Select Page

IMG_2321

If you can set an anchor correctly with confidence and know your boat will be safe in a secure anchorage, then you can rest in comfort and will not need to rely on moorings and marinas when cruising.

Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you do not know how to anchor correctly then you risk endangering your boat and also others who might be anchored nearby.  And if your anchor is unsuitable for the type of seabed beneath your keel then there is a high chance of the anchor dragging.  For some boat owners, the fear of the anchor dragging means they stay awake all night, as a result getting little or no sleep and most likely stressing out their crew into the bargain.

Getting anchoring right is not always straightforward.  It can be confusing with the many types of anchor available and there will always be conflicting opinions on which anchors would be best suited for your boat and your chosen cruising ground.  Anchors and chain weigh considerable amounts, so loading up with excessive amounts of chain and anchors can affect a vessel’s performance and only really be necessary if planning a long distance voyage along a variety of potentially exposed stretches of coastline.

Types of anchor 

Anchors all

Choosing the type and size of anchors and cable to carry aboard will depend on the type and size of your vessel and the sea area it is being used in.  Most importantly, choose anchors that are big enough for your vessel and those which are recommended by the manufacturers.  Cruising yachts normally carry at least two types of anchor, plus suitable lengths of chain and rope cables.  Types of anchor include:

  • Bruce – good power to weight, easy to handle, holds well in mud, sand and rock
  • CQR or plough – good power to weight, stows well on bow roller, though awkward on deck. Holds well in mud and sand.  Very popular and reliable
  • Delta – good power to weight, also plough shaped. Stows well on bow roller
  • Danforth – stows flat, good kedge anchor, hard to break out of mud. Excellent back up anchor. Prone to pull out if the wind or current reverses
  • Fisherman’s – the traditional anchor. Good for rocky and heavily weeded seabeds, but heavy and awkward and not so good in sand and mud.

Chain and warp

Anchor cables can be either chain or rope, or both.  For an anchor to work effectively, the vessel’s pull on its cable must be parallel with the sea bed, otherwise the anchor will break out from the sea bed and drag.  The weight of chain prevents this from happening, providing there is sufficient length of chain lying on the sea bed.

A further factor that helps is the effect of the catenary curve of the cable between the boat and the anchor. This acts as a shock absorber between the boat and the anchor, so if the boat is hit by a sudden gust of wind the cable will straighten and tighten before it pulls hard on the anchor.

Hauling in an anchor and chain can be very heavy work if your vessel lacks an anchor winch, but chain is much stronger and will not chafe on the sea bed, unlike rope.  A workable solution is to have the anchor cable consist of part chain, which lies on the sea bed and part rope, to make it more manageable.  An all rope cable is much lighter and easier to manage, but less secure and prone to chafe.  All rope cables are normally used with kedge anchors.

anchor 2 a:w

How much cable should you use?  The amount, or scope, depends on the type of cable, the depth of water beneath the keel, plus the weather conditions and the height of tide.  If anchoring in calm conditions with little or no tide, then the absolute minimum scope for chain is considered to be 3:1 and 5:1 for rope. In light to moderate conditions a ratio of 5:1 for chain and 8:1 for rope is generally accepted and in worsening conditions a ratio of 8:1 for chain and 10:1 for rope.  In tidal areas, the rise and fall of the tide needs to be allowed for and if necessary adjustments will need to be made if at anchor for several hours or over night.

Trip line

Most anchors have a small hole for attaching a trip line, for use if there is risk of the anchor becoming fouled. The line is either brought back onboard and cleated or connected to a small buoy which floats above the anchor.

Choosing an anchorage

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a place to anchor.  Begin by studying the chart and look for recommended anchorages near your destination, which are marked on the chart with anchor symbols.  Look for a location that will be sheltered from wind and waves in as many wind directions as possible and away from strong tidal streams.  Also check the chart to see whether the ground will be suitable for anchoring and make sure you check the charted depths.

You will also need to bear in mind the wind direction and forecast for your planned stay and the state of the tide and tidal streams.  Anchoring on a lee shore should definitely be avoided, even if the chart has an anchor symbol on it.

Anchoring Tips

Choosing an anchorage:

  • Study Charts and almanacs to find a suitable anchorage.
  • Consider the seabed, (also on charts). Sand or firm mud are ideal.
  • Check the charted depth.
  • Consider the conditions forecast for your planned stay, especially wind direction and strength – will the anchorage be sheltered?
  • Consider the state of the tides – check the rise and fall and calculate the best depth to anchor in. Doublecheck there will be sufficient depth at low water, and sufficient chain for high water.
  • Check the anchorage is well away from strong tidal streams.

Preparing the anchor:

  • Is there sufficient cable on board for the depth?  In light to moderate conditions use a ratio of 5:1 length of chain to depth, or 8:1 length of rope to depth.
  • Approach the anchorage, check other boats. Are they anchored or moored? Where are their anchors? Are they a similar size to yours?
  • Choose the spot to lay anchor, check depth is good, approach the spot slowly into the wind or tide (check how other boats are lying).
  • If you have crew ask someone to operate the anchor at the bow.

