1. Know and check your ground tackle
2. Anchor sized adequately for boat?
3. Owner aware of strengths and weaknesses of their anchor type?
4. Rode long enough for adequate scope in anticipated anchorages?
5. Chain leader on rope rode?
6. Anchor and rode in good shape and ready for deployment?
7. Shackles seized with SS safety wire?
8. Bitter end of rode firmly secured to boat?
9. Rode measured and marked?
10. Snubber for chain rode ready for deployment?
11. Anchor firmly secured for passage?
II. Advance planning for destination anchorage
1. Check weather forecast for wind direction and speed.
2. Check chart for depths and note desired anchoring locations with adequate protection from fetch, swinging room and distance from shallows, channels, bouys, private moorings, cable crossings, and known underwater hazards (set target waypoints on MFD if desired).
3. Figure scope needed for anchorage depth and anticipated weather conditions.
4. Note bottom information and prepare as needed (e.g. S=sand, M=mud, R=rocks, PS=pebbles&sand, etc.).
5. Always have backup plan if weather turns, anchorage is too crowded, anchor won’t set, equipment failure, etc.
III. Prepare your crew
1. Share your advance planning with your crew.
2. Assign roles, train as necessary BEFORE departure (primarily helm and foredeck, possibly spotter and go-fer/backup).
3. Agree on hand signals.
4. Brief crew on your anchoring process, what to expect, safety instructions.
IV. Arriving at Anchorage
1. Scout anchorage
2. Confirm or revise your advance planning- depth, scope needed, desired location(s), etc.
3. Prepare ground tackle for deployment
4. Note placement and orientation of other boats in anchorage
5. Note action of current, wind, swells/waves, etc. and plan deployment angle/strategy
V. Choose drop location
1. Adequate distance from shallows, other boats, mooring/fishing bouys, hazards, etc. (radar is useful for determining precise distances)
2. If anchorage is crowded consider hailing nearby anchored boat to ask the location of their anchor and any suggestions for where to drop (boats w/rope rode are typically behind their anchor but boats w/chain rode can be almost anywhere in relation to their anchor location)
3. Inform crew of location and to prepare for anchoring
4. Figure/plan scope needed:
- Step One: Check depth and point in tide cycle to determine depth at high tide (for SF Bay we suggest adding 8 feet to zero tide depth). Example- 20 feet current depth, +5 in current tide cycle = 15 feet at low tide/23 feet at high tide.
- Step Two: Add bow height to high tide level. Example- 4 feet from waterline to bow roller+23 feet of depth at high tide =27 feet.
- Step Three: Multiply Step Two X minimum scope for setting, typically 5:1. Example- 27 feet X 5=135 feet of rode.
Tip: Be sure to know if the instrument depth shown is actual depth or offset for “depth under keel.” If offset, combine the bow height with the keel offset and add to instrument depth to figure scope.
Example: 4 foot keel offset means that your instrument depth is 4 feet less than actual depth, so for Step One above your depth instrument would show 16 feet in 20 feet of water. To figure your scope you would need to add your 4 foot depth offset to get the actual depth of 20 feet.
Shortcut: Just remember the sum of your bow height + keel offset (8 in this example) which never changes and add to your instrument depth before figuring scope.
VI. Prepare ground tackle for deployment
1. Release anchor from fastenings/lashings and temporarily cleat.
2. Cleat snubber (for chain) if not already in place.
3. Ensure all tools needed are at hand and ready- windlass remote, windlass breaker is on, windlass clutch handle, boat hook, knife, gloves, trip line (optional), anchor bouy (optional), etc.
4. Clear foredeck of clutter and any lines/sails/objects that may impede anchoring.
VII. Deploy and Set Anchor
1. Inform foredeck crew of planned amount of rode to deploy from #4 above.
2. Slowly approach planned drop location.
3. Note behavior of boat with wind and current and choose deployment strategy, primarily Drift, Backing Down or Forward (in certain conditions you can deploy your chain in a more controlled manner going forward- try it! Not recommended for rope rode).
