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Anchoring 101
By Julie Shea
Posted on 3/16/2018 9:37 AM

Now that you’ve heard all about the wonderful things you can experience at anchor, you’re probably excited to get out there and explore. Not so fast…because you probably also heard all the cautionary tales about making sure you have done your homework.

Anchoring can be stressful - particularly in stormy conditions - if you aren’t comfortable with your abilities to set the anchor. And sometimes it’s not about your anchoring skills, but those of your neighbors in the anchorage.

Gold Loopers Scott & Karen DeVoll anchor out as often as possible and they encourage all boaters to learn more - even if you already anchor frequently. Read books; go to seminars offered at boat shows, AGLCA Rendezvous, cruisers associations or sailing clubs; watch You Tube videos. Then practice, practice, practice.
Anchorage off Manjack Cay
Seabed Conditions Affect Anchor Choice

Plan ahead so you know the conditions in which you will be anchoring. If the sea floor will be sand, mud or grass, know that different anchors will be better than others for each type of bottom.

If you haven’t listened to the podcasts with Rudy Sechez of Anchoring Consultants and Gold Looper, John Martin, catch them here. Both go into depth on how to choose the anchors for your Loop and both recommend having at least two anchors onboard.

Rudy notes most anchors will work well in sandy bottoms, while mud will likely require something 1-2 sizes larger. He recommends the only anchor to use in weeds are Fisherman Anchors.

John advises that you want a plow style anchor as your primary, such as Rocna anchors. These anchors will work well on most bottom types. More lightweight anchors will not be as effective when you are dealing with weeds, because they will tend to float on top.

Pick the Correct Anchor

More than one Looper has advised to calculate how large your anchor needs to be (based on the size of your boat) and then go bigger. The DeVolls recommend going up a size.

Ed Kelly, a Gold Looper who anchors frequently, says, “You’ll know you have a big enough anchor for cruising when your neighbor laughs at you and says it’s too big – but you will have the last laugh when a big storm comes and you are well prepared and safe when others are not.”

Know that often, you get what you pay for. The DeVolls noted, “One thing we learned was that a replica of a name brand anchor may not work as well as the original.”

Anchor Rode / Ground Tackle

Whether or not you have enough rode can make or break your anchoring experience. If the anchor can’t reach the bottom, it’s not going to do you much good. When deciding on how much rode you need, Rudy advises keeping these things in mind: water depth, Freeboard height, tide, depth the anchor buries, and waves/storms.

Generally speaking, John notes you want at least a ratio of 7:1, but will need more like 10:1 if you are in stormy or windy conditions. You will want some combination of chain and rope, depending on conditions to prevent chaff.

The DeVolls added, “The strength of your whole system is only as strong as your weakest link. Make sure your whole system matches in size and strength.” Make sure you have the proper size shackle or swivel for the anchor and rode you are using.
Covered Portage Anchorage
Set Your Anchor

There are different techniques for each style of anchoring. Learn each of the techniques and practice them until you feel comfortable with the process before you head out onto the Loop. The stronger your anchoring skills are, the more relaxed you will be in the anchorage.

Many Loopers who anchor frequently have a story about a boat in the anchorage that they knew was going to drag after watching them attempt to set the anchor. The DeVolls shared an example when a 50’ sport fishing boat entered their anchorage:

“They were the perfect example of how not to anchor. First they had 2 anchors, both too small for their 50 ft boat. They deployed the first anchor unsuccessfully several times. It was easy to see why they were having problems. First they had no chain and second the Captain was backing down on the anchor so fast it didn’t have a chance to set. Finally they got the first anchor set. Scott called them on the radio and offered to come with the dinghy to place the second anchor. They declined. For about another hour and a half they attempted to deploy the second anchor with no success. Problems were, it was a smaller anchor than the first, had no chain, the rode they were using was dock lines tied together and the same overpowering technique was used. They tried all different configurations with no success. Finally they got the second anchor set, but they were nervous about it and rightly so. One of them sat on the bow watching it for hours and faithfully checked it. The evening went fairly well. About midnight, we heard yelling and we were both out of bed in a shot. Their anchors gave way. The wind was howling, they had their engine running and spent the rest of the night desperately trying to re anchor. They had the place lit up like a nighttime work zone and lots of yelling, due to wind and frustration. They, and we, had a very long night.”

Needless to say, the DeVolls’ anchors held tight the whole night.

Moiles Anchorage in the North Channel
If you missed it, check out the members only March Newsletter for more on anchoring. If you aren’t yet a member, join us today for all the information you need to complete your own Great Loop!

Photos courtesy of Scott & Karen DeVoll



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