Laying anchor:

  • Stop the boat, lower the anchor under control to the seabed.
  • Reverse slowly away, laying out cable in a controlled manner.
  • When sufficient cable is let out, select neutral and check that the chain is tight and anchor is set and holding .
  • If unsure, use a little reverse thrust to check it is holding.
  • Take visual bearings of objects ashore to check the anchor is not dragging, remember the boat will swing on the anchor.
  • Set deep and shallow alarms on the depth sounder. Then relax…

Weighing anchor:

  • To raise anchor, motor slowly towards it until the chain is vertically above it. Ask a crew to indicate when, with hand signals.
  • Now bring in the chain, keeping it as near vertical as possible.
  • If the anchor does not break out, cleat the chain tight and motor gently astern until the anchor breaks out.

All of this advice and more is available in our easy-to-use, quick to access app for iPhone and Android. Go to SafeSkipper.com for more.

Narrowboating on the Kennet and Avon Canal

A recently cancelled sailing event I was due to take part in left us with a free weekend in the diary. Given that my wife and I were celebrating a bumper wedding anniversary and the weather forecast was for fine weather, we decided to hunt around for a last minute canal holiday.

Tacking a sailing boat

Tacking is the sailing manoeuvre used to change a boat's direction through an oncoming wind. Tacking a sailing boat calls...

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps Make Learning Rules on iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android...

How to tackle osmosis

Many owners of old GRP boats live in fear of osmosis, but what exactly is osmosis and what can be done about it? Osmosis comes about...

Rig check – how to prevent failure at sea

Regular rig checks prevent the risk of mast and rigging failure at sea. This includes regular rig inspections of the spars, ...

Boat interior inspection and checks

While a boat is ashore, the most critical interior checks to carry out are those that concern the safety of the boat. This entails the integrity of all through-hull fittings and seacocks, the gas system and the electrical system.

Sail care and maintenance – Part 1

When thinking about the care, maintenance and repair of sails it helps to have some understanding of the properties of the ever growing range of modern sailcloth and the fibres they are made from, as opposed to the traditional canvas sails of the past.

Wooden Hulls – Part 2

It is important to ensure the essential hull maintenance of a wooden boat is done, even if you are paying others to look after your boat for you. The priority is to prevent rot from taking hold. The protective layers of paint and varnish over wood are far more critical than on GRP boats, where the topsides are painted more for cosmetic reasons.

Fractures, sprains and dislocations at sea

Moving about a boat at sea often results in a few knocks and bruises, but if a crew member has a fall or major bump and is in serious pain, they should be examined and treated accordingly.

Essential Knots: Round turn and two half hitches

Essential Knots: Round turn and two half hitches Use: Tying a rope to a pole or a ring. Step 1. Pass the end around the object. Step 2....

Feeling anxious at sea

  Some people feel anxious at sea. Will they be seasick? What if they get caught in a violent storm? Could the boat...

Sector lights, directional lights, leading lights – how do they differ?

Sector lights, directional lights and leading lights guide vessels safely through hazardous waters or narrow channels at...

Common marine electrical problems

Most problems with marine electrical systems arise from four possible sources, a lack of maintenance, a poor standard of initial installation, insufficient battery capacity, or ineffective charging systems.
Water ingress is a frequent issue – salt water can corrode contacts very quickly. If connections are not scrupulously clean – or are loose – resistance will be increased, resulting in progressively reduced power.

Seacock maintenance

If seacocks are always left open and neglected they can eventually seize which will prove a serious threat to boat safety should a connecting hose fail and the seacock refuses to close. There are three main types of seacock – ball valves, cone valves and gate valves.

Steel and Aluminium Hulls

The two metals used for hull construction are steel and aluminium. These are both very strong materials and will last a long time as long as they are cared for, which primarily means protecting steel boats from rust and aluminium boats from electrolytic action.

Marine toilets – care and maintenance

There are a number of different types of marine toilet, or heads. They fall into one of three categories – manual, electric and vacuum, the most common being the manual, hand pumped type. These have double acting piston-pumps which both discharge the waste and flush the toilet with sea water.

A simple guide to understanding tides when passage planning

Understanding tides when passage planning When planning a trip in tidal waters, check the tides before going afloat. Use...

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

  Grab bag: In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof bag to carry...

Propeller care and maintenance

Propellers are complicated and repairs should be done by specialists but owners can carry out checks and some routine maintenance themselves when the boat is in the boatyard. A propeller is critical to a boat’s performance, fuel consumption and ride, so it makes sense to keep a propeller in good working order.

Liferafts

Liferafts should be stowed where they are ready for immediate launching. All crew should know the location of the liferaft and know how to launch, inflate and board it. They should also know what equipment it contains.

Engine failure at sea – keeping the boat safe

If the engine stops when you are underway, or your have to shut it down when a warning buzzer sounds, you also need to make sure the boat remains safe. It’s important therefore to recognise situations in which the boat would be immediately put in danger if the engine were to fail.

Engine failure at sea – common causes and how to avoid them

Many engine failures are caused by lack of maintenance, resulting in fuel filter blockages, water pump failures, overheating and other breakdowns. Indeed, one of the most common reasons for marine rescue service call outs is for one of the most basic reasons possible – boats that have run out of fuel.

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Cutless bearing replacement

Cutless bearings can last for many years but if the propeller shaft is out of alignment they will wear through more quickly. If you have noticed a clunking sound when motoring then it could be a worn cutless bearing that is causing the problem.

Top 5 Reasons Why an Inflatable SUP Should Be Your Next Yacht Accessory

In this article, inflatable paddle board expert Jason Paul gives the top 5 reasons why an inflatable SUP should be your next...