A secure anchorage?

Information on anchoring and a secure anchorage, dropping an anchor, raising the anchor and how to find out if the anchor is holding.

Dropping the hook and staying put.

Dropping the anchor

Brief the crew on how to anchor and prepare the foredeck. If you have a windlass make sure it is switched on and ensure the crew know how to use it.

If you are not using a windlass consider flaking the chain out on the deck first. Disconnect ties or pins securing the anchor.

Point the boat into the strongest element (wind or current) and stop the boat. Lower the anchor to the bottom before the boat moves backwards. 

Continue easing the scope as the boat drifts back.

If the conditions are calm, use tick-over astern to reverse.

Once the anchor is laid and the cable secured, momentarily engage tick-over astern to ensure good holding.

A windlass is rarely designed to take the load of a boat at anchor, so use a chain hook or attach a separate warp to the chain and lead to a cleat or strongpoint.

Tip - Avoid dropping all of the chain at once, as the chain lands on top of the anchor and fouls it.

Are you holding?

Once the anchor is down, choose a transit abeam (two points in line) to check the anchor is holding and the boat is not drifting. At the change of the tide and at nightfall, be prepared to pick new transits. Echo sounder and GPS alarms can be set to alert you of depth or position changes.

If the wind increases, let out more cable to relieve the load on the anchor and to keep the pull as near horizontal as possible. A horizontal pull helps dig the anchor in further, whereas a vertical pull lifts the anchor out.

Once you are sure the anchor is holding, hoist the anchor ball or use an anchor light.

Raising the anchor

It is useful to know where the anchor is laying as you motor up to it - ask the crew to point in the direction of the chain. If the anchorage is muddy, a bucket and brush may be required; some boats have an anchor wash system.

Communication at either end of the boat can be difficult and hand signals are useful, but ensure that both crew and helm understand the signals.

Slowly motor towards the anchor whilst the crew takes in the slack. If you motor too fast and the cable may end up around the prop or rudders.

A near vertical pull is required to free the anchor.

Stay in sheltered water while the anchor and chain is put away.

If you are pulling up the chain by hand it can be heavy work. Consider pulling half up and then share the load by swapping with another crew member.

Breaking out

If the anchor will not budge; secure the cable and motor forwards to break the anchor out.

When leaving an anchorage, wash off both the anchor and chain before storing them to minimise the spread of invasive aquatic species.

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