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.

Tools and spares for your boat

It is wise to have a comprehensive and well-organised tool kit and a supply of spares for your boat. This is both for routine...

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.

Electric motors and hybrid systems

In recent years there have been considerable advances with the development of electrically powered propulsion in the leisure marine sector. This includes developments with inboard and outboard electric motors, hybrid systems, lithium-ion battery technology as well as solar, wind and hydro powered generators.

First Aid Afloat – fish spine injury

First Aid Afloat - Here is what to do if somebody stands on a fish spine: • Check for dangers. Is it safe for you to enter...

Rudders and steering systems – Part 1

Rudders and steering systems. A rudder is one of the most critical parts of a boat. Rudder failure is a common occurrence on neglected or overworked boats and a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous thing to happen when you are out at sea.

Five dangers a vessel may encounter at sea

What are the main dangers a vessel may face at sea and what should skippers do to reduce the risk of these happening?

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 4

Applying antifouling. Antifouling is best applied on a dry, calm day. It is best to apply the antifouling in the middle of the day to ensure the hull is dry and as warm as possible.

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.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 1

Boats that are kept afloat can very quickly become a home for small marine organisms such as barnacles, weed and slime. Applying an antifouling paint to your hull is necessary to protect it from these micro-organisms, as a fouled hull can cause problems and will slow down a boat’s maximum speed considerably if left unchecked.

Understanding tides

If you are used to sailing in tidal waters, you will know that tides can be both a benefit and a hindrance to the sailor. In many ways,...

Boat electrics

All boat owners should have a basic knowledge of electrics, both to avoid encountering electrical problems at sea and to stand a chance of solving them should they occur.

Competent crew skills: mooring lines

Mooring lines are used when arriving or leaving a berth. One of the most important competent crew skills is to know how to...

How to operate a winch

Winches are drum shaped mechanical devices used to handle halyards, sheets and control lines. One of the important crew...

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.

Essential Yachting + Power Boat Safety Briefing

Yachting Safety Briefing   Down below Lifejackets and harnesses - fitting, when to wear, clipping on Gas - risks,...

How to predict wind direction and strength by reading a weather chart

Weather charts, also known as surface pressure or synoptic charts, contain a lot of information that helps weather...

ColRegs – avoiding collisions at sea

ColRegs - avoiding collisions at sea ColRegs Rule 8: Action to avoid collision (a) Any action taken to avoid collision shall...

Stern gear maintenance

The stern gear of a boat needs to be checked carefully when the boat is ashore as this is something that can only be done when it is out of the water. The same applies for any maintenance and repairs that may need doing, so it is best to check it all over as soon after an end of season lift out as possible.

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.

Seasickness – how can you prevent it?

Seasickness is a common problem at sea and affects both seasoned sailors and novices. What are the causes and symptoms of seasickness?...

Essential Boat Spares for Safety

  Boats Spares Tool kit What you carry in the boats tool kit will be useful for many boat repairs, but you might want...

Nautical paper charts – a reminder of the basics

The nautical chart is an indispensable tool for navigation. A chart is a graphic representation of an area of the sea which might also include coastlines, estuaries and islands. All cruising leisure boats should carry up-to-date paper charts.

Sail boat rig checks – Part 1

Sailing boat rigs need to be checked regularly to reduce the risk of rig failure at sea. In part one of Sail boat rig checks we run through a series of useful checks that owners and skippers can carry out.

First aid at sea – four common emergencies

In this blog we look at what to do in the event of a crew member choking, drowning, or suffering from hypothermia or fatigue. Knowing how to cope with them could well save a life, while not knowing could result in an avoidable tragedy.

Boating emergency – how to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call

How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call   How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call if a vessel or person is in grave...