Boat Handling

Small Boat Anchoring

By Tim Murphy
Published: April/May 2014

Five steps to simple, reliable anchor sets on small boats.

Many boaters — whether fishing, swimming, or socializing aboard — spend their best hours anchored rather than underway. With that in mind, let's look at ways to keep your time at anchor comfortable and safe. The photos that follow illustrate tips for anchoring small boats for short periods of time; as the size and displacement of the boat increase, you'll need heavier ground tackle and different techniques to manage it.

1. Find A Good Spot

A good anchorage offers protection from wind and waves, swinging room, and a quality bottom. Choosing an anchorage that's protected from waves is the best insurance against dragging, as the loads from a pitching bow increase the likelihood of dragging an anchor. Consider the radius of your anchor rode, plus boat length, when you calculate your swinging circle, allowing for changes in wind or current direction, and water depth due to tides. Make sure there are no boats, shoals, rocks, or other objects in that circle. Finally, make sure your anchor works for the particular bottom; the lightweight fluke-style anchor shown here works best in sand or mud; it wouldn't work well on a grassy, rocky, or hard-clay bottom.

Photo of finding the right a spot to anchor
Choosing your spot carefully will help you avoid resetting, dragging, or getting
close to other boats. Also, before getting started, make sure to tie the end of your
anchor rode to a secure position on the boat.

2. Prepare For Anchoring

Before the anchor goes over the bow, make sure you have plenty of rode and that it's free of tangles and ready to run. Anchor rode where length is marked ahead of time helps you determine how much to put out. A length of chain helps weigh the rode down at the anchor for better holding. When you're ready to set, the boat should be motionless, or drifting very slowly astern. Any forward motion will knock the anchor against the boat's stem. This is especially true on boats with a plumb (vertical) bow.

Photo of women throwing an anchor
Make sure you've got lots of untangled rode to feed out, before you throw the hook overboard.

3. Drop The Hook

Pick a spot to drop anchor, keeping in mind where you want the boat to end up and that the anchor will drag a short distance before it sets. As the boat drifts back, lower the anchor slowly to the bottom, then gently pay out the rode. This will prevent the chain from piling up in a heap. If the anchor and rode all pay out in one line, free of tangles, everything should be ready to set it securely in the bottom. Take a turn around a cleat and snub it off every now and then to let the tackle straighten out.

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