With lots of room at an anchorage, the preferred way to drop the hook is at the bow with plenty of scope. Other anchoring methods include:
Setting two anchors off the bow with about a 45 to 60 degree angle between them offers more security against dragging and swinging. It is a good way to prepare for an oncoming storm.
Setting a bow and stern anchor may be necessary at crowded or narrow anchorages. This method usually keeps boats in a tidy pattern and prevents them from sailing around their anchor.
Setting up a Bahamian Moor lets the boat pivot around one single point, keeping it in one place when wind or currents shift. To set up a Bahamian Moor, anchor bow and stern first, then lead the stern anchor rode to the bow and cleat it.
Mediterranean Mooring is most common along seawalls and quays. It usually requires dropping the bow anchor several boat lengths away from the quay and backing up to it in a cross wind, holding your breath while squeezing in sardine-tight between other med moored vessels. Have plenty of fenders handy.
Rafting up is a common way to secure several boats with only one anchor down. It is done mostly to spend time and party with friends, or to keep the fishing fleet together so it can head out quickly at sunrise, or to form rows of parked boats when all the med moors are packed at the quay. Generally, the biggest boat with the biggest anchor holds everyone else, who are tied up at bow and stern cleats to either side. Be careful to stagger spreaders and be sure to use all available fenders and cushions between the boats.
Tradewinds instructor Dan Seifers asked me the other day why we say “Roger” on the radio to confirm we’ve received a message. Why Roger, and not Reginald, or for that matter, Hermione?
If you go cruising you’ll probably want to learn the phonetic alphabet so you can spell your boat name and perhaps your HAM call sign in a way that can be understood in foreign ports. I can still quickly rattle off “kilo-golf-six-echo-uniform-delta,” sometimes involuntarily at inappropriate moments. However, even if you memorize this way of spelling things, you won’t find any “Roger” among the Mikes, Juliets, and Charlies. But this wasn’t always the case.
“Roger” is a holdover from the phonetic alphabet used by the Royal Air Force and the US Air Force prior to 1956, at which time he was replaced by “Romeo” to represent the letter “R.” In addition to changing “Roger” to “Romeo,” “Able” was replaced by “Alpha,” “Baker” was replaced by “Bravo,” and “Easy” was replaced by “Echo.” There were some additional changes due to fuzzy comprehension by speakers of Texan, Bostonian, Bronxish, Liverpudlian, and other languages, until the alphabet was adopted internationally. The current phonetic alphabet with “Romeo” was adopted by the International Commission for Air Navigation in 1956, by the International Telecommunication Union in 1959, and then by the International Maritime Organization in 1965.
During WWII, the phonetic “Roger” was used to indicate R for “Received” in radio usage. Apparently no one wished to change it to “Romeo” after combat ended and the alphabet changed, with the result that what we have today is a small tribute to the Second World War. So when you say “Roger,” remember those heroes of Normandy and Okinawa, the Po Valley, and the Ardennes Forest.
From decades of experience with every anchoring adventure imaginable, Tradewinds, together with Lead Instructor Captain Craig Walker, has developed its own anchoring technique. No guarantees, but practicing it will greatly increase the chance of getting it right every time and in a safe way.
Here is the handout that Tradewinds uses:
Anchoring Technique Page 2 of Anchoring Confirmation
There’s a word you don’t see every day. So, what is it? A kellet is a 15 to 25 pound weight, which you “hang” from the anchor rode. Often, it’s referred to as a sentinel, although technically, that is the rope the controls the weight, not the weight itself.
There are a number of theories about the value of a kellet. It’s been credited with increasing an anchor’s holding power (a better way is to increase scope) and improving shock absorbing power (a nylon snubber is better.) However, the real value of a kellet is in keeping the rode clear of the keel and/or rudder. All chain rode doesn’t have a problem, but a rode with a combination of chain and nylon might.
In most anchorages around San Francisco Bay wind and currents shift throughout the night. Many times, wind and current compete with each other. If the boat is hanging on a nice tight rode, there isn’t going to be problem. Unfortunately, if the boat is floating “lazy circles” around the anchor, the rode can easily wrap around the keel. Sliding a kellet 10 or 15 feet down the rode keeps it below the level of the keel, avoiding the problem.
Tradewinds boats that do not have all chain are outfitted with a mushroom shaped anchor as a kellet. To use, attach the carabineer onto the rode and let it slide down. Cleat the bitter end of the sentinel on the boat, and enjoy your evening.
