Anchoring is a very important but quite often a poorly understood skill of boating.Lack of knowledge on this subject at best can make some situations frustrating and difficult and at worse cause you to lose your boat or even someone's life.I recommend reading this whole section, although you can use the links to quickly access specific information.So make like an anchor and get stuck in.
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This has become the most popular anchor as it is light weight and inexpensive with high holding power.It also sets very easily in sand, mud and soft clay.It doesn't set well in hard bottoms or grassy/weedy bottoms.Also it is prone to breaking loose if the angle of pull changes too much then only has average ability to reset itself.They are still hard to beat overall if you are a recreational boater.I recommend a 1/2 boats length of chain minimum for any anchor system.They also make aluminum models of this anchor these are the highest holding power to weight anchors available.I favour these as a secondary anchor .They are lightweight which is nice if you have to take the dingy to go out and drop your anchor.Also they don't rust and they break down for easy storage .Downsides are they are expensive and because being light they are difficult to set in fast currents as they tend to plane a little.Also because of being lightweight if they break loose they have difficulty resetting themselves.
CQR and Delta style anchors
These anchors are favoured a lot by more serious cruisers.Although they are rated at much heavier for a given boat size usually about 1 lb per foot of boat length and can take a little effort to set well.Once in they rarely break free and they have the ability to reset through changing angles of pull.They also do well in the more difficult hard clay as they are less likely to clog up.
Bruce and claw styles of Anchor
These are also a popular anchor amongst more serious cruisers.They are lighter for a specific boat length than CQR/Plow anchors but still heavier than Danforths.They have reasonable ability to self reset through changing angles without coming out.They can be a little prone to clogging in certain types of clay and firm mud bottoms.
Rocking chair river anchors
These style anchors are primarily used on rivers by fisherman needing to anchor in fast current and reasonably deep water.These anchors are regularly used with scopes of 3:1 or less and still hold well.It is advisable to get a good anchor retrieval system as you may have to do it a lot in a days fishing.A good system is a EZ MARINE anchor puller.It's a good system as it not only makes anchor retrieval easy at allows you to untie to fight a fish then come back and pick up your spot again.I also recommend a 1/2 boat lengths worth of chain for these anchors.
This is a very lightweight anchor mainly used for dingies or canoes.They can also be used to retrieve items from the bottom by trying to snag them.
Anchor rode is the nautical term for your line or chain that connects your boat to the anchor.
A) With line and chain anchor rode make sure the line is the right size for your boat.Too thin and it might break, too thick and it wont have enough stretch to absorb shock.Also make sure you have adequate chain.I recommend a minimum of 1/2 boats length.As for chain size guidelines I recommend.
3/16" up to 18' boat
1/4" up to 28' boat
5/16" up to 40' boat
3/8" 41' plus boats
B) With all chain rode you have a couple of advantages.It's very strong and you can put about 1/2 the scope out to get the same holding power as line/chain combo's.
Downsides are it is heavy and you need a way to add some stretch or give into it to absorb shock.This is usually done by the use of a piece of 3 strand nylon line.The line is tied into the chain using a Rolling Hitch.
The line is then let out 10' to 15' then tied to a strong cleat.Allow a little extra chain out so the line is taking all the anchoring load.Usually using 3/8'' line up to 40' boats is good unless it's very rough then us 1/2'' line.
Scope is the nautical term used to describe the water depth, to length of rode ratio to get anchors to hold well in different wind/current conditions.To get the TRUE scope height from the bottom we must add the height of the anchor point above the water to the water depth.
Example:If we have an anchor point height 5' above the water and a depth of 20' ,we have a true scope height of 25'.We then multiply the by the correct scope for the conditions.
ie: 6:1 for calm conditions.
8:1 for moderate conditions.
10:1 for rough/windy conditions.
So 25'x 6 = 150'of rode for calm.
25'x 8 = 200' of rode for moderate.
25'x 10=250' of rode for rough/windy conditions.
With all chain rode you can 1/2 these figures to obtain the same holding power.
Single Anchor Method
When using this method allow room to swing around.Motor into the wind/current to the point you want the anchor to set.Put engine in reverse and lower anchor under control as you back up.Feed about 5:1 scope out then cleat off or tighten windlass brake.Power back a little to set anchor.I like to stay in reverse at about 1/3 max engine RPM for about 5 minutes.At this point I usually feel confident the anchor is well set.Then pay out sufficient Scope for conditions.Stay aware of how far you may swing around. If you cannot let out as much scope as you would like you can use a sentinel weight method as shown below to get better holding power with less rode out.
