I went cruising this past weekend and anchored out two nights—one in Newport, and one in Block Island. As always, anchoring seems to be a skill that a lot of sailors have trouble with. We sat and watched a little monohull start dragging across the mooring field and end up tangled against the side of a very big fancy motor boat. Bad form. Expensive… The harbor master, Sea Tow, etc., congregated and took the boat away. Someone was going to have a really bad weekend.
Anchoring really comes down to two things. You have to understand that in order to work, your anchor rode needs to be horizontal to the bottom, not vertical. This doesn’t change. Numbers like 5:1 rode to depth are thrown around, but erring for more rode is never a bad idea. So you need a spot to anchor that allows you to put out enough rode. Chain helps to lay the rode down. Wind is a variable. So is current. And always assume that everyone around you has not read the book on anchoring!
The other key thing about anchoring well is to decide where you want your boat after everything is set. You have to be able to put your anchor where it needs to be so that when all is settled, the boat sits where you wanted it. This part isn’t always easy, and it takes experience. You also need to back down on your anchor to set it in, and put on whatever bridle you use, which generally adds another 20′ to the proceedings! Having confidence in your anchoring skills lets you enjoy sailing so much more, and actually helps you sleep at night. Be smart. Choose well. Think it through.