CruisingSailing School

Anchoring 101 from the Guiding Light Sailing School

By January 31, 2016 No Comments

A lot of people say that anchoring is one of the things that intimidate them the most as a new sailor. I am here to assure you that it is a fairly easy process and after a little practice it will become second nature for you. To me the secrets are the right anchor and the right scope.

First the anchor. I am a huge fan of the Rocna anchor, but Mantus has a very similar style. In fact any type of anchor that acts like a shovel is a plus in my opinion. I stay away from the older plow, Bruce, and other styles that do not scoop the bottom unto your anchor (the danforth is fine, but I reserve it for a backup and stern anchor).

Scope is the amount of rode (rope or chain) you have out compared to the depth of the water. I carry an all chain rode and I put my bridle on when I have 5 feet of chain out for every foot of depth (this would be called a 5 to 1 scope). Don’t forget to calculate the tide and the distance the chain leaves the boat before it hits the water. On my boat the bridle happens to be about a 5 to 1 from the bows to the water, so that is why I put it on when I hit the 5 to 1 on the chain itself.

Now you have to set the anchor (unless you are French…they never seem to set the anchor and just let it be 🙂 ). I do this by first putting both engines in reverse gear and letting the boat straighten the chain out and pull it snug. Next I throttle up to 1500 RPM on both engines. While doing this find two stationary objects off your beam (telephone pole and building or rock and tree as examples) and watch to see if they move in relation to each other. Since they are stationary any movement you notice is actually you moving and changing the relation of the two objects to each other. You will see a little at first as the chain is pulled straighter and the anchor digs into the bottom, but then it should hold steady. After 15 seconds or so of not moving I bump up to 2000 RPM and continue watching the objects. If the boat hold at that rate then I am confident it will hold in thunderstorms.

No matter how good you are at anchoring there are times the anchor will not set due to the bottom, scope, trash (I had a friend snag the front end of a Buick before). In these cases you can try letting more scope out and this works if the bottom has a lower holding power, because more scope make the anchor get pulled more and more horizontal along the bottom and believe it or not the extra chain adds friction and holding power. The worst case scenario is that you simply have to pull the anchor up and re do it. We have all had to go that route for one reason or another.

After you are all set you should check and make sure the anchor looks good. Lucky for me here in the Caribbean and in the Bahamas the water is so clear you can drift over the anchor and see it through the water. Below is a photo of what you want to see. A “T” in the water showing just the rollbar and shank with everything else buried in the sand.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful and will alleviate some of your anxiety. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.


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