Com­mon­sense An­chor­ing

Soundings - - Seamanship - BY PAT MUNDUS

You’ve found the per­fect spot to throw out your hook, but if your an­chor doesn’t fetch up and set, and let your boat lay prop­erly, then you can’t rely on it. And if you can’t rely on your an­chor, then you — and nearby boaters — can’t re­lax.

Safety first. Ev­ery­one re­spon­si­ble for us­ing the an­chor­ing gear should be fa­mil­iar with the boat’s equip­ment and rou­tine. Ev­ery ves­sel is dif­fer­ent. An­chor­ing an­tics are al­ways en­ter­tain­ing for the rest of the an­chor­age, but to avoid be­ing the fo­cus of at­ten­tion, poise and good habits are key. For new mariners, prac­tice ses­sions will cer­tainly carry the day. Whole books have been writ­ten on the sub­ject of an­chor­ing, but here are some ba­sic, com­mon-sense tips.

Make sure you have suit­able ground tackle. Dif­fer­ent types of an­chors are best suited for an­chor­ing in spe­cific bot­tom types. De- spite advertising claims, no sin­gle an­chor de­sign ex­cels in all con­di­tions. Know the kind of bot­tom con­di­tions you will typ­i­cally en­counter, and use the right an­chor for the job. In gen­eral, a wide, fluke-type of an­chor like a Dan­forth, Bruce or Fortress works well in sand and mud, but not in thick grass. A Delta or Rocna can scoop and pen­e­trate grass. Trick­ier yet is a rocky bot­tom, which, if you can’t avoid it, might de­mand a grap­nel-type an­chor and a re­li­able trip line. It’s a good pol­icy to have a spare an­chor on board in any case. Cruis­ing boats carry sev­eral.

Visu­al­iz­ing the anatomy of your an­chor and the cate­nary, or curve, of the rode, whether you use all- chain or ny­lon line, helps you set the an­chor prop­erly. The tips and flukes of an an­chor pen­e­trate and bur­row in. The shank guides the flukes at the best an­gle as the rode pulls the an­chor along and into the bot­tom.

No mat­ter which type of an­chor you use, the rode has to be long enough to keep the shank as par­al­lel to the bot­tom as pos­si­ble. If the rode is too short, then the shank will pull up­ward, the flukes will fail to pen­e­trate, and the an­chor will not fetch up prop­erly.

When in doubt, let it out. Called scope, the amount of an­chor rode varies with con­di­tions. Min­i­mum scope is a ra­tio of 3:1, or 3 feet of an­chor rode to 1 foot of wa­ter depth (plus free­board) for the most be­nign con­di­tions. A 5:1 ra­tio is bet­ter if swing­ing room al­lows it. A ra­tio of 7:1 is ideal to achieve max­i­mum hold­ing power. Markers placed at in­ter­vals along the rode let you gauge how much scope has been let out. It’s a smart prac­tice to let out more rode than nec­es­sary to set the an­chor, and then shorten up to the cor­rect scope af­ter the an­chor is set, es­pe­cially in a crowded an­chor­age.

Although heavy and harder to han­dle, all-

chain rode sets an an­chor well and adds hold­ing power be­cause it main­tains the best low an­gle and adds weight on the bot­tom. When us­ing chain, al­ways know where hands, feet, hair, jew­elry and cloth­ing are rel­a­tive to the chain. Mariners should prac­tice with the bow ar­range­ment and chain habits aboard each boat they han­dle. A ny­lon snub­ber line — a short, tem­po­rar­ily rigged length of ny­lon with a chain hook on its end — is rec­om­mended to trans­fer the load from chain rode to the boat af­ter the an­chor fetches up. The snub­ber line acts like a stretchy shock ab­sorber and saves wear and tear on the an­chor wind­lass.

Smaller boats of­ten carry ny­lon rode in­stead of chain be­cause ny­lon is light and easy to han­dle — but it does noth­ing to en­cour­age the an­chor shank to travel par­al­lel to the bot­tom. To com­pen­sate for this draw­back, and to guard against rode chaf­ing on the bot­tom, a mod­est length of chain is shack­led to the rode at the an­chor. A thim­ble pro­tects the ny­lon eye from chafe, and helps hold the shape of the splice. The thim­ble should be sized ap­pro­pri­ately for the rode, spliced snugly into the eye to pre­vent shift­ing, and in­spected oc­ca­sion­ally for wear. Again, rode markers wo­ven into the strands of ny­lon iden­tify how much scope has been let out.

