Top tips for anchoring and mooring with care


Whether you choose to anchor or moor your boat, some seabed habitats may be sensitive to these activities. There are many simple things you can do to both prevent damage to your boat and reduce your impact on the environment too.

The work on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England has generated all sorts of points for debate and of particular interest to the RYA are the discussions around anchoring pressure and the provision of moorings.

Anchoring is an essential part of boating, whether you are stopping for lunch or sheltering from stormy conditions. There is evidence that anchoring can cause damage to sensitive seafloor plants and animals, particularly seagrass.

The RYA has been working with nature conservation bodies and other boating groups to develop some top tips for anchoring in areas where seagrass exists to help boaters preserve the marine environment they love.

Boaters can make sure that anchoring causes as little damage as possible to the seabed by following four simple steps:

  1. Choose an anchorage away from the most sensitive areas wherever possible (e.g. away from seagrass, reefs, shellfish beds, etc.).
  2. Deploy your anchor correctly to avoid drag:
    • Use the appropriate length of chain and warp. The correct length can help to reduce scouring of the seabed.
    • If your anchor is dragging, raise it and re-anchor.
    • If it continues to drag, choose a different anchorage.
  3. Even if you think the anchor is holding well, check it periodically to make sure it is not dragging
  4. Raise your anchor correctly when leaving:
    • Check to see how the boat is lying.
    • If the boat is pulling back away from the anchor, you may need to slowly motor towards the anchor as the crew pulls in the slack and raises the anchor.
    • Good crew communication is essential to avoid overrunning and fouling the prop.
    • Bring the anchor and line on-board, and stow it away ready for immediate redeployment.

What else can boaters do to help?

It’s also important to plan your approach with care to avoid damaging your boat, your pride and the seabed!

  1. Know your depth and draft - smaller craft can reach shallower areas.
  2. Check the tides - if in doubt slow down and use extra caution when boating on a low tide.
  3. If you run into a seagrass flat, you will leave a sediment trail behind your boat, making the water murky and probably cutting seagrass fronds or roots. Stop immediately and lift your engine. Paddle away until clear. Never use your engine to force your way through, it will damage the seagrass and your engine!
  4. If you run aground on seagrass, wait for the tide to lift you off again. Excessive use of the throttle in an effort to shift the boat will cause significant damage to the seagrass.

Conservation groups are increasingly recommending the use of eco-friendly moorings to reduce the pressure of anchoring on sensitive seafloor habitats however their limited deployment to date in UK waters means that knowledge of their suitability and practicality is minimal.

Essentially mooring systems that can be described as ‘eco-friendly’ are those that minimise the level of detrimental interaction with the seafloor and therefore the potential for damage to sensitive habitats.

There are no current legislative requirements to use EFMs, although licensing authorities, mooring providers and users are keen to explore the use of this technology further as a potential tool to help reduce impacts from boating activities (replacing conventional moorings and as an alternative to anchoring) on sensitive seabed habitats.

What appears to be less well understood is how these mooring systems compare in terms of operational effectiveness from the boaters perspective. For example, what size of boat can be safely moored using the different systems? How do the different systems behave across different tidal systems? What, if any, are the insurance implications of using the alternative systems over more traditional options?

The installation of a few test systems in Milford Haven in Wales highlighted a number of these issues when it became apparent that the technology was not designed to cope with the large tidal range and strong currents. It is possible therefore that further work is needed to adapt some of the existing models to cope with British conditions.

Finding out more

The RYA has been getting involved with a range of projects around the UK to improve our understanding of the efficacy of eco-mooring systems to make sure we can have an educated view.

Phil Horton, RYA Environment and Sustainability Manager, says: "Unlike traditional moorings, Environmentally friendly mooring systems are designed to avoid making contact with fragile seabed habitats, reducing the potential for damage caused by moving chains and gravity anchors.

"EFMs have become well established in both Australia and the USA, but have been slower to become established for use in the UK, partly due to the large tidal ranges seen in many areas. However, in recent years, various projects have taken place to trial EFMs and they have also been installed successfully by individuals for private use.

“The RYA is always keen to learn more about developing technologies that could help to minimise the impact boating could have on the marine environment. Whilst the safety of recreational boaters remains our primary concern, the protection of the marine environment is important to many of our members and it is essential that we can provide information to allow boaters to make educated choices.

"We are actively encouraging the boating community to contribute further input on EFM experiences and trials, and any documentation, reports or papers. Visit for more information and to take part."