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Learning to Set and Retrieve an Anchor Is an Important Safe Boating Skill

Follow these easy tips to avoid common anchoring mistakes.
Boating Safety

I'm the guy that didn’t heed the warning to never anchor by the stern.  Sure, I’d heard the warning plenty of times, but nobody ever told me why.  After all, it seemed so convenient, and that cleat on the port quarter was in the perfect spot.  Oh yeah, this'll be fine.  Or so I thought.  Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones and didn’t lose the boat.

I’ve since learned that anchoring by the stern has caused many boats – small boats especially – to capsize and sink. The reason is that the transom is usually squared off and has less freeboard than the bow. Plus the stern may be carrying the added weight of a motor, fuel tank, passengers and gear brought on board.  In a strong current, that added weight and the force of the water could pull the stern under. Anchoring at the stern also makes the boat vulnerable to swamping by wave action.

Boaters make a lot of anchoring mistakes and it’s a matter of debate as to which occur most often.  Just ask the guy who threw his anchor over the side without first attaching it to the line.  Or the guy who fumbled the anchor and punched a hole in the bottom of his boat.  Or the one that simply dropped it on his foot.  All would agree that boat operators should be very careful when anchoring their boat.

I will argue that the most important thing to remember is never to anchor from the stern – although I must admit that tossing your anchor in the drink without first attaching it to the boat will make you feel pretty foolish. 

That reminds me; keeping a spare anchor on board is not a bad idea either.

Easy Anchoring

Knowing how to anchor safely is an important seamanship skill that every boat operator needs to master.  There are certainly going to be times when you’ll want to stop in a sheltered spot for swimming, fishing, lunch, or an overnight stay.  But in bad weather, or if you experience engine failure, the only alternative to setting the anchor may be washing ashore or drifting out to sea. Anchoring is an easy task if you follow these guidelines:

Boating Safety

1. Location: Choose an Area Clear of Boats and Underwater Obstacles.
Decide on an area to drop anchor that is clear of other vessels and any obstacles. Be sure to check your chart to make sure there are no cables, wrecks or obstructions on the bottom to foul your line.  Determine the water depth and type of bottom (preferably sand or mud).  Calculate the amount of anchor line you will need to let out. The general rule is five to seven times as much line as the depth of water plus the distance from the surface of the water to where the anchor will attach to the bow. For example, if the water is eight feet deep and it is two feet from the surface of the water to your bow cleat, you would multiply 10 feet by 5 or 7 to get the amount of anchor line to put out. Secure your anchor to the bow cleat at the point on the line where you want it to stop. Then, with your boat heading into the wind (or current, if that is stronger) move into the area, put your engine in idle and bring your boat to a stop with the bow just forward of where you intend to drop anchor.

Dano (not verified)
Feb 2, 2012

How do people anchor in deep water. Like 100 feet or more? Seems like at the 7 to 10 ratio that would be a lot of rope.

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