Things to think about when anchoring

From types of anchor and choosing an anchor, to parts of anchor and letting go and pulling up

From type of anchor and things to consider when buying an anchor, to parts of an anchor and letting go and pulling up

Types of anchor

There are several different types of anchor that might be on the boat together with the chain and warp.


Before choosing an anchor consider:

  • The kind of bottom you will typically anchor in. Different anchors are better at holding in some materials than in others.
  • Decide what kind of anchoring you plan to do; do you just want to anchor while you have a spot of lunch or are you expecting to anchor in a high current, or during bad weather?
  • How are you planning to store your anchor?  

Parts of an anchor

  • Shank – the main arm or stem of the anchor
  • Fluke – the holding part of the anchor buried on the seabed
  • Stock – cross-bar used to flip an anchor so the fluke digs into the seabed
  • Crown – where shank and fluke are connected
  • Tripping ring – for breaking the anchor out with a tripping line    

How much warp or chain?

The amount of chain and warp used must be far more than the depth of water to allow a good length of chain to lie on the seabed.  This provides a horizontal pull on the anchor that makes it dig in.  If too little scope is let out the boat may drag its anchor at high water.  By marking the chain and warp in some way makes it easier to prepare the correct amount.  

  • Secure holding requires sufficient scope on the anchor warp or chain, which needs to lay along the bottom, before rising to meet the yacht at an approximate angle of 45 degrees.  

With chain, use four times the maximum depth and with a combination of chain and warp use six times.  This means that it is important to allow plenty of room behind the boat when anchoring and for the swing, remembering that not all boat will turn at the same time.  Yachts will lie with the tidal stream and motor boats more often to the wind.    

The warp or chain is usually measured in either metres or feet.  Let out enough scope for the maximum depth at high tide, using the following a minimum guide:

  • 4 x maximum depth for chain
  • 6 x maximum depth for warp and chain  

Heavy chain will provide greater security than warp, but puts a lot of weight into the bows and may be difficult to let go or pull up by hand.          


Letting go and pulling up by hand

REMEMBER: Anchors and chains are potentially dangerous.  Wear gloves and sensible footwear.  Keep fingers and hands away from moving chain.  

Some boaters use an electric windlass to drop and pull up their anchor however if you don’t have an electric windlass you need to let go and pull the anchor up by hand.  Heavy chain needs to be handled with extreme care.  The skipper should have the engine running, ready to motor forward or astern if required.  

Letting go:

  • Pull the chain up out of the anchor locker and flake it along the deck in a series of loops, which will provide sufficient scope for the depth of water
  • Before lowering, take a single turn of the chain around the nearest deck cleat to ensure you can hold the weight – extra turns will quickly lock the chain
  • Let out the chain steadily hand-over-hand.  Letting the chain run at full speed over the bow roller could be dangerous  

Pulling up:

  • When raising the anchor motor slowly ahead as the crew pull in the slack on the chain
  • Use the engine to counteract the tidal stream.  Too fast and the boat will override the chain; too slow and it will be very heavy work to pull in the chain.  The anchor will not come free until the chain is almost vertical
  • As the anchor comes to the surface continue to motor slowly so the anchor does not swing and hit the bow of the boat as it breaks the surface  

If there is a problem with lifting the anchor then try breaking it out using the engine, having secured the chain to a cleat.  

When working with the anchor and chain it is important to be aware of the weight that can be involved, even when a windlass is used.  

For advice on using a windlass to drop and pull up your anchor read the RYA’s Yacht Sailing Techniques book by Jeremy Evans.  

Vaughan Marsh, RYA Chief Instructor, Sail Cruising comments: “All of the above is really good advice and the RYA’s recognised training centres that offer cruising courses will also be able to give you further advice, or you may wish to sign up for a practical course and put the theory in to practice! Happy anchoring.”   

Extracts and information taken from RYA Day Skipper Handbook – Sail, by Sara Hopkinson and RYA Yacht Sailing Techniques, by Jeremy Evans.  To pick up a copy of these and other great RYA Publications visit the RYA Shop

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