Anchoring techniques - Ocean Navigator (2023)

We have learned many anchoring techniques the hard way. One of the worst occasions saw us wrap three times around an old mooring block during current changes in La Paz, Mexico. After hours of troubleshooting and a dive into brackish fast-moving water, we sailed around three times in a counter-clockwise direction and were freed. If we had turned the rudder from one side to the other after each current switch, we never would have had the problem in the first place. On another occasion, we rolled so violently in swell that we didn’t sleep a wink and I was tossed from the bed.

There are a few techniques for anchoring in swell, current, foul ground and strong wind that can improve safety and comfort.

Anchoring in swell
Anchoring in an area subject to moderate ocean swell can be very uncomfortable. The boat will roll violently in swell that is more than 45 degrees off the wind angle. It can also be uncomfortable with the bow or stern directly into swell, as the pitching and plunging causes the transom to smack the surface of the water. The most comfortable position for the boat is between 15 to 35 degrees off the direction of the swell. This can be accomplished in two main ways.

The winch bridle: The simplest solution is to set up a winch bridle. A line is tied to the anchor rode with a rolling hitch and taken back to a cockpit winch where it is tightened. This changes the angle of the boat relative to the wind. The downside of the wind bridle is that the boat may begin to “sail” forward due to windage on the side of the hull. In such a case, it is better to deploy a stern anchor.

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Setting up a winch bridle:
1) Set the anchor.

2) Back down on the anchor to make sure it is secure.

3) Tie a line to the anchor rode using a rolling hitch and bring it back to a cockpit winch. Release approximately 20 feet of anchor rode. Winch in on the second line to change the angle of the boat relative to the wind. By playing around with the lengths of the anchor rode and winch bridle, you can adjust the angle of the boat.

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The stern anchor: More effecting than the winch bridle but more work to set up is the stern anchor. The stern anchor provides more security and is better at creating a stable angle.

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Setting a stern anchor:
1) Set anchor 1.

2) Back down on the anchor to ensure it is secure. Pay out more anchor rode than the intended scope to facilitate setting anchor 2 (stern anchor).

3) Take out anchor 2 in the dinghy to a minimum 5:1 ratio. Drop the anchor.

4) Take in the slack of anchor 2 and use a cockpit winch to set it. Winch in anchor 1 to the desired scope and pay out the line on the stern anchor. Keep both anchors relatively taught to maintain location and angle of the boat.

Anchoring in current
The Bahamian moor: This is an effective way of anchoring in a strong current. It consists of two anchors off the bow — one set upstream and one set downstream of the boat’s location. This method is most useful in river estuaries and bays with constricted entrances where there are high current speeds and frequent direction changes. It is also useful in crowded anchorages subject to current in order to prevent boats from wandering into each other.

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Setting a Bahamian moor:
1) Set anchor 1 and back down on it at 3:1 scope to make sure it is secure.

2) Feed out twice the anchor rode that you require and drop anchor 2. For example, if you wish to be on 5:1 scope, then feed out 10:1.

3) Winch in the first anchor while paying out line for the second anchor until the boat is halfway between the two anchor locations. Tighten in on the anchor 2 rode to help it set by making a loop in the rode and putting it on a winch. Once set, take the loop off the winch and loosen the line.

4) When the current switches, the boat will be tethered by anchor 2. It might require some snugging of the now loose anchor 1 rode. Setting the rudder hard over to one side will influence the direction in which the boat turns on the current switch. Turning the rudder hard to the other side after each current switch will help prevent the two anchor rodes from twisting together.

Single anchor in wind and current: In areas that are subject to high wind and current, it is sometimes best to be on a single anchor, as boats tend to “dance” in such conditions. As with the Bahamian moor, it is advantageous to turn the rudder hard to one side. As the boat moves forward it will turn sharply to the direction indicated by the rudder and the forces imputing its motion will dissipate. It can be considered akin to heaving-to. Switching the direction of the rudder after each current shift will help avoid a snag on underwater obstructions.

Anchoring in strong wind
Scope and catenary are the first lines of defense in a strong blow. They work to absorb shock and reduce the angle of pull on the anchor.

Catenary: This is the curve in the rode caused by gravity. The more weight there is in the rode, the more catenary there will be at higher wind speeds. It is for this reason that many advocate for all-chain rodes. The catenary has two effects; it reduces the angle of pull on the anchor and absorbs shock from large waves hitting the bow.

Kellet: Catenary can be increased by adding weight to the rode. A simple but effective method of adding weight is using a kellet. A kellet is a weight, usually 10 or more pounds, that is tied or clipped to the anchor rode. The closer to the anchor that the kellet is attached, the better the effect on catenary. However, there should be a minimum distance of the depth of the water at high tide between the kellet and anchor to make sure you’re not trying to raise both at the same time.

