Most of the accidents we deal with are linked to unstable anchoring. People think that this is simple, yet problems can come quickly and unnoticed.
If you want to have confident nights waking up fresh and knowing you’ll be right where you expect to be when you wake up in the morning, this article is just right for you 🙂
1. Choosing a right place to anchor.
Perhaps a most important of all. Sometimes you come to a bay or a port with an idea already in mind, but you decide to change it right after. Why do you think is that?
Well, there is almost no perfect spot. Each anchorage is open and therefore vulnerable to a certain wind direction. You need to know the forecast and find some information about the potential anchorages (depth, bottom type).
Some anchorages have challenging bottoms, knowing what to expect will help you to choose a right approach. In a pleasant weather condition, you might do fine in places with poor holding or in otherwise vulnerable places.
And yes, the sea tide! Especially in areas with significant tides (luckily not in Croatia :)), makes sure you know the lowest and highest tide levels and that you will still be floating even on a low one.
2. Look around you. Can you see how are the other boats anchored?
This is a tough part, especially in crowded places. Your position on an anchor will change over time as well as others. You might have seen it already in busy ports of Hvar or Rogoznica during summer months, that all boats change positions almost simultaneously as the wind changes.
Don’t forget that boats that are hooked to a mooring will rotate differently as well as the ones using two anchors, one at the stern and one at the bow.
Are you in a false circle? When parking your boat on a see or in a busy port, it is very important to make sure you are within a safe zone, also so-called a false space. Imagine your boat can move in both directions, driven by a stream or a wind. Make sure there are no other objects within this circle, other anchored boats, shallow spot or buoys.
There is a frequent practice that the length of your chain should be around 5x the sea depth. So, if the sea is 3 meters deep you should drop around 15 meters of your chain. If you are using rope instead of the chain the distance should be 7x the sea depth. But why do you think is that?
Some people believe that chain will add some weight and your anchor will hold better. Well, not true! An anchor functions by digging in while it’s being pulled along. When increasing the distance of the chain you as well lower the angle and have a better chance that anchor will hold to the seabed.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible and in crowded places, you might need to go lower than this. An absolute minimum ratio is 3:1.
3. Using 2 anchors
There are times when you might need to use the second anchor. Especially strong wind or a current might put a lot of pressure on a single anchor, making your boat vulnerable. There are many ways to use the second anchor.
You might drop an anchor on a second rope from the bow at an angle of 25 degrees so your boat can stay with a bow in windward position.
There is also an interesting practice by dropping the second anchor on the same anchoring rope acting as a tandem with the big main anchor and providing a counterweight especially during intense winds (bura). Drop the second anchor around 8 meters behind the main anchor.
There might also be an occasion where there is no space and you must fix your boat, reducing any movements to a minimum. You might consider fixing your boat ashore. Always make sure the main anchor is fixed first and is holding well at a good angle.
4. Testing the anchor
Actually, a very few people do so, but you might want to test your anchor first before jumping to the water or going ashore. So how do you know that you will hold still?
Once the rode is laid out correctly, tie off rope rode or attach a chain hook to the chain (you don’t want to pull directly on the windlass).
The person at the bow should signal the to the skipper to slowly start to bring up the power in reverse. This needs to be a slow process as you want the anchor to orient itself and get a grip on the seabed.
You can look sideways to find a “range:” two objects, one close and one far, which will show if the boat is moving backward.
You can now apply more power and watch the range closely. As the power increases to full reverse, you should feel the chain vibrating a bit. It should then stop and hold still.
Apply full power for 15 seconds and after you tested that you’re well attached, gradually let off the power.
A short tip at the end. When your boat is having electrical anchor winch, be careful when using it as it consumes a lot of electricity. Many crews could not start their engine because their previous attempts lifting the anchor exhausted all their batteries.