Anchoring Technique


Very often, we see charterers showing up at an anchorage, and then the "anchoring show" begins. While the sight of the husband/wife/children/friends screaming at each other provides great entertainment, it usually ends up in poor anchoring and in a potentially dangerous situation for the charterer and its neighbors, including you! The situation is sometimes so bad that serious boaters simply move to another spot just because they do not want to be near a bareboat charterer. So we felt a quick refresher would be in order. We are not going to get into great technicality here. Just some basic stuff that many charterers seem to ignore completely.

One word before we start: the keys to good anchoring are: preparation and slow maneuvering. And if you miss, no shame: just go around and restart the maneuver. And if you do that, do not let the anchor dangle off your bow while circling.

Setting Anchor

Try to arrive at your anchorage relatively early, with enough light to locate potential reefs and other hazards. Besides, if you get somewhere too late, and for some reason you cannot anchor (no room left for example), you need to have extra time to go somewhere else before nightfall.

Arrange a set of simple hand signals with the crew who will be at the bow to operate the anchor. Therefore, no need to scream and become frustrated. Also, at this point, we assume all your sails are dropped. If not, it's really time to do it now. The crew manipulating the anchor and windlass should wear gloves and deck shoes as a minimum protection.

Always anchor under power only. At this stage, all sails should be furled tight.

Once you are on the premises, take a tour of the anchorage at very slow speed to:

Once you have spotted your favorite place:

At this point, the anchor crew should let about 2/3 of the desired length out. Now just let boat sit and settle for a few minutes. Then with the anchor man still at the bow, start backing up the boat gently to lay down the rest of the chain desired length. Let the boat settle again. Then put the engine in idle reverse position. The bow crew rests one foot lightly on the chain between the windlass and the bow roller. This accomplishes 2 things:
 a) You're making sure the chain does not "jump", which would mean the anchor is not set. If this is the case, you will feel the chain literally jumping under your foot. Let more chain out and redo #5, until the chain remains taut under your foot when backing up.
b) If the anchor is set, backing up the boat really "digs" the anchor deeper. Complete the digging process by gradually revving up the engine in reverse for about 30 sec. Visually check that the boat does not drag. When the anchor is set, you can cut off your engine.

 If the anchor is NOT set, restart the maneuver until you're satisfied. You are not done yet!!

Take you snorkel mask and fins and go swim over the anchor to visually check it is properly dug in the sand. This is very important. We all have seen countless people arrive at an anchorage, drop the hook with a few feet of chain or rope, and..that's it. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Once you feel comfortable with everything you've done, take the final step and set up a snubber line. Your boat should have one provided by the charter company. That is really important. Click to see the setup diagram. (Note: This diagram shows a double snubber, but your boat probably has a single one, which is perfectly OK.)

Lastly, for the next hour, and then periodically after that, visually check that the boat is not dragging by taking precise bearings ashore and verify you are not moving.

If it is extremely windy or you are expecting squalls or a storm during the night: personally, I wake up every 1 to 2 hours to check on my anchor and the neighbors' position. Not everyone is willing to do that, but it is just good seamanship. Now if the weather is really bad, set an anchor watch for the night by rotating your crew. Rare, but it can happen.

That's it. It sounds a little complicated, but it really is not. The whole thing above (providing you do not have to reset the anchor) takes 20 minutes, and is simply a matter of being methodical and calm. Anchoring is a very important technique to master for the safe enjoyment of your charter. Do not neglect it: poor anchoring can transform a great vacation into embarrassing situations at best, and an accident at worst.

A final word: Most situations you are likely to encounter while chartering can be handled with a single anchor. The 2-anchor set up is more complicated, can be a pain if you have to leave quickly, and, again, is rarely justified, providing you are properly applying the above technique.

Anchoring a catamaran

The Dreaded Dragging Situations

Weighing Anchor