Anchoring can be daunting, but once achieved can make for some of the most relaxing trips on board. Read our simple guide to anchoring for some useful tips

Although there are many ways, tips and tricks for anchoring, this basic anchoring technique generally works very well. Here’s a brief outline of how to do it:

  • Head to wind to stop the boat, and put yourself firmly in control of the speed and manoeuvring.
  • Lower the anchor using a windlass or slowly by hand.
  • Let the boat ease backwards, letting out the chain as she goes.
  • Ensure a good holding by going gently astern once the anchor has held.
  • Engage a chain hook or attach a separate rope (warp) from the chain to a cleat to take the pressure off the windlass.
  • Take a bearing and set an anchor alarm.

All seabeds will take an anchor differently, and their hardness and strength will determine the setting and holding of the anchor, so before dropping the hook it’s worth having a look at what the chart says. The majority of seabeds will be one of the following:

Clay: holds anchors really well, although if the clay is particularly hard then the anchor may not be able to dig in.

Gravel: won’t hold the anchor very well, as it is easy for the anchor to slip through.

Mud: usually holds and sets the anchor well, as long as it’s not too soft. Large fluked anchors offer the best resistance.

Rocky: these are best avoided as the anchor won’t set, until it finally jams, and then can’t be recovered. Traditional fisherman’s or grapnel style anchors are best here.

Sand: fairly good holding as long as the sand is soft. Lightweight and flat design anchors may have trouble breaking the surface though.

Silt: between sand and mud in particle size, this offers the best holding material for anchoring.

Weed: this is the worst material for anchoring, and should be avoided if possible. The anchor won’t be able to work through the weed to the bottom, and won’t be able to set.

Don’t anchor on a lee shore. If the anchor drags, you will be blown onto the land, and you could be caught short, especially when the tide goes out. Be sure to anchor on a weather shore, with the wind blowing off the land.

Be sure to check the charts before you drop the hook. Charts will tell you where anchor restrictions apply. An anchor on the chart marks a popular anchorage, while an anchor with a cross through it means anchoring is prohibited.

Check the tides to be sure you’ll still have enough depth at low water, and enough chain let out at high water. You need a minimum of four times the depth of chain let out. Mark the chain before each season with coloured silk ties, or paint on the chain itself with a marking system for every 5m you’ll remember.

Once anchored, take a bearing of the land and pick a spot to compare to your holding. Keep an eye on that mark, and as long as it remains in the same place, your anchor is not dragging. GPS anchor alarms are a boon here, giving peace of mind – especially at night, when it can be disorientating looking for your bearing on the land.

Display an anchor ball in daylight, and a white light at night when at anchor to let other craft know you are not underway.

Be sure to leave enough room between yourself and other vessels. When the tide turns, the boats will swing, so try to leave enough room to accommodate yours and their swinging.

How to raise the anchor:

  • Get the crew to point in the direction of the chain as you motor up to it
  • Motor slowly to the anchor, with the crew steadily taking in the chain as you go
  • If it won’t budge, motor forwards to pull it out of its lodging
  • Make sure the anchor and all chain are back onboard before motoring away

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