Setting & Retrieving an Anchor

Once an acceptable anchor is selected and ground tackle assembled, effective anchoring depends on good site selection and use of proper placement procedures. Anchor from the bow of the boat — attaching an anchor to the stern can swamp and upset a boat in bad weather.

Placing and recovering a boat anchor is a sequential process. Consider the following in selecting an anchorage:

Water Depth. Select a spot that has ample water throughout all stages of the tide. Selection of a too-shallow bottom poses a risk of going aground. Water that is too deep will cause problems with the amount of anchor rode that is available.

Bottom Structure. Mud or clay bottoms offer the best holding options for anchoring. Grass and sandy bottoms have less holding ability and rocky areas can hang up an anchor permanently.

Nearby Hazards. Avoid anchoring close to known hazards. Don’t anchor in traffic lanes and avoid anchoring in crowded or restricted spots. Boats swing on their anchor rode as the wind and current changes, so anchoring too close to another boat can cause an accident.

Shelter. Pick a cove or bay that is sheltered from wind and strong currents.

Safely setting an anchor should be considered a two-person operation whenever possible. One person needs to be on the anchor’s business end, while the other operates the boat. Upon reaching a suitable location, the boat’s operator should turn the vessel into the wind. After double-checking that the rode is attached to both the anchor and the boat, the person on deck slowly lowers the anchor over the bow.

Pay out the anchor rode until it feels like it has hit the bottom and then call for the operator to slowly back up the boat as further anchor rode is paid out. Once sufficient scope has been released, stop the boat, secure the rode to the deck, and tell the operator to again slowly back up to help set the anchor (this procedure will take slack out of the rode and help drive the anchor into the bottom). Shut the boat down and note your position with reference to landmarks on the shore; take note often to ensure you’re not drifting or dragging.

Recovering an anchor is nearly the reverse of the procedure used to set it. Ask the boat operator to move slowly towards the location of the set anchor while taking up the anchor rode. Once directly over the anchor, the rode will be in a vertical position and the anchor flukes should be free of the bottom. If the anchor doesn’t come loose immediately, it may be necessary to try freeing it from other angles of approach.

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