1. Choose an area clear of boats and underwater obstacles.
Check your chart to ensure no cables, wrecks or other underwater obstructions will foul your line. Determine the water depth and bottom type (preferably sand or mud). Calculate the amount of line needed; the general rule is five to seven times the water depth plus the distance from the water’s surface to where the anchor attaches to the bow. If the water is 8 feet deep and your bow cleat is 2 feet from the surface, multiply 10 by 5 to determine how many feet of anchor line to put out. Secure your anchor to the bow cleat at the point on the line where you want it to stop. Then, with your boat heading into the wind (or current if that is stronger) move into position, put the engine in idle and stop the boat with the bow just forward of where you intend to drop anchor.
2. Lower the anchor slowly.
With your life jacket on, slowly lower the anchor into the water from the bow. Don’t throw it over the side; this tends to foul the line. Your boat should begin to drift backward with the wind or current, allowing the anchor to move down and away as it enters the water. This backward drift is important. If your boat is stationary when the anchor reaches bottom, the chain piles on top and prevents the anchor from digging in. If your boat isn’t drifting backward on its own, put the engine in reverse and move slowly backward as you pay out the anchor rode. This stretches out the chain from the bow and ensures the anchor will lie on the bottom facing in the correct direction.
3. Keep tension on the anchor rode.
As you pay out the anchor rode, maintain tension to keep the boat’s bow pointed toward the anchor. This ensures your anchor, chain and rope don’t become tangled. If you’re anchoring in strong winds, you may have to put the engine in forward gear to control the speed and direction of backward drift.
4. Set the anchor.
With the anchor rode out and the boat in the intended swing zone, secure the rode, let the anchor dig in and stop the boat. Exercise caution: Wrap the rode once or twice around a cleat and keep your hands well clear. Once you feel the anchor dig in and set, put the engine in idle reverse and back down on the anchor to secure it to the bottom. This is especially important where the bottom has a layer of sand and grass. Once the anchor is set, note any landmarks in relation to the boat. Check these reference points frequently to make sure you’re not drifting.
5. Weigh anchor.
Once you’ve set the anchor, pulling or weighing anchor should be easy. Still, proceed with care and wear your life jacket. The combination of anchor pull, current and weight can sometimes swamp a small boat. Lift the anchor as vertically as possible and be careful not to hit the side of the boat. Wash off any mud and debris while lifting. –U.S. Coast Guard