Anchoring your boat
Anchoring is key to good seamanship
Good seamanship demands that all boaters know how to anchor properly and safely.
Since the 1930s, when burying anchors were developed, all anchors attempt to optimize the following characteristics:
- Penetration into the bottom to establish a “bite”
- Holding power—the amount of pull that can be exerted on the anchor without it breaking loose
- Ability to hold in place or reset when the pull shifts due to the boat swinging in wind or current
- Weight requirements
- Ease of recovery, or weighing anchor
- Ease of storage
The sea bottom can vary from soft mud to hard coral or rock and can be covered with grass or kelp. (Anchoring in coral is illegal in most locations.) The type of bottom determines the appropriate type of ground tackle, or anchor and rode, that’s best for your boat.
Bottom conditions affect the performance and effectiveness of various types of anchors. An anchor with broad, flat flukes easily penetrates soft mud and sand but may skip along a rocky bottom and may not penetrate thick sea grass. On the other hand, an anchor with sharp, narrow flukes may better penetrate grass and hard bottoms. Some anchor designs can be difficult to remove if snagged, while others release quite easily.
Your boat’s size, including hull and superstructure, and the anchoring situations you are likely to encounter help determine the appropriate size of your anchor. Holding power is generally proportional to the size of the anchor flukes. An anchor with sharp, narrow, easily set flukes that penetrate the bottom will have relatively less holding power in soft settings.
Many offshore boaters also carry a storm anchor, which is deployed in extreme seas or weather. Recreational boaters often carry a small picnic or lunch hook for temporary anchoring in calm conditions. The larger or heavier the anchor, the more difficult it is to deploy, recover and store. The size of the anchor and where it’s stored may affect your boat’s handling underway. To handle different bottom types in multiple cruising areas, many boats also carry more than one type of anchor.
To learn more, take our Seamanship course.