The chain and the an­chor are mar­ried us­ing shack­les that should be sized ap­pro­pri­ately for the chain, and tight­ened snugly. The pins should al­ways be seized with stain­lesssteel wire to pre­vent loos­en­ing. On larger boats, a swivel is shack­led be­tween the an­chor and chain to pre­vent chain twist. An allchain setup is best suited for boats with an an­chor wind­lass. An­chor wind­lass de­signs and ca­pa­bil­i­ties vary, but gen­er­ally speak­ing, the brake is re­leased to let the an­chor chain run out, and the wind­lass pulls the chain and the an­chor back up.

Plan ahead. Pick a spot best suited for your an­chor. Avoid poor hold­ing ground like hard­pan, rocky shelves or thick grass. The bot­tom type is on your charts; un­der­stand the sym­bols. Ask for lo­cal ad­vice. Con­sult your chart or guide­book for des­ig­nated an­chor­ages, and do not an­chor in or en­cum­ber a chan­nel. Know the stage of the tide and the depth of the wa­ter so you know how much scope you’ll need. You want safe un­der-keel clear­ance to ac­com­mo­date your draft at low­est tide, no mat­ter which way you swing. What weather is pre­dicted for your stay? Will there be set from tidal cur­rent? An­swers to both ques­tions will de­ter­mine how your boat will lie once the an­chor is set. Avoid un­der­wa­ter ob­struc­tions such as sub­merged pil­ings or wrecks. And of course, re­spect fel­low mariners. Don’t crowd ex­ist­ing boats, and be mind­ful of your swing­ing ra­dius: the sum of your boat’s length plus your rode.

Af­ter se­lect­ing your in­tended spot, ma­neu­ver into the wind or cur­rent (the stronger force of the two), place your bow where you want to drop an­chor, and stop the ves­sel. Af­ter all way is off and only then, lower the an­chor clear of the boat. Let the rode run out in a con­trolled man­ner, and back slowly away from it. Pay out the rode as you re­verse. Do not drop a heap on top of the an­chor. In­stead, aim to lead the chain along the bot­tom. When the de­sired amount of rode is out, re­turn to neu­tral and set the brake, or make the ny­lon rode fast (se­cure it to a cleat or bitts). Then slowly re­verse the engine to put an in­ten­tional strain on the rode.

Three com­mon things that will pre­vent the an­chor from fetch­ing up are try­ing to set the an­chor on scope that is too short, re­vers­ing too abruptly, and fail­ing to ap­ply a rea­son­able strain on the an­chor rode. Watch­ing the shore­line or a fixed ob­ject can help de­ter­mine a suc­cess­ful set. Study the chain or ny­lon. If the an­chor drags in­stead of set­ting, the rode will vis­i­bly chat­ter in­stead of be­com­ing taut. Pay­ing out more scope may help it set. If not, heave up and try again. It hap­pens to the best of us.

While an­chored, keep an eye on your po­si­tion. Pru­dent mariners take a cou­ple of bear­ings on prom­i­nent, fixed land­marks and set the an­chor alarm on the chart plotter, mak­ing any sig­nif­i­cant change in po­si­tion im­me­di­ately no­tice­able. At sun­set, turn on the an­chor light.

When it’s time to heave up and get un­der­way, re­move your an­chor snub­ber, and re­view hand sig­nals and wind­lass use. An­chor wind­lasses are not de­signed to pull the boat to the an­chor. With a co­or­di­nated ef­fort and hand sig­nals be­tween the skip­per at the helm and the mate at the bow, the boat can be driven up hand­ily to the an­chor while chain or line is be­ing re­trieved. Use this method whether you use a wind­lass or not. Once the chain or ny­lon is “up and down,” most times the an­chor can be tipped eas­ily and pulled out of the bot­tom with a hard turn to port or star­board, and a burst of rpms with the wind­lass brake on or the an­chor line made fast.

Bring­ing the an­chor “home” (stow­ing it) is par­tic­u­lar to each ves­sel. Se­cure your an­chor in its bracket, roller, locker or hawse with the brake set, and sea lash­ings or safety pawls on, be­fore pro­ceed­ing to sea.

If you out­fit your boat prop­erly and use some com­mon sense, your an­chor­ing skills will be­come sec­ond na­ture.

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