4. Stop boat (moving at less than 1/2 knot is OK), helm signals foredeck crew to drop anchor and sets and marks “Drop” waypoint (if using modern MFD at helm, can use Anchor Alarm app if not)
5. Back down slowly (no more than 1 knot) and deploy 5:1 rode scope in controlled manner (part of “Prepare Your Crew” step above) to prevent dragging anchor before minimum scope deployed or tangling anchor with rode. (Note: windlass users may choose to release the clutch for deployment, especially with one-way windlass)
6. Foredeck crew signals helm to stop when scope is deployed.
7. At 5:1 scope attach snubber to chain and deploy enough chain for the snubber to take the tension/force off the windlass. If rope rode, securely cleat the rope.
8. Foredeck crew signals helm when ready to set. Anchor may have already bitten after being snubbed if rode is fully extended.
9. Helm sets anchor with feedback from foredeck crew. Here are the recommended steps for setting your anchor:
1. Foredeck crew extends arm to signal rode angle and direction to helm.
2. Helm backs gently watching arm angle until rode is extended, anchor bites and you feel the
boat pull up on the rode. No power is needed for this step in strong winds/current.
3. Helm sets reference waypoint when rode is extended. Or, note position of boat using two
reference points from shore.
4. Increase throttle a bit to help anchor dig. Too much at this stage might dislodge anchor so use
finesse and feel the connection with the bottom.
5. Foredeck crew watches and feels the behavior of the rode and keeps helm informed using
agreed upon hand signals. A visual sign of dragging is the rode shaking instead of taut. A tactile
sign of dragging is feeling vibration and skipping instead of firm stretching.
6. Helm watches the location of the boat in relation to the reference waypoint (#3 above). Some
movement beyond the waypoint is normal as the anchor digs into the bottom, but moving a
measurable distance beyond the scope deployed might indicate dragging as most anchors will
set in mud within 2-10 feet.
7. If the anchor appears to have bitten (#2 above) and dug (#4 above) successfully, helm
gradually increases power backing down for 30 seconds to a minute until both helm and
foredeck crew are satisfied the anchor is successfully set. During this process helm sets
waypoints as the boat moves back and confirms visually that the boat doesn’t move back any
further at higher RPMs.
VIII. Raising Anchor
1. Start engine, helm crew at wheel or tiller.
2. Foredeck crew starts to pull in chain or rode manually or using windlass.
3. In stronger winds/current foredeck crew signals helm forward to slacken rode and turn to compensate for being pushed at an angle by the current (caution: chain/rope can jump off of bow rollers when attempting to pull at an angle in fresh conditions, a dangerous condition that risks injury to boat and crew).
4. If raising anchor in fresh conditions foredeck crew will need to provide frequent signals to helm to increase or decrease power forward, turn boat to align with rode, etc. This is where a windlass remote, wireless headset, and/or second foredeck crew member comes in very handy.
5. When anchoring in mud with chain rode it is best to wash the mud off the chain while raising anchor, which is the primary function of the deck wash feature of many cruising boats. Besides creating a mess on the foredeck (and the crew), if the chain is allowed to reach the windlass fouled with mud it will skip and even jump the windlass gypsy. Absent a deck wash fitting and hose, a bucket (with line attached to handle for scooping sea water) and brush can be used, or a battery operated power washer works well. (Note: chain will bury itself in mud after a day or so but you most likely won’t bring up much mud for a shorter stay such as a lunch stop or when practicing)
6. Foredeck crew continues to pull in rode, washing as necessary, stopping when the anchor is at the waterline to note if it is clean or fouled before proceeding further.
7. If the anchor is clean, pull home to the bow roller and secure. If the anchor is fouled one option is to snub it to ride below the waterline and signal the helm to proceed forward, watching the anchor and raising it home when cleaned.
8. Foredeck crew tidies up the foredeck, puts everything away, and secures the deck for sailing/motoring.
IX. General Notes
1. Most anchorages in SF Bay have good mud holding which is easy to set reliably the first time using the above procedure. For sand, pebbles/sand, soupy mud, rocks, etc. you might need to modify your setting procedure by allowing time for the anchor to rest/”soak” into the bottom and spending more time and repetitions on Section III #4 above to gently help the anchor penetrate deep enough for setting. If your anchor doesn’t set, assuming good practices as above, raise it and try again once or twice and if it continues to have difficulty setting your best choice is to move to another spot or another anchorage.
