Anchor Safely

Many more people are turning to sailing and motor boating to get away from it all, but a crowded marina isn’t necessarily going to provide the looked for tranquillity. Marinas can be very social and fun places, with facilities for repairs, showers,shops and restaurants, but there will come a time when you want to get yourself off to a secluded bay somewhere that doesn’t have pontoons to tie up to. Which means you’re going to have to use the anchor on the boat; there’s nearly always a risk of it dragging, the boat will swing as the wind and tide, or currents, change. The depth of water may fluctuate and getting ashore means using a tender.

Planning where to anchor on the chart, or from a pilot book is the first job, then assessing the anchorage itself on arrival is important too. Motor around and assess the shelter, depths and nature of the sea bed. Understanding your equipment and how to set the anchor is very important, then what to do if the weather cuts up rough. There are other issues too from maintaining electrical power for engine starting if you’re going to be there a while, communication, getting ashore and crucially getting back. Wind generators and solar panels are always a good idea for anyone intending to anchor out for long periods and a reliable outboard motor for the tender. Large drinking water tanks are a good idea too. Then there’s always the business of getting the anchor back up, which can be simple, but isn’t always. Sometimes the anchor or the chain become fouled and bring up debris, occasionally the anchor is so trapped it won’t come up at all.

Most sailing courses teach the basics of anchoring, in other words how much scope to deploy and that’s about it, but there’s a whole lot to learn and books on the subject are few and far between.

If you plan to anchor frequently and particularly if you expect to remain at anchor for extended periods it’s a good idea to do some research and get some advanced knowledge of all the problems that can arise, not to mention how to go about doing things correctly. Getting it wrong can be costly, even dangerous and it’s nearly always embarrassing. Sadly, it’s rare these days to find a completely deserted anchorage and sometimes you can feel the eyes of other yachtsmen upon you, scrutinising your every move as you arrive and anchor.