Charter Advisors' How To Guide
Anchors and Anchoring
Most charter yachts have one anchor (main) and one back up (smaller) anchor.
This does not mean that you have two anchors and therefore you have two chances to anchor.
The following story sums this up pretty well, from an unnamed charter company. Goes like this... and we are paraphrasing.
A couple new to chartering called in to the charter base one day and requested that an anchor be brought to the yacht.
The charter company replied, you have two anchors on board. These are your large main anchor, and your back up anchor.
The new chartering couple replied with the following: we have already anchored two times, so we are out of anchors and need another.
At this point it was clear what this couple had been doing. Rather than raising anchor, they were cutting the anchor line, leaving the anchor on the bottom and securing the next anchor for the next time they needed it. The second anchorage resulted in the same... they cut the anchor away.
So.. they for some reason thought anchors were disposable...
The actual story is much shorter.
Charter: "Can we get another anchor?"
Charter company: "What happened to the two onboard?"
Charter: "Well, we have already anchored twice so we need another one now." Enough said.
Anchoring is either easier or harder than mooring depending on who you talk to. There really is not much to it. But it should be noted that a mooring ball is always preferred because of the added security they provide (they don't drag).
Here is a better way to drop the hook or Anchor.
Here are the prime rules for safe anchoring
1.Make sure you're where you can (allowed to) anchor.
2.Know what kind of bottom is under you and where shore is behind you.
3.The depth of the water.
4.Wind / Swell conditions.
5.Anchor Chain / Rhode scope
Let's take them one at a time...
Picking where to Anchor
Know where you are and where the anchorages are. Your cruising guide and nautical maps will clearly indicate where you are allowed to anchor. This will be marked with a symbol of an anchor. You can see where the anchorage is, if it is protected from the wind and swells, and how deep the water is in that area. You will also be able to predict the best path if there are any tricky spots (shallows or shoals). It is always best to pick a anchorage that is blocking the swell and wind. Otherwise you're in for a rocky night's sleep and risk an anchor dragging drill.
Once you're at your chosen spot, visually inspect the area for coral heads or any other hazards. Note what the bottom looks like. We will get to that next.
The Seabed and your Anchor
Know what kind of bottom or seabed is under you and behind you as well as your location to the shore. The seabed is very important. You want your anchor to dig in and hold. Sand and mud are the best for holding power. In the Caribbean it's all sand baby! Well except where it's coral or turtle grass. The goal is to drop anchor in sand. Never anchor in or near coral! Avoid sea grass and turtle grass. Grassy bottoms do not have good holding power and there is a good chance you will drag or release your anchor.
Dragging and releasing are exactly why you want to be aware of what is behind your yacht both above and below water. Best rule of thumb here is to give your neighbors plenty of room and NEVER anchor on a lee shore (wind blowing from sea to shore). You would never want to drag an anchor through coral. And conversely you would hate to drag backwards just to bump into your neighbor anchored well astern of you or worse, find yourself on the beach (should the wind be blowing from sea to shore). Dragging is not something you want to do. It is recommended that after anchoring you put on that snorkel set you bought before you flew all the way down and check how your anchor is set visually and that you have good holding ground.
Water Depth and Anchoring
Water depth. Obvious reasons of course.. but there is more to this story. Sure you want water under your keel, but you also need to know the depth to figure out how much anchor chain or rhode to let out. We will get into this more in just a min. The last obvious reason is because you need to find a spot between 15-30 ft. of water. Too deep and you won't have enough anchor line... too shallow, and you won't need an anchor.
Anchoring and Wind
Wind conditions. If it is very windy, go find a mooring and sleep tight. Wind is more than power. It is direction and comfort. Let us explain. Earlier in this section we talked a bit about knowing where the land is in relation to the wind. Should the wind be blowing on to shore you need to consider dragging room. If you were to drag an anchor you will want enough time to get the engine running before you're into the shallows or worse. The same holds true for your neighbors. If the wind is blowing from shore out to sea, you have all the dragging room in the world (as long as you don't have a shoal or coral behind you). Now for comfort. Wind does dictate comfort. If you pick an anchorage where the wind is blowing from the sea directly into the anchorage you're in for a rocky night.. both the wind and swells will be working against you. It is always best to find an anchorage protecting you from the wind (leeward side). Less motion, calmer water, and a bit warmer too. Not to mention safer!
