28 June 2009


Seems like the biggest mistake we see people make when anchoring, is not using enough scope. How much is enough? Forget the formulas, three to one,or seven to one and ten to one. How much you need is a product of how heavy your boat is, and how much windage, and how much you have in the chain locker, and how much swing room you have where you are anchoring. Can't really say why, but it seems in really deep water, three to one might work; we rode out the storm of the century in Belize, in 60 feet of not well protected water, with a little over three to one, using a 75 pound CQR for a 46 foot 34,000 pound boat. Winds got into the mid fifties. On the other hand, in water 20 feet and under, it seems harder to set an anchor, unless we use over ten to one scope. Maybe someone else can tell me why. Our saying is, "you bought and paid for all of it, why not use it."

Notice I refer to chain. You don't have to worry about chafe, the weight of the chain adds to the holding power, and you ride much steadier than the boat on a rope rode. Main disadvantage is the chain chews you can get on a fiberglass hull, if you are anchored in a tidal sluice way, and the wind pushes you over the anchor chain. A bow protector will help, or stay out of these situations. Otherwise, you better have a windlass that will allow the switch from chain to rope, and have only 40 to 60 feet of chain with rope spliced on. This really is an issue for those cruising the Keys or Bahamas, but as I said, you can learn to avoid the situation.

Next biggest mistake, is not pulling back hard enough and long enough, to really dig that anchor in. We pull really hard, taking it up slowly, and letting it pull, up to about five minutes in total. Even so, when swimming the anchor afterwards, we may be surprised at how the anchor is set, our 200 pound Danforth often only half dug in, with the stock protruding on one side. This leaves you subject to wrapping your chain around the stock, although in ten years of use, it has only happened once It was the one time we were glad we had our Turkish anchor line grabber, on this side of the Atlantic. See the blog, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

After years of anchoring in mostly sand, or as in the Med anchoring in "god only knows what" since it was too deep to see, we are now learning a lot of tricks about anchoring in deep mud, which seems to be standard for the Chesapeake. Don't remember having the problems getting our anchor to stick, like we are having this year, but I am wondering if the extremely heavy rains have raised the ground water level to such an extreme, that the bottom in places has become soup. So here are a couple of our new "tricks of the trade."

For what ever reason, when we have gently dropped and gently backed up, to where the anchor should have set, we just as gently start dragging backward. A good hard pull will sometimes make it set. In the past we were never so gentle, and I thought the jerk on the windlass might not be good, but the anchor always set, so maybe it is better to give it a quick dig to start with.

We have also found, when taking up the anchor, giving it a good hard pull while still set, and leaving it in gear for thirty seconds seems to knock the spaghetti line of mud that forms after dragging around all night, off the anchor chain, just like dropping the anchor back on the bottom after you first pull it up, can knock a lot of the mud off of it. I do hope you have a salt water wash down right up in the bow of the boat, because unless you like a lot of stinky mud or critters decaying in your chain locker, you have to get that anchor chain clean.

Last, but not least, a good strong windlass is essential to good, safe anchoring. Otherwise you will find yourself disinclined to set and reset you anchor three or four times, when it didn't really dig in properly, or you ended up too close to shore or another boat. And for those nasty situations that could happen in the middle of the night, having a windlass may enable you to get your anchor up fast in heavy conditions. For tses sort of emergencies, also be sure you can cut your chain loose, by having a length of rope that leads up on deck, tied to it, and don't ever anchor too close to shore if deep water is behind you. In a sudden and heavy wind shift, you could end up in the surf zone.