Two anchors from Bow
Two anchors are used for very strong wind or current that comes from the same approximate direction or where your single anchor just wont do the job. First set your #1 anchor as in above description for single anchor. Then either motor forward to the spot you want to set the second anchor or take the anchor to that spot with the boats dingy.Drop the anchor and pay out a scope of 5:1.You may have to let a little extra scope out from the #1 anchor so you can apply good pressure to set the #2 anchor.Position yourself in the middle as in above picture and set out the right amount of Scope for the conditions.You have to keep an eye on things with this system if you start to swing around.If that happens it will more than likely tangle up your anchor rode's. Hopefully if you are starting to swing around the conditions are getting better and you may be able to go to only one anchor.In some cases you may have to just resign yourself to a sleepless night so you can be as safe as possible.
This method is used in area's where there is strong current that will reverse.You will be positioning yourself as in picture above.Again with sufficient Scope each direction for the conditions.If you have a sailboat with a keel make sure when the boat swings the keel doesn't catch on the anchor rode.Sometimes you may need to attach some form of weight to make sure that the rode's hang vertically enough to clear the keel if the boat swings around. This can be done by adding some weight about 15'-20' down the anchor rode from the boat end. With all chain rode you could clip or shackle the weight on. With line rode you can have the weight clip on with a carabina clip then attach a small piece of line below the carabina which is used to control the deployment and retrieval of the weight. You will want to use about 20-30lbs of weight , then if you need more or less wieght, you can decide from there.
Sometimes when anchoring with two anchors it is easier to set the first anchor then run the second out in the dingy.
Having a float attached so it will float just above your anchors is a little more work but will help you in several ways.
1)When setting two anchors it will let you know where they are set in relation to each other.
2)They will help you see if one of the anchors is starting to drag.
3)It is another option available if your anchor is badly stuck.You can apply some pull to the trip line which is attached to the front of the anchor .This will quite often pop the anchor right out of what it was stuck in.Picture.
4)If for some reason you could not retrieve you anchor and have to cut it loose it will give you a point to come back and find it again.Maybe to dive for it.
It is ideal to anchor in water that is 2-3 times the boat draft at low tide.
Devise a system to mark your anchor rode so you will know easily how much you have out.You can buy pre made anchor markers which attach to the line.For chain I like to either paint my marks or use bits of strong colored string or even colored zipties can work OK.
There are a couple of popular ways to set your anchor under sail. Both require some practice to get confident at them with your particular boat.
1) One method is to let the boat stall over the spot you want to set the anchor. As the wind/current push the boat back, slowly pay out the correct amount of scope then secure. We then apply pressure to the anchor by back winding the sails for about 4-5 minutes. If there is not much wind the second method may be a better method for you.
2) This method takes a little more planning and practice. Here we will be using the boats momentum to apply the force to set the anchor. You may have to read this section several times to fully understand the principle. This method is not recommended for all chain anchor rodes due to possible injury or damage to your boat. Before getting to the anchorage take the anchor plus enough rode for approximately 5:1 scope from the bow of the boat to the stern. Make sure you have your scope layed out so it wont twist or tangle as you pay it out. Make sure the line is run right down one side of the boat on the outside of all deck hardware ( usually the side that is easiest to walk down ) If you are confused don't worry, it will begin to make sense to you soon.(trust me) yeah right. Now you are ready to anchor. As you get to the anchorage you will sail over the spot where you wish to set the anchor and check that it is a good spot. Then tack around and sail back downwind over the same spot.(We recommend using gloves as this procedure can be tough on hands). Once over the spot drop the anchor and chain over and start paying out line as it's needed. When the line at the stern is almost gone start walking forward whilst still paying out anchor line. When beside the rigging in the middle of the boat grip the line as tight as possible without pulling yourself off the boat or pulling a muscle. This is the pressure we are using to set the anchor. While you are doing this the boat will pivot around and face into the wind and eventually stop. At this point adjust scope for the conditions. As I said this method takes a bit more practice but once mastered I find it easier than backwinding the sails. Best to practice this on a light wind day so you get your system figured out in calm easy conditions. It's quite a sense of achievement mastering these techniques. A person could get hooked on anchoring.
If you have an all chain rode its nice to have a windlass. If you have a line and chain rode and are using a windlass make sure you are using a good anchor to line splice. There are many models out there but the three main types are
1) Manual windlasses.
2) Electric windlasses.
3) Hydraulic windlasses.
Generally they are durable and trouble free. The things that might go wrong are usually caused by operator use or poor maintenance. For example:
1) Incorrect chain sizing , for example 1/4'' chain can come in three different types.