We are covering this last hoping you will remember it if it is the last thing you read about anchoring. Anchor scope is as important as all of the above combined. The scope of the anchor chain is basically how much chain or rhode you have out. This is important for two specific reasons. The first is swing room. As your yacht moves on the anchor line it is going to have a big swinging circle. Be sure no other yachts are anywhere near this circle.
The second is holding. The scope of the chain determines how the anchor is sitting on the bottom. Normal scope ratios are 5:1 and 7:1 and in heavy conditions 10:1. Great.. ratios.. that's what we said... ratio of what exactly?
The amount of chain to the depth of water. The conditions will dictate if you use more or less scope.
Here are a few examples.
If you're in 20 feet of water and it's a nice day (light wind)... you can go with a 5:1 scope. Meaning 5 feet of chain for every foot of water.
20 feet of water in light wind would then call for 100 ft of chain.
Same situation, but the wind is gusting a bit and its windy (12-18 knots or so) you may want some extra insurance, so pay out a 7:1 scope.
Again, 7 feet of chain for every foot of water.
Ok, same situation again, except the wind has come up to 20 knots and gusting. Maybe even light storms (squalls). Add some extra insurance with extra scope.
More scope means more anchor line out, but why would more be better? The more line / chain / rhode you pay out the flatter your anchor will lay on the bottom, helping it dig and hold to the best of its design. The stronger the wind and seas the more reason to let the scope out. The flatness of the anchor line will boost holding power even when you get a "good tug." On the other end of the spectrum... shorter Rhodes are fine as long as the conditions are right. We regularly anchor between 5:1 and 7:1.
Even in "light air" days we pay out 7:1 if were going ashore. Better safe than Mayday!
How do you know how much anchor chain you're letting out?
In most cases you don't. If it were your yacht you would have marked the chain every foot (or every 5 feet, 25 feet, etc). That way you can count the marks and know how much you have let out. On a charter yacht this is usually not the case, though we were surprised on a recent charter. Not only was the chain marked, but the yacht manual listed what each marking meant! Wow! Impressive! Unless you've found this magical charter company, you're going to have to guesstimate it.
One method is to look at the length of chain coming out of the anchor locker. You may note that it is approx. 3 feet from the exit of the chain from the locker to where it disappears over the front of the bow. When you start letting the chain out.. start counting. See how long it takes a single chain link to run from the locker to the front edge of the bow. If it takes 3 seconds you know that you are letting out a foot a second. If you need 50 feet of chain to get the desired scope, count to 50.
Anchoring is not an exact science, it is an art just like everything else sailing. When in doubt give yourself a wide margin of error. In other words, let out more than you need. As long as your anchor chain is not vertical (80 - 90 degrees) and you're seeing the chain lay out at a shallow angle (45 degrees) you have decent scope. As a final safety measure snorkel down and check your anchor visually. You will see instantly if your anchor is holding securely and that the anchor line is laying the way you want. You will also make sure your anchor is not sitting in grass or in or near coral. If you see any thing out of order, raise anchor and move to a new location.
How do I know if it the anchor is set?
1.The first thing you will feel is a "tug." After the anchor is down, the yacht will drift back. You will then feel a "tug" on the line and the yacht spring forward slightly. This is a good indicator that your anchor has dug in nicely. To ensure that it is set, put the yacht in reverse and motor the revs up to about 1300 RPM (see the manual for your yacht for specific RPM's) for a couple of seconds. If you feel the yacht tug then spring back after you "set" the anchor with the motor you have a set anchor.
2.The second way is really the same way with one addition. Snorkel down and visually inspect that the anchor is set.
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev