Are you new to the world of boating and wondering how to anchor a boat the right way? If so, keep reading. Below we have put together a comprehensive guide on everything boat anchors including step-by-step instructions on how to anchor a boat the right way. There's a lot you'll need to learn before you set out onto sea so buckle up and let's get started!
What Does a Boat Anchor Do?
Before we get into the step-by-step instructions on how to anchor a boat you'll want to know a little more about anchors and what they do. One of the easiest ways to think about a boat anchor is like an emergency brake on a car. If you're parked on a hill, you likely want to use your emergency brake in case your car rolls. The same is true for boats and anchors. When a boat is in the water, it has the tendency to sway and move with the currents and the wind. If you want to prevent your boat from drifting away, you use an anchor.
An anchor works by digging into the seabed floor with various shaped prongs and hooks. If you own a boat, you should always have an anchor because they do much more than just keep you from drifting away from the docks while moored. Anchors are also a great safeguard against rocks and other shallow terrains that may damage your boat.
It's important to note that there are many different shapes, sizes, and types of anchors meant to do different things. To figure out which anchor you need for your boat and boating location, keep reading.
Which Anchor Is Right for You?
As we mentioned above, there are many different types of anchors, and if you want to learn how to anchor a boat correctly, it's important that you select the right anchor for your individual boat and boating conditions. When it comes to selecting an anchor, you'll want to start by assessing your boat size, wind conditions, and the depth of the environment.
One of the easiest ways to figure out what type and size you need are to contact the manufacturer of your boat. Most boats will either come with an anchor or have various recommendations in the user manual.
An aspect that's often overlooked by beginners is the fact that you should have more than one anchor and each anchor should have a specific purpose. It's not about having backups in the case that your rope snags and breaks (yes, this can actually happen), but you ideally should have one main anchor, one designated for storm conditions, and one lunch hook for quick stops. Your storm anchor should be a size or two larger than your main anchor, and the lunch hook will be one or two sizes smaller than your main anchor.
When you take a look at the different types of anchors below, you'll need to know a bit about their shapes and what they're best suited for. In general, there are four different shapes that anchors can be. These shapes include kedge, plow, Danforth, and mushroom. A kedge anchor has the traditional anchor shape that you see on large vessels and in many movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Many beginners opt for kedge anchors because they're most recognizable; however, they're not suited for everything.
Types of Anchors
If you fail to select the right anchor for your boat and boating situation, you can end up in more trouble than you would expect. Not only do you risk drifting out to sea, but you could damage your boat, other boats, and sea creatures if you use anchors the wrong way. Before we get into how to anchor a boat, you'll want to avoid any serious mishaps by taking a look at the standard types of anchors below:
Fluke anchors are always in a Danforth shape, meaning it has two sharp prongs surrounding the long metal hook. This style of anchor is perfect if you're planning to dock or anchor your boat in sand or mud. Fluke anchors are relatively lightweight, which makes them easy to move around.
If you need an anchor to hook into harder terrain, you'll want to opt for a different type of anchor. Additionally, when dropping fluke anchors into the water you want to make sure there isn't a strong current because fluke anchors have the tendency to sail through the water instead of sink in adverse conditions.
Plow anchors look exactly as you'd expect they would: like a plow. Plow anchors are not meant for hard bottom surfaces but can reset themselves in the case of an upset. We recommend using plow anchors for grass bottoms, but they will be harder to stow than their lightweight alternatives. If you put this type of anchor on a bow roller, you'll have no problem bringing it up.
A claw anchor, also known as a Manta anchor, is designed to keep North Sea Rigs from moving. What's great about claw anchors is that they reset themselves if tripped, but they shouldn't be used for bottoms with hard materials such as rocks. Claw anchors also shouldn't be used in heavy grass as they have the tendency to foul.
Other Helpful Anchors
Aside from the anchors we discussed above, there are a few other anchors that are helpful to have, depending on your individual situation. If you're trying to anchor somewhere with a hard bottom and not much to hold on to, you'll want to look into grapnel anchors to hook into tighter spaces. Another anchor we recommend is the standard grapple. Grapples can be used for a number of things, including rescuing lost ropes, untangling lines, and more.
Other Necessary Supplies
When it comes to purchasing an anchor, you also want to ensure you have the proper equipment to use and stow it. One of the things we see overlooked too often is the use of incorrectly sized deck cleats and anchor rollers. Deck cleats and anchor rollers should be sized to each individual anchor it's being used on. If you use the incorrect size, you can end up damaging your goat, the anchor, or losing your equipment out at sea.
Not only do you want to keep deck cleats and anchor rollers in mind but you also want to choose the correct anchor line. If you opt for a rope that's too thin or too thick, you can end up losing your anchor to the sea. We recommend looking for nylon-based ropes due to their durability and flexibility in the water. That being said, if you opt for nylon rode you'll need to replace it every few years especially if you're using it in salt water.
What Headaches Can Crop Up Anchoring
One of the biggest headaches that can occur when anchoring a boat is what's called rode fouling. Rode fouling almost always occurs because an inexperienced captain is trying to set an anchor with their boat off. As you'll learn in the step-by-step instructions below, you have to continuously move and straighten out your boat in order to get your anchor to truly set with a safe and durable hold. The rode becomes fouled when all of the rope piles directly on top of the anchor in a large and snag-worthy pile.
