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Anchoring & Mooring

Setting Anchor

Anchoring can be accomplished quickly and easily by following a few simple steps:

  • Check your chart for bottom characteristics and to determine that you are anchoring in a safe and allowable
    place. If there are rocks, shoals, reefs or other boats to consider, give them all as wide a berth as possible. Remember that other boats will often have different requirements for anchor rode length--larger or taller
    boats frequently need a great deal of rode. Also, keep in mind a possible swing of 360 degrees about
    the anchor with wind shifts or current changes.
  • If your crew is not already wearing PFDs, have them put one on before going forward to set or retrieve an
    anchor or mooring.
  • Secure the bitter end of the anchor line to a bow cleat. Make sure the line is ready to run free once
    tossed overboard.
  • Head into the wind or current. Reduce speed and reverse the engine. When the boat starts to make a
    slight sternway through the water, lower - do not throw - the anchor.
  • After you've let about a third of your line out, tug the anchor line to see how firmly it's set, and then
    continue to release the rode.
  • Once you let out an appropriate amount of scope, make sure the line is properly tied off on the bow cleat.
  • Even if anchoring only in designated anchoring areas, it is always prudent to have the appropriate signal such as an all-around white light on to notify other boats that you are anchored at night. During the day you must display a ball shape which is sized according to the size of your boat.
Staying Put

It's a good idea to take two immediate bearings. Select two items, one off each beam, that form a natural range and watch for any changes in their relationship. You can check these later to determine if you're boat is swinging as expected or if you're dragging anchor.

Picking Up a Mooring

One of the best ways to avoid the hassles of anchoring is to chose a cove or harbor with moorings available for your use.  Mooring balls are identified by their white spherical or can shape, and having a blue horizontal band.  It may have a number designation, a VHF contact # or name on it.  You will typically have to pay a small fee to the harbor master to use a public mooring, but you can count on it being far cheaper than paying for dockage for the night.

Public moorings are professionally maintained and will use a large anchor or helix screw fixture to maintain position.  The harbor master will let you know if the weight or length of your boat is too big for that particular mooring.  Although moorings are typically more secure than anchors, moorings can and do periodically give way.  For this reason, and for the obvious courtesy reasons, you should never pick up and use a mooring that does not belong to you.

Lines that have been treated with a wax-like coating are available. These lines help the line resist water/salt absorption. To help keep your lines in good shape, clean them from time to time by soaking them in soapy water. Never use bleach, as it can break down the line.


Common Anchoring Mistakes
  • Letting the anchor go with out securing the line to the boat.
  • Letting the anchor go with your foot wrapped in the anchor line.
  • Poor communication between the captain and person on the foredeck.

Here are some tips for mooring successfully:

  • Approach a mooring from downwind.  This will give you better maneuverability as you go to secure your boat to the ball. 
  • Go slow, so as not to disturb those already moored.
  • After putting on PFDs, send a crew member to the bow with a boat hook to grab the eye or the base of the mooring ball.
  • Once the mooring ball is at the bow--slow, stop or gently reverse engines to halt forward motion. Use your crew to relay distance information if it is difficult for the skipper to see where the mooring ball is in relation to the boat.
  • Loop the mooring line over one or both of your bow cleats.  Pay attention to the possibility of chafing.  You may want to use your own line to attach to the mooring ball if the one provided is dirty.
  • Some moorings may have an antenna like device called 'whip.'  This is simply an extension of the ball so you don't have to reach as far to haul in the mooring line.
  • Once secure, let the boat drift back and be sure that you are clear of those who have moored or anchored around you.  There is no need to 'back down' on a mooring ball.
  • Leaving a mooring is easy--just motor or pull up gently to the ball and release the mooring line from your boat.  You can then either drift back or maneuver forward to clear yourself of the ball and the associated ground tackle.
Finally, never ever anchor a small boat by the stern! Your engine, and the bulk of the boat's weight rest here. Stern anchoring is likely to result in swamping and flooding.