How to Anchor a Boat
The Essentials
Part II

Continuation of How to Anchor a Boat Part I

2. Laying the anchor

The actual 'how to anchor a boat' - procedure goes as follows:

Step 1) First, you slowly enter the bay or the anchorage where you want to drop anchor. When I do this, I immediately check the wind direction and strength. I do the same for the current.

Boats on the anchor will always look in the direction of the wind or current. If the current and wind are coming from different directions, then the boats will point at the strongest of the two.


Step 2) Proceed until you are on the exact spot where you want the anchor to dig in.

Now, point the bow in the wind or current, depending on the one that dominates.

Keep your position and don't drift off! Look around you and see if it's sensible to drop the anchor there. Remember that you need some room when you hang behind your hook.

If you're too close to the rocks, other boats or you're not happy... pick another spot!

Believe me, it's not nice for you and your neighbours to anchor too close to each other. It's rather nerve-wrecking!

Spending time on the anchor should be relaxing, remember?


Step 3) Now, let the anchor go, decide if you want to pay it out slowly or in one go.

I usually prefer dropping it in one go when we are in deeper water, but when you only need to drop 20 meters (60 foot), we do it slowly.

When the anchor touches the seabed and lies horizontally, begin to reverse. Not fast, but slowly. Just put the engine in reverse and they it out again, so you gently goes backwards.

The idea for that is that you don't end up with a mountain of chain on the seabed and it is a way to check if your anchor is dug in.

The moment you dropped the anchor, you have to know how much scope you want.

Do you have all chain or chain and rope?

If all chain, put three times the depth in the water. If chain and rope, put seven times the depth in. So, when I drop the anchor in 6 meter, I give minimum 18 meter plus the distance from the water surface to the windlass.

I paint my chain different colors, so I know then how many meters are already in the water...


Step 4) When all the desired chain is overboard, keep on moving backwards gently until the boat stops and moves forward again.

How do you know when the anchor is in?

Well, in a few ways:

  • You can check your movement in relation with your environment. Look to your right or left and try to line up two objects, for example a buoy and the landscape behind it.If the landscape is moving backwards in relation to the buoy, you're still moving astern, which means the anchor is not in yet.When the landscape is moving forwards, then the anchor is set and the weight of the chain pulls the boat forwards again. You're in!
  • You will hear or see that the chain is tight. Tight is tight, no wobbling around! If it wobbles, it hasn't got a grip yet!
  • The boat points at the wind or current.
  • Your body moves backwards with the boat. The moment the anchor digs in , the boat stops and you will feel you're out of balance This is because your body still wants to move backwards, but the boat isn't. This one is more subtle, I agree!


Step 5) When the anchor is set, put a snubber or bridle on it. This takes the load from the windlass.

Windlasses are very strong pieces of equipment and they can take a load, but they are not designed to hold that load continously.

It's also much more comfortable onboard. There's better music around than the sound of chafing steel!


Step 6) The last step of 'how to anchor a boat' concerns peace of mind! Now that you're set, you want to be safe for the rest of your time on the anchor.

How do you do that?

Put the anchor alarm on! Chartplotters have several alarms in them with which you can monitor your position. The plotter can check it through your GPS position, your depth sounder or your radar. You choose whatever is appropriate.

To check on your position, the chartplotter needs a set circle around your position to know when you're dragging. If you put it too wide, you might be in trouble already. If you put it to tight, the alarm will go off every time the boat swings around on the anchor and you'll pull your hair out of frustration! So, depending how much chain you have let out, decide on your acceptable swinging circle.

Next to that, check your position visually. Use the tricks from point 4 to decide whether you're dragging or not. If you're boat doesn't point to the wind or current, or it behaves differently that the other boats, something's wrong!

Remember that if you don't trust the situation anymore, take the anchor up and find a better place.

It takes a while before you master this skill, but it's worth the practice and it's surely a lot of fun to be on the anchor. Think of all those lovely coves and inlets where you can swim and snorkel and dine in all privacy. Come on, you know this is true!

I hope you did find a lot of helpful tricks in this 'how to anchor a boat'-manual. It definitely works for me, since for the last 4 years I spent 4 months per year on the anchor, most of the days we anchor 2 to 3 times a day in different anchorages!


3. Weighing anchor

When you're ready to go, you basically motor very gently towards the spot where the anchor dug itself in. It helps when somebody is on the bow and gives you directions.

While getting the chain back in, you will pull the anchor vertically, which breaks it out.

Now, you just have to store it correctly and you're ready for the next bay!


Go back to How to Anchor a Boat Part I




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