If you have a large boat, you're likely going to need a large anchor. This can become a headache for people that aren't as strong as others, so make sure you have the equipment you need to keep you and the other members onboard safe at all times. If you fear the anchor and rode are too heavy for you to handle, there are some automated options available in place of the manual method. That being said, in the case of emergencies it's always a good idea to have someone on board that can manually lift and drop an anchor if need be.
How to Anchor a Boat
Step One: Choosing an Anchor Spot
The first step to learning how to anchor a boat the right way is to assess which spot would be the best for your boat and anchor. A good rule of thumb is to always bring a chart with you that shows the depth of the water in your location as well as the currents. Your goal is to find somewhere with a flat bottom and that's ideal for your anchor type, whether it be sand, mud, dirt, grass, or rocks. Make a point of avoiding areas with strong currents to make anchoring easier and quicker.
When selecting a spot for your boat, it's important that you measure the depth and multiply it by seven in order to account for drifting, wind, and current changes. If you see that your radius may intersect with another boat or anchorage, you'll want to choose another location. You may need to visit more than one location and test the depth in order to determine if it's an adequate spot. That being said, don't be afraid to circle a couple of choices on your map that are free from the influence of strong elements.
Step Two: Stop, Check, and Think
The next step is to stop, check, and think about your surroundings. The first thing you'll want to check at this stage is the weather. Weather, especially in certain parts of the world, can change at the drop of a hat, so make sure to make a habit of checking the conditions thoroughly and often. It's also a great idea to have an application that allows you to check the tide information in your area. This is especially pertinent if you're going to be anchored in a single location for more than two hours at a time.
After you've stopped and checked out the potential conditions in your area, you'll want to think about which anchor is best for this situation. If you're only going to be anchored for two hours, you can use your lunch hook, depending on the bottom conditions. If you're anchoring overnight, you'll likely want to use your main anchor and storm anchor for added safety.
Step Three: Approach From Downwind
For the third step on how to anchor a boat, approach the specified spot from downwind. The reason you want to approach it from downwind is that you'll be placing your boat directly on the anchorage spot and then allowing the wind to slowly push you backward. Once the spot is visible, you can move on to the next steps.
Step Four: Let Your Line Out
Step four of learning how to anchor a boat the right way is to let your line out. Make sure that you know exactly how much line is needed; otherwise you'll end up with tangles or a lost anchor. This is where you'll want to use your cleat hitch to ensure everything is secure at distance. As long as you measure your line starting at the bow of your boat and not the water's surface, you'll have no trouble determining how much is needed.
Step Five: Drop Anchor
We're finally to the point where you can drop your anchor. For this step, you don't want to just toss it overboard like you may have seen in Hollywood movies. Instead, take your anchor and slowly lower it into the water over the front side of your boat. You never want to drop your anchor out the stern of your boat unless it's your storm anchor. Don't let the rope have too much slack as you go down because it can snag on objects as it makes it way down.
Step Six: Straighten Out
Once your anchor is on its way down, you'll want to start straightening out your boat. You will ideally do this step once your rode is 1/3 of the way down. Straightening your boat out is a necessary step that ensures your rode is tight and that your anchor is secured on the bottom. If you don't straighten out, you'll risk losing your anchorage and drifting out to sea.
Step Seven: Scope and Tie
Your next steps are going to be a continuation of step six. Continue to straighten out your boat and let out more rope as you let the current and winds push you backward. Continue this process until the entire length of your rope has been let out. All you'll need to do now is tie off that line around your bow cleat and move on to double checks. It doesn't hurt to tug on your line here to ensure everything is as taut as it needs to be. If the line feels lose you may want to try straightening out again or resetting your anchor.
Step Eight: Double Checks
Step eight is where you'll be double checking all of your handiwork. The first step to double checking is to look for reference points. A reference point can be two trees in the distance an equal distance apart. Choose your points and move your boat as needed to ensure you're in the right place throughout your anchorage.
The second option for double checking your anchor is to snub. Snubbing is where you turn on the engine and put the boat into reverse to further set the anchor into place. Once your rode is straight and taut, you can kill the engine and consider it safe.
Step Nine: Final Maintenance
One of the last steps that many people overlook is to check your compass frequently. When it dark outside you may not be able to see your reference points so make sure that you always have a compass handy and that you check it often. If you've set your anchor correctly, you won't notice a change in your location during the entirety of your stay.
That being said, if you haven't anchored things correctly or the conditions are getting poor, you'll notice a change in your original location in as little as 15 minutes. If you're staying anchored overnight, it's a good idea to take shifts with the people on board to wake up and check your compass throughout the night for ultimate safety. Trust us when we say you'd be surprised by how far you can drift out to sea in a matter of a few hours.
When you're a new boat owner, there are a ton of things to learn to keep you and your boat safe. Learning how to anchor a boat may seem like an easy task to some, but it truly does take a lot of knowledge, skill, and practice in order to perform with ease. That being said, don't worry if it takes you more than one time to set your anchor correctly. Even some of the most experienced sailors struggle with anchoring based on the number of variants involved.
At the end of the day, as long as you follow the advice and steps above, you'll have no problem completing a safe and successful voyage. Best of luck and bon voyage!
Featured Image Source: Unsplash