How to anchor your yacht

Experienced sailor, Ben Keys, explains the finer points of anchoring your yacht, covering technique, weather conditions, contingency plans and general safety.
Ben Keys: G'day. I'm Ben Keys with Club Marine TV, and today we're going to be talking about anchoring.

So one of the first things with anchoring is you're going to want to check the weather forecast. You need to know what the wind's doing, what the tide's doing, and if the weather's really going to kick up, maybe you don't want to be leaving the boat unattended at all.

So you've had a look at the chart and you've got your perfect anchoring spot. But it's important to have a plan B as well. There might be a whole bunch of yachts around where you want to anchor or the weather might have swung around by the time you get in there. So have a secondary spot in the back of your mind, just in case you've got to head over there. And also, when you're heading in there it doesn't hurt to leave a track on your plotter as well so that if you have to move at some point you can just follow that track right out again.

Once you've got your spot, you want to think about your swinging room as well. A keel boat's going to swing differently to a motor yacht, and boats on moorings are going to swing differently again. So consider how much room you need to give your neighbours 'cause you don't want to be bumping into them in the middle of the night.

All right, so you've found the perfect spot. There's not too many boats around, you're tucked out of the wind and you're ready to drop the anchor. What you want to do is nose up to it with the bow into the wind, and just approach really gently. And then kick the engine back into neutral when you're ready to drop the pick. So whether you're using a remote windlass or you've got someone on the bow operating it for you, either way you don't want to be dropping your chain all in one spot. Just disengage the brake, let the chain go over slowly and then let the boat drift back with the wind as the chain feeds out. That way it's going to lay it out in front of your boat and you'll have a good holding.

So the next thing you want to think about is how much anchor line you're going to let out. The distance of line between your boat and the anchor is referred to as scope. And often you're going to work on a ratio of about five to one, so that's in 10 meters of water you're going to want about 50 meters of line out. If the conditions are light or you're just dropping a hook for a little while, you can often work on three to one. Or in really heavy weather you might want to think about eight to one for safety.

So once you've let out the right amount of chain, it's time to dig the anchor in. You want to pop the engine into reverse and just pull back on it, steadily increasing the revs, and that'll firmly plant it in the seabed. Now, if you've done all this right your boat's going to stay in one spot, but you might want to check that. One way to do this is to pick two points on the land and watch them, and make sure they don't drift apart. That will tell you you're staying in the same place. The other thing you can do is check on your GPS or your plotter and make sure the boat's staying where you put it.

Now, if you're not happy with how it's all looking, don't be afraid to go around and do it again. There's nothing wrong with going around again, going through all the steps and making sure it's bedded in firmly. Even if it means putting a bit more chain out to get the holding you need, then that's what you should do.

So once you're happy with the holding, you're happy where the boat is, then it's time to secure the anchor. You can put the brake on. You might want to put a snubber on the chain as well to keep the noise down if you're staying overnight. And then it's time to relax.

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