Tips for anchoring

Knowing where and how to drop the pick is a vital cruising skill.
Dale Stott: Hi, my name's Dale Stott. We're here on the Fox, my Riviera 6000. It's about two and a half years old, and we are sitting out here on Roatan Island. We're currently on our migration north. We've come from Metung in Victoria, and we are cruising up the coast, taking the boat through to the Gold Coast.

One of the important skills in coastal cruising is anchoring. It's something that's definitely required, because things change in boating or coastal cruising. You make plans, but things change. Weather conditions change, availability of berths change. So at that point you need to understand how to anchor safely, taking in all the weather conditions, the sea conditions, and the environment.

So on this boat we are running a ULTRA anchor. It's a stainless steel anchor. It's a good looking anchor, but it's obviously a very practical and very useful anchor. It holds well and that's something you need to do. You need to have an anchor that you are confident with, that you know that's going to hold well for you to give you that confidence to sleep overnight.
Ideally, you need to do safety checks on your chain, looking for wear, looking for damage, checking your connection to your anchor, making sure that's in a serviceable condition. A well maintained chain will feed in nicely. It needs to be something that's free flowing, and so it gathers inside your chain box. The chain must be fitted with a swivel larger than the diameter of the chain to prevent it from kinking.

We're looking for some ground that's fairly consistent. We are not looking for something that's too rocky. We don't want to get our chain and anchor wrapped around bommies. Because we are running a sand anchor, we're looking for a sandy bottom or muddy bottom is fine. Something that's fairly stable, we'll give you a good solid hold for the night.

The other thing to keep a lookout for is tide and current. One knot of current is equivalent to 15 knots of wind. So therefore, if you can shelter in a bay or an area out of the main channel or with the free flowing current is, you're going to be in a lot stronger position for anchoring.

If you're in an anchorage, it's got a lot of swell, you're going to get extra load on your chain and your anchor. The rising and the fall of the boat will create pull against the anchor, and jerking, which will help dislodge or move your anchor. So the concept of putting a lot of chain out to create a scope and flatten your chain out so that it gets a horizontal pull, so it beds the anchor into the sand or the mud or the surface that you're anchoring to. During the night, you'll have change of wind direction. You'll have change of tide.

So if you are putting out 35 meters of chain, plus your boats 20 meters long, you are 55 meters from your anchor to the back of your boat. Now, when that swings around the other way during the night, that's 55 meters the other direction. So therefore you can be up to 110 meters just in swing room required. So you always got to establish the amount of room between yourself and other boats or the shore or obstacles to ensure that you've got enough swing room to go a full circle without any obstructions.

When selecting a spot to anchor, it's always good to have a look and ensure there's no underground cables, pipes, you're in a restricted area. There's a lot of places in marine national parks, which are no anchoring. You're only allowed to pick up buoys, so you need to check and do your research Before you select your spot to anchor. You've chosen where you want to set your anchor down. You're checking your bottom with your depth, your surroundings for other boats. Come up into the wind to keep control of your boat. We need to make sure we've got our safety lanyards disconnected. We engage and power up our winch, and then once we've come into position, then we start to pay out the anchor.

We start off by going down to what the anchor hits the bottom at the depth I've of chosen to anchor at, and then we start to feed out our amount of anchor as per our depth. So if you're in favourable conditions, with our depth, we want to put out five to one. So that means if it's five meters deep, we would put out 25 meters of chain and five in favourable conditions. If we had moderate conditions, we would look to go to a ratio of eight to one. Then if we are in really rough seas, we'd basically put out as much as we have, or 10 to one is ideal.

Most boats have got chain counters. If you haven't got chain counters, it's best to mark your chain with colored marking points, different colors representing different metering.

Securing the anchor can be done with a couple of methods. Some people use a bridle, or a snubber it's also known as. This takes the noise out of the chain, the grinding noise running across the seabed. So what we do is we put our snub on, which puts a rope between the chain and connecting to the boat. We also then want to put our safety clips on. We've had our winch locked off tight, but we've also then engaged our lock on our winch or a safety lanyard to our chain to prevent slippage during the night.

There's a couple of different ways to check for slippage during the night, because our anchor may not let go on our winch, but obviously our anchor can drag. With your electronics on your boat, you can set a anchor alarm. This means you've got to leave your electronics on overnight, but you can set a radius around your anchor and then if the boat was to go outside of that, an alarm will go off. This warns you to say that you're starting to drift. If you're getting shuddering through your anchor because you have wave action and you're feeling that jerking, these are signs that you can be dragging your anchor. Every time that it pulls up hard and you feel that jerking, that's highly like that you're pulling your anchor. Taking visual references is certainly something that you need to do as well.

The other thing is obviously just leave your track on and then it'll show a continuous track as you are just yawing backwards and forwards. It'll show a contour line, and then if you were to let go, it would actually show that you've moved off. When anchoring overnight, you need to put on your anchor light so other boats can see where you are. It's great if you've got things like AIS, which transmits from the boat to let other boats know you are there.

If we find that we are drifting during the night or during the day, for start, we put out more chain and to increase our scope. The other thing is we can put out a second anchor if we have one. If not, then we may have to lift up, find a new position to anchor, and find something with a better bottom. If you've got an anchor that your finding's not suitably working for you, change your anchor.

Now that it's time to away your anchor or retrieve your anchor, there's a few steps we need to take. We need to brief all crew members. We need to make sure everything's put away in its position ready to bank way. We need to make sure everybody's aware of what we're doing, start our engines, check our controls, make sure everything's going in gear prior to letting go of the anchor. We need to engage the gypsy and disengage the brake.

When retrieving, we need to motor up on the chain and towards the anchor to reduce the pressure on the winch. We want to drive the boat up into the wind, keeping the chain coming in nice and straight, and nodding on an angle, but straightforward to retrieve it into the boat. If you're anchoring somewhere where you've got mud or weed, get your hose, wash that off. So straight overboard, keep it nice and clean. If you find you've got your anchor caught, without knowing it's underneath a rock that you didn't know about, sometimes you've actually got to drive around in a circle around that point. Don't just keep trying to winch until you burn your winch out. You need to then change your angle to dislodge your anchor.

It's great if you've got a spotter up the front to help communicate which direction. As you're pulling your anchor in, they can point the direction that the chain's facing so that you can keep it coming in, as well as identify if there's anything on the anchor. We've picked anything up, there's weed on it that needs to be cleared. On this particular boat, we've got a camera which assists us, so I can also see what's happening with the chain if it's going under the boat, but we still utilize a spotter at the same time.
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