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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How To Anchor

How To Anchor
How To Anchor - Courtesy fishandboat.com

Now that you know how not to anchor, I figured it was time you learned how to anchor!  There's much debate about anchoring out there - between types of anchors and types of bottoms, it can get really confusing.  However, there's a great commonality between all authors who write about cruising, and that's the emphasis on anchoring.  Since you'll spend most of your boating time at anchor, it makes a lot of sense!

Anchoring your boat is not difficult by any means.  Here is a great article on ground tackle (anchors and anchor accessories) by Don Casey.  Here is another great resource from anchoring.com.  It will become fairly clear what type of anchor you need by taking a look at the different styles.

Keep in mind as well that there are different sizes of each type of anchor.  Like fenders, I believe in 'bigger is definitely better.'  However, an anchor that is too large isn't ideal either since most anchors sit heavily at your bow.  Here is a step-by-step guide to anchoring your vessel:

1. Gauge the wind, current, and FUTURE direction of the wind and current.  Elements on the water change, and the change in wind and/or current WILL make your boat swing around.
2. Choose an anchoring spot that makes sense; check the depth to ensure you have enough water, especially considering the low tide.  Also check to see that you have enough room on all sides to swing around while 'on the hook' (at anchor).
3. Check out the other boats around you (if applicable).  Where are they anchored?  Why are they anchored there?  Can you anchor safely without impeding their movement, being too close to their privacy, or affecting their swing radius?
4. After choosing a spot that makes sense, motor up-current from where you want the boat to eventually come to rest.  Remember that once you drop anchor, your boat will hang back from the actual spot of the anchor on the sea bed.  
5. After motoring up-current from the spot you want to rest in, ensure that you've left enough room to allow for the necessary scope mentioned in Don Casey's article.
6. When you've arrived at the spot the anchor will rest, drop anchor (DO NOT throw, simply let it down into the water).  Don't try to impede the rode (rope or chain) from letting out - just let the anchor drop to the bottom, at which time you can collect your rode.  
7. If you have a windlass, you would have simply pressed the release button to allow the anchor to drop.
8. Some will differ on this, but I believe in letting out a sufficient amount of rode and then TIE OFF an end to a bow cleat.  
9. AFTER the person on the bow, watching the anchor, has given a positive signal, put the throttle in reverse and idle backwards against the anchor.  Your backwards motion will 'set' the anchor into the bottom.
10. Once you feel a gentle snap as your boat reaches a tight line, put the boat into neutral.  Have the person at the bow tug a few times on the anchor line to make sure it is holding appropriately.
11. Shut down the boat, and let the good times roll!

Most difficulty comes from letting out too little rode.  If you do not let out enough line or chain, the anchor will drag and won't set.  What's worse, you won't know this until you've motored back substantially, perhaps into dangerous water!

On the flip-side, there is rarely an incident that occurs from having too much line out, unless you're in danger of swinging into other boats.  In wind and/or lots of current, you may also have to let out lots of line to compensate for the additional forces on the boat.  Also, NEVER allow someone to leave their hands on the anchor line.  Sudden movements can drag line through bare hands and seriously injure someone.

Stay tuned and we'll go over how to weigh anchor (lift up the anchor and set sail!) in an upcoming article!

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