Understanding the importance of good anchoring technique is a key skill required for any sailor, and it is something that you will learn when doing a course with a sailing school, but it is a good idea to remind yourself of the correct procedures from time to time, as even the most experienced of us can be anxious at the feeling of a boat dragging its anchor towards rocks! So remind yourself of the essentials for anchoring securely and let’s go back to sailing school this week with a look at top tips when anchoring your sail boat.
Pick your anchorage spot carefully, paying particular attention to the chart of the area which will can also give you an idea of good local anchorages and what the holding ground is like on the seabed. Ideally you will choose a protected site and the best seabed for anchoring in is sand and or mud.
You should also pay attention to the current conditions, such as wind speed and direction and check to see if there are any tides or currents that could have an affect on the direction that the boat may be pulled in.
Another point to note is to follow anchoring etiquette, so if boats are already anchored nearby, then stay clear and ensure that you are well enough away from neighbouring boats and hazards that if your boat did a full swing on it’s anchor there is nothing to collide with!
Get the anchor ready before you make your approach to the spot where you are going to drop, by ensuring that the anchor rode is free to run. The anchor rode is often marked at progressive depths, as you want to plan to let out about 6/7 times the water depth.
Slowly, slowly is the order of the day now, lower or furl the sails and approach the point where you are going to drop the anchor under the control of the engine and pointing into the wind. Keep an eye on the depthfinder and chartplotter, then as you approach the spot slow the boat right down and coast to a stop.
Down with the Anchor!
As soon as the skipper gives the command, then start to lower the anchor gradually, it’s always best not to throw the anchor over and hope for the best as you could damage the flukes and the anchor may not set into the sea bed.
Keep lowering until you feel a reduced strain on the anchor rode, then pause to let the boat move backwards, thus pulling the rode tight. If you happy that the boat is floating motionless then tell the skipper to start reversing slowly so you can align the anchor correctly on the seabed.
Finally….Make sure the anchor flukes are well dug in at the bottom, if not then if the wind comes up the anchor can bounce along the seabed as the boat drags in the wind.
As the boat is gradually reversing backwards pay out the anchor rode until you have about 3 times the water depth out, then temporarily cleat off until the boat pulls tight. Once it feels tight and the boat has come to a stop you should be secure, if not then you can feel the tension coming and going which would indicate the anchor is bouncing along the bottom.
If you are happy that the anchor is set then continue paying out the rode until you have paid out about 7/8 to 1 scope, which is the general rule of thumb. You can then check the anchor is well set by using the boat’s engine to back down hard on the anchor which should leave you with the rode very tight and not giving at all.
Check and check again….it never hurts to check the anchor periodically as conditions can change at any time, so keep yourself alert for any changes in position or changes in the direction of your swinging, by looking at the chart and plotting your position on the GPS.
Your anchoring skills will improve each and every time with experience, and it can never hurt to brush up on your sailing school techniques!