There is another great use of a kellet. If you didn’t have the foresight to set it up ahead of time, and find the rode wrapped around the keel the next morning, slide the kellet up and down the rode now. This will generally free it. It will take time and patience, however, it will work.
Whether you have selected the perfect spot in a secluded bay or arrived at the end of the day at a popular, packed anchorage, the next challenge is to successfully park the boat so it stays put.
Prepare the anchor to move freely over the bow roller and if the rode is rope it can be faked on deck, laying it out in long loops, to the length of the desired scope. Secure it on a bow cleat, and check that the bitter end is tied off. Make sure it can be released quickly if necessary.
If it is all chain in the anchor locker, the windlass usually controls the chain as it pays out. Check that the end of the chain is secured somewhere in the anchor locker and make sure it can be released quickly if necessary.
My friend Salty Clay says that to look good while anchoring, decide on hand signals with your crew to communicate between bow and helm. No yelling back and forth. If there are enough hands on deck, assign a “parrot” at the shrouds to relay directions and information, if words are necessary, keeping voices low. Directions should always come from the helm. The bow crew passes information back to the helm, to help the skipper make decisions.
You don’t want to be slipping on the deck of a boat. At best, you look the fool. At worst, you’re in the drink. And in between, there’s a bunch of stuff to knock your head or bruise your backside on. Believe it or not, the best thing to do, although they deny this in all the sailing books, is to go barefoot. Bare feet have something even the most advanced sailing footwear can’t provide: nerve endings. When you step on a slippery surface in your bare feet, you can tell before you fall that you have no traction. This is better than finding out when you’re fanny-over-teakettle. “Crivens! That was slippery!” Of course, when sailing barefoot there will be the occasional broken toe when your naked foot encounters a cleat or block, but everything’s a compromise.
That’s fine for the tropics, but in the extra-tropics where we are, I’m not man enough to go barefoot. Cold feet are one thing when you’re about to get married, but quite another when your actual feet are cold. So San Francisco sailors wear stuff on their feet. Typically, this is a sailing boot that is tall and made out of some rubber-like product. They are hard to get on and off, cold, and clammy.
But I always wonder why people really need that height. How many times on a sail around the Bay have you had ten inches of water in the cockpit? Okay, now cut that out! It is possible for the waves to climb up your leg in an impertinent way if you are sitting on the rail on a windy day. But my solution to this is to advance my position in the crew beyond rail meat.
So in the winter or wet weather I wear duck boots. L.L. Bean, I believe, originated them, but there are lots of knock-offs and they come in a variety of styles and heights. They lace up so you can adjust them to just the perfect tightness. You can buy them lined with Thinsulate so they are nice and toasty. Should you find yourself swimming, it is possible to untie them and kick them off. The best thing is, their gum soles are as sticky as any boat shoe you can buy—even if they aren’t as secure as bare feet.
They may not be fashionable, I don’t know. Sometimes people laugh at me, but there could be other reasons for this.
Sadly, “stuff” happens on a sailboat. The good news is, planning and preparation for the things that go can go wrong actually go a long way to preventing the situation from coming up. Checking tide tables prevents groundings. Examining standing rigging locates problems and helps prevent the mast from coming down in the middle of a sail. Checking coolant flow from the exhaust keeps the motor running smoothly.
Practice, on the other hand, is what gets you through a problem when “stuff” does happen. We practice crew overboard recoveries … not because it’s a fun part of sailing … we do it because if someone does go overboard we want to get back to them quickly and safely. Without practice, crew overboard recovery is not an easy task.
Sailing into slips is another thing that requires practice. Anyone trained at Tradewinds was introduced to sailing into slips on the second day of Basic Coastal Cruising. You had at least two opportunities to do it, one upwind … one downwind. Have you done it since? If not, you are not ready for the time your propeller gets fouled, the fuel line gets plugged, or the motor overheats because the impeller goes out. Tradewinds preventative maintenance program stops most of these things from happening, however, as I said, “stuff” happens. Each of these three problems came up during April! Knowing how to sail the boat back to the dock or slip was the perfect solution in each occasion. But, that’s not a fun thing to do if you haven’t practiced ahead of time.
Start small and work up. The Capri’s are great boats to develop, practice, and refine skills of all kinds.
- Start by using the practice buoys. Learn how much speed it takes to stop the boat beside the buoy on a close reach … upwind … downwind.
