onboard before moving away

Happy Sailing!!

Written by Simon Phillips