Anchoring out is one of the most rewarding parts of cruising on a sailboat. But with that reward comes some challenges and responsibilities when you get into the anchorage. Here are three tips for anchoring to help you calmly get set and stay set for the night or week.
1. Take Your Time: We have all been sitting in an anchorage and watched another boat hastily pull in, drop the hook and some rode, turn the engine off and then go down below without much care. On a light wind day and night that might be fine but you never know when the wind might come up or what might happen when the tide swings you around.
In the name of safety for you and the other boats anchored near you, it is important to take your time when setting your anchor for the night. Once you’ve dropped your hook and a sufficient amount of scope, put the engine in reverse and back down on the anchor for a solid minute or two. On our boat, a good 1200 rpms of reverse in light wind will pull back enough against the chain and anchor to get it set. Then, with the engine still in reverse, watch the rode for vibration and take a good range or transit on shore to make sure that you are not dragging. Once your engine is shut down, sit in the cockpit, take a few more ranges and watch how the boat swings with the wind and current.
2. Communicate Without Yelling: Another common occurrence when anchoring is the boat that comes in and the person at the helm is yelling at the person at the bow, or visa versa. Sure, when the wind is blowing and the engine is on it can be difficult to hear from one side of the boat to the other, especially on a large vessel. But yelling in general is a bit unnerving and doing so while setting the hook shouldn’t be necessary.
To eliminate the need to yell back and forth, set up a system of hand signals to help get the job done and agree on them before getting into the anchorage. Create engine signals for neutral, reverse and forward; and signals that let the helmsperson know when the anchor is on or off the bottom. Also, a signal for “stop the boat” is helpful too.
3. Set A Snubber: I heard a story the other day about a boat that didn’t have a snubber set and when the wind started blowing a gale in the middle of the night their forward bulkhead was badly damaged by the force from the shock loads put on the chain and windlass. Sure, that is a bit extreme, but it happens, and setting a snubber to ensure it doesn’t isn’t difficult.
A snubber is a piece of three strand or double braid line used to take up slack on the chain to absorb the shock created by the boat being pushed back by the wind or current. A simple snubber is a length of line with a hook or clip that attaches to a link on the chain. You can also buy shock absorbers to fit on the line or make a bridal that attaches to either side of your bow. However you choose to snub up your anchor chain, it is always a good idea.
By Andrew Cross