- Put the fenders out, move to the “D” Dock pump out station and practice side tie docking under sail. Have the motor running in neutral as a safety backup.
- Once you are comfortable with how the boat handles, find a couple of nice padded slips and practice docking in slips. On any weekend, after about 11:00, there are a number of Tradewinds slips available to practice on.
- Move up to a slightly bigger boat and repeat the process.
You will be amazed at how much easier it gets with a bit of practice. And when you do sail in it’s great for the ego because of all the ewwwws and ahhhhs you hear from the spectators.
After studying the chart for water depth, swinging room, and bottom type, try to foresee if the anchor spot you have chosen will shelter you from the wind and seas. Check wind and current direction and predicted weather, then position the boat so that you won’t be set onto shore if the anchor should drag or if conditions change.
If other boats are already anchored, do a “drive by” and see what they did. In a crowded area, follow their method, e.g. one anchor off the bow, or two, or bow and stern, to minimize the chance of collision while swinging with the wind and current.
As you are making up your mind where best to anchor, look for alternate locations, in case you need options. Have a plan ‘B’. Consult charts and cruising guides for information where to anchor and to find anchorages for pleasure craft.
My friend Salty Clay says it’s a good idea not to anchor in marked channels, in busy traffic, and in shipping lanes. Also stay away from areas marked on the chart as prohibited, such as restricted areas, cable crossings and anchorages for explosives.
Be kind to your playground and never anchor on top of coral. Also be kind to your fellow boaters: if you have a choice, don’t drop your hook right next to someone else. Finally, don’t make wake in the anchorage.
In “Sailing, A Sailor’s Dictionary” by Henry Beard and Roy McKie, ANCHORAGE is defined as: “1. Destination at day’s end. Always found at the junction of two charts, or on a chart not aboard. 2. Any location on the water where at least twenty boats may be accommodated in sufficient proximity to one another so that a sound of 10 decibels (roughly equal to the noise produced by folding a paper towel in half) made by a member of the crew of any one boat may be heard clearly by a person of average hearing on any one of the other boats.” The selection of an anchor site requires more consideration than just finding an idyllic spot that is away from it all. Before dropping the anchor, make a plan. Use your chart to find out the depth at the desired site and use your tide book to figure out if you will have enough depth to stay afloat at low tide, but not too much to lift your ground tackle out at high tide. Make sure that the water is deep enough throughout the entire “swinging room”, the circle your boat can make while at anchor when wind and current change. The radius of that circle is equal to the length of the boat plus the length of the rode let out, with a little safety margin added for good measure. Is there enough space around to prevent hitting another boat or a shore nearby? The chart will also let you see what kind of bottom your anchor is going to land on. Sand is good. Avoid rocks (known for trapping anchors) and weeds, (known for letting anchors slip and slide).
By Tradewinds member Peter D.
We chartered a Jeanneau 45 for 10 days from San Juan Sailing in Bellingham. That company just gets better every time. I know that you’ve worked with Roger Van Dyken on your own trips. He runs a smooth operation.
This was a guy-trip (our patient wives stayed home). It’s the year we all turn 65 years old. We all graduated together from Saint Mary’s College (over the hill in Moraga) in 1971.
As we left Bellingham on Wednesday May 26, I hoisted the TWSC burgee and we were off to Shallow Bay (Sucia Island) for our first overnight. We were on mooring balls at Shallow Bay, Prevost Harbor (Stuart Island), and the cove at the back-door of Butchart Gardens. We anchored in Port Browning (South Pender Island, BC), Sidney Spit (Sidney Island, BC), Watmaugh Bay (Lopez Island), and Inati Bay (Lummi Island). We were side-tied at the public wharf at Ganges (Saltspring Island, BC) and at Friday Harbor (San Juan Island).
The TWSC/ASA anchoring and mooring class gave me the confidence and skills I needed to put my bow (and stern) exactly where I wanted. And my line handling crew seemed grateful! This charter was my first experience using a bow thruster and it was really helpful in tight spots (e.g., turning around inside the Friday Harbor breakwater & getting away from the Bellingham marina’s pump-out facility).
Leaving Port Browning, South Pender Island, BC. Can you tell that I’m having fun?
The happy crew of “Misty Blue Yonder” at Friday Harbor.
“Misty” at anchor with stern-tie, Inati Bay (Lummi Island)
Letting our anchor “soak” and settle, Shallow Bay (Sucia Island)
Thanks again to Tradewinds for building my skills!
– Peter D.