2. Always firmly secure your anchor to your boat when not anchored. When in the bow roller or somewhere else, for your safety and the safety of your boat, your anchor should not move at all in any direction while underway.
3. Always check the forecast before departure and always be prepared for conditions much more severe than forecast.
4. Comfort at anchor involves an interaction of forces above water (wind), on the water (waves/swells), under the water (current) and your boat’s design. Hunting (side to side motion), yawing, and horsing (up and down) can create uncomfortable conditions at anchor. The easiest and most effective strategy for comfortable anchoring is to anchor as close as prudent to the windward shore which will provide wind protection and more importantly, protection from fetch, as waves will grow as the distance over the water increases. Boats prone to hunting and yawing tend to have too much windage forward of the centerline (such as a center cockpit sailboat) and can benefit from a riding sail and other strategies for moving windage further aft (removing the jib, installing a radar arch, bimini or lee cloths, etc.). Rocker stoppers are effective to dampen yawing and horsing. A kellet and/or drogue (or even a canvas bucket) is helpful for horsing. A hammerlock moor is helpful for hunting and drudging (allowing a second anchor to drag on the bottom) is an easy strategy for hunting and horsing (if rode is short enough).
5. Modern chart plotters/MFDs (“multi-function display”) coupled with a good navigation system such as Navionics make it much easier to anchor precisely, monitor your boat’s movement and position with waypoints and tracking, set alarms, etc. Some of these functions are available on tablets and smart phones. For safety at anchor we highly recommend setting an anchor alarm and there are many smart phone apps for doing so.
6. Suggested Foredeck Hand Signals:
• Stop/Neutral- closed fist (also applies when anchor is at waterline per #7 above of Raising Anchor)
• Forward- karate chop open hand in desired direction multiple times
• Back up- open hand facing aft pushing back multiple times
• More power (forward or reverse)- circle raised index finger several times
• Less power/slow down (forward or reverse)- Open hand, palm down, up and down motion
• Good set- OK hand signal
• Bad set/recommend raising anchor- cross arms/closed fists, shake head “No” (helm and foredeck would normally confer and decide next steps)
• Angle and direction of rode- outstretched arm, flat hand facing sideways following angle and direction of rode
• HELP! or “Need Time Out” (rode jumped roller, MOB, any situation needing assistance or to stop anchoring procedure)- wave arms overhead. Helm and foredeck would normally confer.
7. In addition to the fun and pleasure of anchoring overnight in beautiful locations, your anchor(s) are necessary tools and safety devices and it is common and desired to have more than one anchor on a cruising boat. For example, an emergency anchor set up for immediate deployment if you lose power in a dangerous situation (or drag in the middle of the night), kedging off when grounded, a storm anchor capable of weathering a gale, a secondary anchor in case you lose or are forced to bouy your primary anchor when it’s fouled and stuck on the bottom, a stern anchor, or for deploying advanced anchoring strategies such as bahamian moor, tandem or “V” anchoring, different types of anchors for different bottoms, etc.
8. How much scope to use: 5:1 is a typical minimum for setting your anchor. After setting, if needed in a crowded anchorage in settled conditions you can shorten to 3:1. In deep water you typically need shorter scope for chain as the additional weight adds to your holding. In fresh conditions of 20-30 knots and 2-3 foot waves in an anchorage we recommend minimum 7:1 scope. Weathering a gale at anchor requires 10:1 or more scope and confidence in your anchoring skills, experience, and ground tackle that can only come from experience.
9. Finally, we would be remiss not to mention that there are lots of potential ways that an anchor can get stuck on the bottom, most commonly by snagging on a sunken log or other object. The more you anchor, especially when cruising to different
locations, the higher likelihood this will eventually happen. Deploying a trip line before anchoring is one strategy to rescue a stuck anchor, snubbing the rode and powering in different directions is another, but sometimes your anchor will be stuck no matter what you can do. When that happens, don’t stress as it happens to the best of us and you have two choices- 1) cut it loose (fine for a cheap anchor that you don’t care about), or 2) attach a bouy or fender to the rode, set a waypoint, and come back for it with a diver (for an expensive anchor you care about).
Created and submitted by SJSC member David Steele for a sailing class, feel free to distribute, revise and adapt for your use.