A) BBB chain.
B) Proof coil chain.
C) High test chain.
Each of these types has slightly different dimensions so make sure you get exactly the right chain for your windlass drum ( also called a Wildcat or Gypsy). If you are unsure take the windlass drum off and go to a store which carries those types of chain. Experiment till you get the exact fit.
2) Another common problem is not snubbing the anchor chain which means it will have very little give with regards to the boat movement. In extreme cases it can snap the drum right off the windlass. Picture
Snubbing is the practice of allowing the anchor rode to have a certain amount of stretch or give to help absorb anchoring shock from the boats movement. Usually this is done by tying a piece of line about 10'-15' to the chain using a rolling hitch.picture.
Then tie the line to a strong cleat at the bow and allow the line to take the load by letting extra chain out. I recommend 3/8'' 3 strand line up to 40' boat unless weather is real rough.If so go to 1/2'' 3 strand line. Some people use a hook on a piece of 3 strand to take the snubbing load, but I've lost several hooks doing this and have lost my confidence in them.
3) Another thing is to keep an eye out for corrosion. Regularly flush the windlass with fresh water and keep covered as much as possible. I also like to spray a corrosion inhibitor like "Corrosion Block" or " CRC's Corrosion inhibitor"
4) Also check the angle of pull on the rode to the windlass. It should be horizontal or preferably pulling at a little below the horizontal angle.
I like to turn my anchor chain end for end each year because it helps even out the corrosion plus it makes sure I check my shackles every year.
Some times in rough conditions or if the boat has swung around a lot the anchor line twist can cause kinks in the line or chain. Some people use swivels to help with this. If you go with a swivel get one that is rated correctly for your boat weight.
Sometimes setting the anchor well can be the easiest part of anchoring especially if your anchor gets caught on something.
Manually retrieving anchors
Usually you will motor slowly towards the point where your anchor is while someone else pulls up the anchor rode then the anchor.(It's a good idea to rinse it by swishing the anchor around in the water before pulling onboard) .If by yourself you pull the boat towards the anchor by pulling in the anchor rode. If there is strong wind/current and you are by yourself it can get a little tricky. You can use the motor to move up small amounts then run forward and quickly take up some scope. You HAVE to be VERY careful not to get your anchor line in the propeller. Remember once the anchor is free the boat will be drifting so get the anchor up as fast as possible and be aware at all times how close you are to everything around you.
Retrieving anchor with Windlass
This is pretty straight forward we are just using the windlass instead of manually pulling the anchor. Once anchor is rinsed and onboard remember to tighten windlass drum brake. I also like to tie a piece of line on the anchor chain then secure the other end to a cleat for a bit more piece of mind.
These anchors are used to control boat movement in some form. Usually they are the shape of a parachute or a tapered cone with the end cut off.
Some common ways in which drogues are used are:
With this style usually a large cone or parachute style anchor is deployed off the bow of the boat. Usually you are doing this because the weather has got real bad. It is used to slow the boats drift down and keep the boat pointing into the wind. Some people like to attach another line to the drogue and run it to an aft winch . When you crank on the winch it will angle the boat a little to the weather and make the ride more comfortable.
This is a general sizing chart for offshore anchors . The sizes can vary quite a lot in relation to anchor design.
(Boat Loa /ft) (weight/tonnes) (anchor diameter/ft)
20 2 6
25 4 9
33 5 1/2 12
40 11 1/2 15
45 18 18
90 43 24
120 90 32
150 135 40
Another popular use for these style anchors is a drift anchor. They are much smaller than the offshore sea anchors and are commonly used to stabilise sideways boat movement in rivers. This helps a lot when you are trying to fish. There are quite a few manufactures of these anchors with slightly different designs so I will not do a sizing chart for these.
Other uses for drouges
Another use for a drogue is to drag one behind your boat if you are being towed. This will help reduce the whiplashing effect and make for a more comfortable ride.
When towed off the rear windward 1/4 a drogue will help stabilize the boat when negotiating dangerous harbor entrances.
A drogue can also be used as an emergency steering system when used in conjunction with a bridal.
They can also be used to slow a boat down while trolling. This is sometimes necessary if you don't have a small trolling motor and the main motor trolls too fast.
If you intend to get into serious offshore cruising you should look into a good offshore sea anchor. You should practice putting it out in rough weather and get confident with it. It could save your life.
Hope I have helped you gain some insight into anchoring. It really is worth getting a good system and be good at using it. Have fun.