Anchors Part 2 – Anchoring Your Boat

A Guide to Anchoring Your Boat

Learn what is involved when it comes time to anchor your motor yacht

Knowing how to anchor your boat when necessary is an essential boating skill. In part two of our two-part post on anchoring, we’ll provide some tips & tricks on how to anchor your boat.

How to Anchor Your Boat

There are three main components to anchoring a boat, including:

Choosing the Right Anchor

We covered how to choose the right anchor in Part One of our two-part series on anchoring. To recap, there are several types of anchors available, and it’s important to pick the right kind based on the type of seabed you’ll be covering (sand, rock, seaweed, coral, etc.). Choosing the right anchor has more to do with the seabed below than the size of your vessel.

Choosing the Best Spot to Anchor

A big component of anchoring your boat successfully is knowing where to best anchor the boat so it is safe and secure. Doing so comes down to good old-fashioned intuition, as well as knowing what’s below you. Let’s jump right into it…

First, refer to your charts to know the depth of the water below. Aim for a flat bottom that is suitable for your anchor type. In a perfect world, you end up finding a spot that is soft and weed-free, where the water is calm and there isn’t a lot of wind.

If the area is crowded with other boaters, you’ll also need to be mindful of other boats in the area, making sure your boat’s swing radius won’t intersect with other boats. If possible, ask other boat owners where their anchors are dropped and how long their rodes are if you can’t tell.

Measuring Your Rode

To know if you have enough rode to anchor securely, measure the depth at your desired location from your bow (not the water surface) to the bottom, and multiply by 7, or by 5 is you have a heavier, all-chain rode.

The resulting number is the scope, and it refers to the ratio between the length of your rode and the distance from the bow to the bottom. The scope indicates approximately how far your boat will drift from your anchor. Increase your scope to 10:1 or more for stormy conditions. The longer the scope, the more horizontal your rode is, and the more tightly you will be anchored.

Knowing that if the wind or current changes, your boat could swing every which way from the anchor point, so keep a wide berth from all obstacles (a complete radius from the anchor point). Before dropping anchor, double check there are no hidden shallow areas within your anchor radius.

Also remember to check the weather and tide information so you’re not caught off-guard. If high winds are expected in the time you’ll be anchored, or if a loose anchor could cause a collision with other anchored boats in the area, use your heavier storm anchor. For most situations, your general purpose main anchor will be enough. In extremely rough seas, consider anchoring both your bow and your stern if possible.

Dropping Anchor

With the perfect spot selected, it’s time to drop your anchor. Approach your selected spot slowly from downwind and stop the boat when you’re on top of the selected spot. Allow the current or wind to move you back slightly away from the spot.

Before dropping anchor, determine and let out how much rode you’ll need, then use a cleat hitch to tie it at that distance. Drop your anchor over the bow slowly, keeping the anchor rode tight at first to avoid tangling your rode. This also helps you aim the anchor until you feel it hit bottom. Slowly let out the rode at about the same speed as the boat is moving.

Once one-third of the rode has been let out, cinch it off and let the boat straighten. Your boat will probably turn across the current or wind as you move. This will straighten the rode you’ve let out and gently set the anchor into the bottom. If your boat won’t straighten out, your anchor is drifting and you need to try again. Pick another spot if possible, if multiple attempts fail.

Continue to let out the scope and straighten the boat twice more. Uncinch the anchor rode and let it out as the boat once again drifts backward. Cinch it again once a total of 2/3 the rode length has been played out. Let the boat’s momentum straighten it out and set the anchor more firmly. Repeat this process one more time, letting out the rest of the rode length you determined was necessary.

Tie off the line around a bow cleat and voila!

Snubbing the Anchor

To further ensure you’re anchored, you can give the anchor a final hard set by reversing hard until the rode straightens out. This sudden jerk will jam an already set anchor even more firmly into the seabed. This is called snubbing the anchor.

Making Sure You’re Anchored

To make sure you’ve anchored successfully, select a couple of stationary reference points on land. Note their positions relative to each other from your perspective, then reverse your boat until the rode straightens and allow your boat to drift back to a stationary position. The two objects you had your eye on should be in the same position relative to each other as they were before you reversed.

For peace of mind, we recommend taking compass bearings immediately after anchoring, and then 15-20 minutes after anchoring to make sure you’re anchored. For even more peace of mind, many GPS units have an alarm to alert you if you drift.

Anchoring Safety Tips

  • Be careful your hands or feet don’t get caught in the rode.
  • Wear a personal flotation device when dropping or retrieving an anchor.
  • Instruct passengers whenever you’ll be anchoring.
  • Keep kids and animals out of the anchoring area.
  • When using more than one anchor, do not drop an anchor from the stern before anchoring the bow – doing so could cause your boat to capsize.
  • To make sure you stay anchored during an overnight trip, try to find a stationary object that is lit to use as a reference point. Otherwise, use a GPS unit that will alert you if you start to drift.

Learn More: See how anchoring is different than mooring and docking.

To learn even more about anchoring your boat, we recommend talking to your local boating experts. The team here at Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC are here to help you anchor your new boat with confidence. Give us a call or stop by to learn more about how we can help you develop your boating skills.