Sailing Tips: Anchoring

Boats are built for movement and will always resist being tethered to one spot. Keeping them in one place is a real skill. The right anchor must be chosen and maintained with care, and techniques must be learned and refined.

How many anchors?

The anchor ,and all the gear attached to it, are called ground tackle. Each component must offer an ample margin of strength to avoid a weak link. Start by choosing your anchors. If you daysail or race, and return to your mooring within a couple of hours, you can manage with one anchor. Roaming further afield will require two anchors and serious cruisers will need three.

Which anchor?

The bower is your main anchor, and is kept ready for immediate use at the bow. It should be strong enough to hold your boat overnight in moderate conditions. Your second anchor, called a kedge, should be a lightweight back up. The last anchor is the sheet, your heaviest anchor for storms and bad weather conditions.

Choose the anchor according to the worst conditions you are most likely to anchor in – erring on the side of caution for safety. You can check with the manufacturer’s tables for the correct anchor weight.

Types of anchor

Fisherman – a classic anchor with pick axe flukes. One of the few anchors that can grip rocky bottoms and thick grass. Although powerful and heavy, its difficult to handle and stow.

Danforth – a lightweight anchor for its holding power. Great for thick mud, sand, clay and gravel, but not ideal for weeds and rocks. It will stow flat on deck and is a good all round anchor.

Plow – resembling the farmers plow, this anchor buries its way in. Although heavier than the danforth, it holds as well in the same conditions and has a better chance of staying in if the boat swings. Plows don’t work well in rocks or weeds and are difficult to stow.

Whichever anchor you choose, it will be shackled to a chain, nylon line, or a combination of the two. A chain is chafeproof and its weight holds it to the bottom. But that same weight restricts its use to larger boats. It’s hard to handle without a winch and can be messy and expensive.

Nylon line (or rode) is light and easy to handle. It doesn’t bring up any bottom grime but can chafe. Since a line’s elasticity is of the utmost importance, use only twisted (not braided) line and avoid line which is too thick. A good compromise is 6 to 12 feet of chain leading from the anchor, followed by nylon rode from the chain to the boat.

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