By Don Casey

Scope is often defined as the ratio of the length of deployed anchor rode to the depth of the water. That is wrong! Scope calculations must be based on the vertical distance not from the sea bottom to the surface of the water, but from the sea bottom to the bow chock or roller where the anchor rode comes aboard. For example, if you let out 30 feet of anchor rode in 6 feet of water, you may think you have a 5:1 scope, but if your bow roller is 4 feet above the waterline, your scope is actually 3:1.

Scope is required to make the pull on the anchor horizontal. The more upward pull on the anchor, the more likely it is to break it out. Minimum scope for secure anchoring is about 5:1. Seven to one is better where you have the room. A length of chain between the line and the anchor — I recommend at least 20 feet — also helps to keep the pull horizontal.

Don Casey has been one of the most consulted experts on boat care and upgrades for 30 years, and is one of the BoatUS Magazine's panel of experts. He and his wife cruise aboard their 30-footer part of the year in the eastern Caribbean. His books include Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, and the recently updated This Old Boat, the bible for do-it-yourself boaters.


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