Tips on anchoring your Bareboat.

anchoring your bareboatNo Len, you got to tie of the line before you throw it.

The use of the anchor windlass will be explained to you during your briefing. Anchoring seems to be a mystery to many boaters.

Some people with experience in sailing and power boats have never had to do more than drop the anchor for a lunch stop, the rest of the time their boats are tied to a dock.
It’s while anchored that a yacht is at its greatest vulnerability.

While underway there is always someone on the look out, but as soon as the anchor goes down, everyone lets their guard down. Anchoring is an easy task if you follow some simple rules.

You need to be certain of the depth of water that you intend to anchor in. Your boat will have a depth sounder so you can read it directly from there. Then you need to know what sort of bottom you’re anchoring on. You should turn up at your anchorage with the sun still high enough to be able to see the bottom of the anchorage.

Anchoring on live coral is an absolute no no and will have other boaters yelling at you. Areas of turtle grass should also be avoided, not only for the sake of the grass but because it makes for bad anchoring. Areas with a rock bottom may make for a good holding spot but you may need scuba gear to get your anchor back up.

You cant rely on turning up late in an anchorage and thinking that just pulling up next to another boat will put you in a good spot. Often those with local knowledge will anchor at the edge of a reef so their guests can snorkel or dive it before breakfast, anchoring next to them may have you anchoring on their favorite piece of pristine reef!

Once you have decided where you want to anchor, and know the water depth, you need to determine how much chain you will need to put out. Then you need to determine if putting out that much chain will still give you enough swinging room to clear other boats and underwater hazards.

If the weather is good you will need to put out at least 3 times the water depth. If the weather is iffy put out 4 times and if you know your in for a storm put out 5 times the water depth.

If you’re in 30 feet of water then put out at least 90 feet. That would then mean if you’re in say a 45 foot boat with 90 feet of chain out you should have a circle around where your anchor sits 135 feet in radius that no other boats can enter and there are no obstacles in that circle. Regardless of how shallow the water is.

Do not put out less than 50 feet of chain. Any less than this and the chains angle from your bow will be too steep to try anchoring.

Slowly Does It.

The art of anchoring is to do it slowly. Lower the anchor untill it touches the bottom, then ever so slowly back up while the rest of the chain pays out. Most yachts will go too fast if you just slip them into reverse and let them idle back.

The aim is to not let the chain drop to the bottom like a pile of spaghetti on top of the anchor, but also to not have the boat pull against the anchor until you have the full amount of chain paid out. Once your slightly back from the anchor just let the wind take you back the rest while the chain is paying out.

If the wind is strong then you will probably need to click it into forwards a couple of times so you are not traveling to fast backwards. If you pull up on your anchor too fast it will not dig in to the bottom. Period.

You need to let the boat gently lay back on the chain and when the movement of the boat has stopped, just click into reverse and let it idle a bit to see if your still holding.

To be sure if your anchor is holding, you need to look out to either your port or starboard beam and pick a spot where there is an object in the foreground and also an object in the background. An anchored boat and the shore behind it works well or a headland with an island behind it will also work.

If the foreground object and the backgound object are not moving in relation to each other you are holding, slip into neutral and drop some more chain, then try again. Once you are sure you are holding at idle slowly increase the speed in reverse to about 3/4 speed. Look to your side and recheck your marks.

While you are backing on the anchor have someone on the bow watch the chain, they should hand signal you as to whats going on. An outstretched arm emulating the chain works great. When the chain is slack they will be pointing straight down. As the chain gets tighter their arm will raise like the chain. If they see the chain tighten and stay tight all is well.

If they see the chain bouncing up and down you are dragging it along the bottom. The spotter should be bouncing their arm up and down. Be sure to keep a lookout all around you while backing up.

Many a time I have seen boats back blindly into another boat because they are not looking behind while backing up. If all is well attach your snubber and pay out some more chain until all the weight is now on the snubber and not the windlass. Next step crack open a beer!

Additional Anchoring Tips

Sometimes you may need more than 3 times the water depth out to get the anchor to bite. Sometimes a particular spot on the sea bed is just bad for anchoring.
Out deep in Great harbor on Jost Van Dyke and up between little Jost and Jost van dyke are both bad anchoring spots. The bottom there is a soft soupy mud. It does not matter how much chain you put out, the anchor drags through it with ease.

Deadman’s bay on Peter island is another bad spot if you don’t find a patch of sand amongst the turtle grass. Another thing to be careful of is anchoring on dead coral shelfs. You will get the anchor to bite but it will be just with the tip of the anchor, a wind shift can have you dragging along the bottom in the night.

The best advice is if you are not 100% sure of your anchors set, snorkel and check it, or just try again. It is not a fool who has a half dozen tries before he is happy with his anchor set, It’s a fool who doesn’t check and ends up on the rocks!

Raising your anchor

To raise your anchor, you need to take your boat directly over where your anchor sits. It’s not the windlasses job to pull the boat to the anchor. Have someone on the bow point which way the chain is laying while its being retrieved. Slowly drive in the direction pointed, remembering even at idle the boat will travel much faster than the windlass can pull chain.

When your pointer points straight down, stop and let them bring it up. If it’s stuck then when you are directly over the top of it and sitting to the wind, gently motor forward to try and break it out of the sand.

If the chain is making loud growling noises then you are snagged on coral or rock. Drop 20 feet chain and let the wind take you back. When the chain comes tight again motor forwards slowly, turning sharply either port or starboard. If it frees up then stop and follow directions from the pointer.

If it does not free up, drop back with the wind and try motoring to the other side. If you’re still having problems its time to jump in and have a look whats going on. If the water is too deep to see the anchor. Drop another 20 feet of chain and try again.

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