How To Guide: Anchors Aweigh

Some of the best locations in the world are not accessible from marinas or harbours, but from anchorages, writes Dick Beaumont. There is however there an art to anchoring securely which has been overlooked in many quarters today thanks to the proliferation of marina-hopping.

There are some excellent new anchor designs available today, Ultra, Delta, Rocna and Bruce anchors to name but a few. The Kraken 50 currently sports a 40kg Lewmar Delta anchor, although, being old school, I have a Lewmar CQR on White Dragon. A Delta 40kg is perhaps over the top and we could go 5 or 10kg lighter but one thing you don’t want is a dragging anchor at 2am in the morning. Why is it anchor dragging only happens between midnight and 4am?! 

Chain and or anchor warp

We spec 100m of calibrated chain plus 40m of anchor warp spliced onto the end. In areas of the world with coral reef one often needs to anchor in 30m plus because the sea-bed can invariably slope up in depths from 40m-35m-30m then suddenly 2m as you approach the coral wall.

It’s important to note the rope anchor warp is to increase anchoring range only and care must be taken to ensure it doesn’t get close to the bottom, to avoid being chafed or severed on a coral head.

A short length of chain plus anchor warp is not at all acceptable for blue water cruising and in my view should be 60mts of chain at a minimum, even then your anchoring options will be greatly reduced.

When it comes to anchor and chain size its best to size up not down: light anchors and chain may stow away more easily but they will also drag more readily in a windy anchorage.

I have sailed on many yachts and often found that the anchor chain is unmarked, leaving the crew to guess how much cable has run out. It’s essential for the skipper to know how much rode he has let out otherwise how can he calculate the correct amount for the depth showing on his instruments?

Fluorescent paint will come off very quickly so it is best to use orange gloss or enamel paint, marking a link every 20m with multiple stripes. Between those marks an interim single mark of a different colour should be made every 10m.

If you have a good heavy anchor and chain, let out the cable enough to match three times the depth. This will suffice in all but high winds. I have sailed White Dragon from east to west across the world’s oceans, anchoring in many locations for the first time and yet I’ve never once dragged anchor. They’ve included vulnerable anchorages, the worst of which was in Cocos Keeling Island. All yachts were restricted to one anchorage which was protected from wave action by a reef, but which gave no protection from the Trade Wind which blew across the anchorage at 25-3kts.

High wind anchoring

If the wind gets up you can deploy a second bow anchor but the drawback with this is that the yacht will ‘sail’ between the anchors gradually pulling them together. (Fig 1)

A much better system is to put the anchors out in tandem with the lighter of the two 5m or so up the chain. The lighter anchor then holds the chain down and takes the shock and snatch off the main anchor (Fig 2)

When it comes to raising the anchor in strong winds it’s important to engage the windlass only when the chain is ahead. It may be necessary to gently motor into the wind or tide to take the pressure off the windlass. In windy condition a bow man must be in place, as trying to recover an anchor using the cockpit control will almost certainly result in damage to the bow roller and windlass.

If the yacht is veering this way and that around the anchor, then it is vital that once the anchor chain moves outside of 25 degrees or so from directly ahead you stop recovering the anchor until it’s back ahead.

The load on the bow roller assembly has to be square on: once the chain is dragged to one side across to the bow roller cheeks you will soon damage both it and the windlass.

If you have a bow thruster it’s simple to bring the chain in line, but if not, you simply have to wait until the yacht swings back in line. What you should avoid is carrying on cranking the anchor up regardless. (Fig 3)

When world cruising, many of the anchorages available will not be familiar to you and regretfully once you get off the beaten track many will be poorly charted as well. 

To overcome this problem, I always ‘box the anchor’ at every first -time anchorage whether it is charted or not. (Fig 4)

First you select the intended anchoring spot making sure the bottom is flat and weed clear, most weed peters out between 15m and 20m, then you make a couple of circuits around the proposed anchoring location creating a circular anchoring zone. By doing so you have determined a hazard-free circumference, an area of certainty. (Fig 5)

Now drop the anchor, motor gently astern to set the anchor and straighten out the chain, rig the snubber (Fig 6) and turn in, secure in the knowledge your yacht isn’t going anywhere.

When it comes to fail safe anchoring I can’t recommend forward sonars highly enough. Look out for the full review in a forthcoming issue.

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