A safe anchorage?

How to find a safe place to anchor for your yacht, dinghy or motor boat

Selecting a good place to anchor.

Selecting an anchorage

Quite often anchoring is free and you can anchor nearly anywhere so long as you are not getting in anyone's way. Pilot books, local charts and notices to mariners may identify places which offer good holding or have any seasonal, geographical or special anchorage restrictions in place.

  • Select an anchorage protected from the wind and swell. Ideally, the wind will be blowing out of the anchorage.
  • Observe how other vessels are lying or assess the conditions of wind and tide to decide how you will lay.
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1) Initially this anchorage would provide adequate shelter from the present wind direction although it may be prone from swell coming around the headland.

2) This anchorage would offer shelter from the present and forecast wind. It may be a bit rolly due to the sea rebounding off the downwind cliff when the wind changes.

3) This anchorage, although open offers good protection from both winds and offers an escape route if required.

Always make sure you have a good look at the chart to check that there are no obstructions on the seabed.

Tripping lines

If you are anchoring in uncertain areas or over foul ground a tripping line can be used. They are often buoyed lines attached to the forward edge of the anchor to help raise it if it's snagged. Ensure the first part of the line is weighted to keep the line below the surface, away from propellers. A buoyed tripping line indicates the anchors position, but can also catch around keels and props.


Raising a fouled anchor by the tripping line should clear the obstruction


Swinging circle

When selecting your exact anchorage bear in mind that all boats lay differently to the wind or stream, therefore allow enough swinging room. Yachts with deep keels will lay with the stream whereas flat-bottomed motorboats often lay to the wind.

More scope increases the swinging circle as does low water, so ensure the maximum swinging circle clears obstructions.


Using two anchors

Boats should have two sets of anchor and cable; a large one at the bow (bower anchor), and a smaller one kept in a locker for emergencies (kedge). The second anchor is used to increase holding power in heavy weather or to reduce the swinging circle taken up in an anchorage. To reduce the swinging circle the second anchor can be used in many different ways. For example:

  • When one anchor is dropped from the bow and the other from the stern it should keep the boat in line with a river or in a small deep hole in which you are anchoring.
  • Two anchors dropped from the bow will increase holding power and also reduce the swinging circle especially in shifting wind.


Next month we will look at Dropping the Hook and Staying Put.

Compiled and edited by Simon Jinks - RYA Yachtmaster™ Examiner and Journalist