The skill to know how to anchor a boat is one of the most important boating skills. Why? Because anchoring a boat is part of experiencing the freedom of yachting. It's part of the go-anywhere feeling you have on a boat.
In this article, I will explain you exactly how to anchor a boat, so that you can go out there and enjoy some superb anchorages!
There are 3 fases. First you have to decide where you want to anchor, then you put the actual anchor out , followed by getting the hook back up again.
1. Choosing an anchorage
In general, try to get some information about your intended anchorage.
For example, how's the seabed like? Is it made from sand, rock, weed, mud or clay? All these kinds of seabed have an impact on your holding. Of course, we will look for anchorages that have good holding, so that our anchor can dig in well and we have piece of mind!
I like sand the best. The anchor will bury itself easily and you have no troubles to break it out. Perfect! It's also easy to spot when the sun is still high enough, just go to the light blue patches.
Rock, that's a different story. The holding can be excellent, as you can imagine. If you're anchor gets behind or under a rock, you're solid. But, getting the hook up again, might be another story. The risk you have is that it locked itself up on the rock and that you can't free. Solution? Get some help from a local diver or try it yourself or...if it is really deep, you might have to throw the rest of the chain behind it and accept that you have lost the anchor. Not nice, I agree!
Mud can be excellent or very poor, depending on how solid the mud is. Sometimes you can literally drag your anchor through the mud and still keep moving backwards, other times the anchor holds immediately and the mud feels like concrete! The good thing is that it shouldn't be a problem to weigh the anchor.
Weed is a bit problematic too. It's not the best and it might take you a few times to get a good holding.
Clay is a good one too, it's similar to firm mud.
Also, is the seabed clear of obstacles? You don't want to anchor near wrecks or cables!
Next to the seabed, you would also like to know how the environment looks like. Is it flat or is it surrounded by mountains? With mountains you have the risk of strong winds that fall down the mountain (=katabatic winds).
Do check the weather forecast! What will be the wind direction and strength? Obviously we will look for an anchorage that protects us from that direction. Is there a swell running, if so, calculate that in too!
Some areas have tides, that's an extra point to look at. You don't want to anchor in a nice spot, to find the boat on its side a few hours later... For this you need exact data and you have to do some calculations.
All this 'How to Anchor a Boat' information you can find on your chart plotter, in pilot books, paper charts, almanacs, local people, harbourmaster offices or on the internet.
Normally, I do my homework before I actually arrive at the anchorage, but it happens that we pass a nice anchor spot on the way and that we decide to give it a go.
Now, to give it a go doesn't mean entering like a madmen and hope for the best. No. It means I'll do a quick check on the chart pilot and in the pilot book to be sure there are no hidden hazards that I can't see at that time. If that's alright, I'll go in slowly and I mean slooooooowly! This way, I can always back up quikcly if I have to.
Magdalena or somebody else who is normally handling the windlass, will be on the bow to warn me or give directions. This has proven to be the safest way!
Read further on How to Anchor a Boat Part II.
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