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Scope: When the wind is strong enough that the anchor rode no longer has any sag in it (i.e., it has lost all catenary), then it is very important to have adequate scope out. The more scope you have, the more the angle of pull on the anchor is reduced, making the anchor want to dig further into the seafloor rather than pop out.

While catenary and scope are important, sometimes more security is required. In these cases, it may be a good idea to deploy a second anchor. There are two main ways to set up two bow anchors: offset and inline.

Double bow offset: In ground with good holding, the most effective configuration is two bow anchors offset. The offset should be less than 45 degrees, as the function of the anchor will be reduced by side pull if the angle is greater.

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How to set offset double bow anchors:
1) Set anchor 1.

2) Back down on the anchor to ensure it is secure.

3) Motor up to and over from the anchor 1 location and deploy anchor 2.

4) Back down on anchor 2 to ensure it is secure.

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5) Pay out scope on both anchors until desired scope length is reached.

An alternative method is to use the dinghy to deploy anchor 2, similar to the stern anchor.

Double bow inline: Another method for setting double bow anchors is to deploy them inline. This is easier to set up, provided it is done correctly. It can be especially effective in anchorages with foul ground as anchor 2 clears a path for anchor 1 to set, though this requires some dragging to accomplish. The disadvantage of this method is that anchor 2 creates a furrow if dragging and it is harder for anchor 1 to set.

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How to set inline double bow anchors:
1) Set anchor 1 (attached to the head of anchor 2).

2) Pay out a little more rode than the depth of the water at high tide and deploy anchor 2. Failure to put out enough rode between anchors will mean hauling in both anchors at the same time, which in a strong wind can strain a windlass.

3) Back down on anchor 2 and pay out rode to the desired scope. In strong wind, the more scope you have the better, as it will reduce the angle of pull on the anchor.

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Urquhart at the anchor windlass.

Robin Urquhart

Anchoring can be a stressful experience in non-ideal conditions, but with few techniques you can rest safe and secure and avoid many of the pitfalls into which we have fallen. Through practice, we have adapted and refined the above techniques to suit our boat and style and it is important to find the right mix for your boat.

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Robin Urquhart is currently sailing through the Pacific with his wife, Fiona, aboard their 1979 Dufour 35 Monark.See more of his writing at, a website aimed at building sailing culture among younger generations.


What is the proper technique for anchoring? ›

Head into the wind or current. Reduce speed and reverse the engine. When the boat starts to make a slight sternway through the water, lower - do not throw - the anchor. After you've let about a third of your line out, tug the anchor line to see how firmly it's set, and then continue to release the rode.

What are the five 5 types of anchor? ›

Types of Anchors. We have sorted most of the common anchors into five major categories: The Hook, Plough, Fluke, Claw and Scoop.

What are the four steps to anchoring? ›

The Four Steps to Anchoring:
  • Have the person recall a past vivid experience.
  • Provide a specific stimulus at the peak (see chart below)
  • Change the person's state.
  • Set off the anchor to test.

What are the anchoring methods and procedures? ›

Upon approaching the anchoring position the speed upon ground of the vessel is brought gradually to zero and the anchor is lowered in water. As it touches the bottom more length is paid and engines are given astern to develop slight astern movement to lay the cable nicely as the flukes of the anchor dig in the seabed.

What is an example of anchoring technique? ›

Anchoring in NLP is the ability to add a specific external event to an internal experience. In example: the state of feeling good is 'anchored' by pressing a spot on the middle of your right hand. Does that make sense? Does that ring a bell?

What is a high anchoring strategy? ›

When conditions are uncertain, high anchors draw our attention to the positive qualities of the item or individual (as in the case of a salary negotiation) being discussed, and low anchors draw attention to flaws, according to Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky.

What are the three main working principles for anchors? ›

There are six basic principles by which an anchor develops its holding power in concrete: friction, keying, threading, adhesion, welding to rebar, and embedding in concrete.

What is the formula for anchoring a boat? ›

We generally recommend a scope ratio of 5:1 minimum, but ideally 7:1 or even more (especially if anchoring overnight), i.e. let out 7 feet of rode for every 1 foot of water depth you're anchoring in, so if you are anchoring in 10 feet of water, you'll let out 70 feet of rode.

How do you secure an anchor at sea? ›

Securing the Anchor for Sea
  1. Ensure the Anchor is properly Home.
  2. Ensure the break is fully Closed.
  3. Put down the Chain Stopper or Guillotine and secure it with the pin.
  4. Secure the Devil's Claw to the chain.
  5. Disengage the Dog Clutch.
  6. Switch off the Windlass.

What are the 8 types of anchor? ›

The eight anchors/themes are:
  • Technical/Functional. ...
  • General Managerial. ...
  • Autonomy/Independence. ...
  • Security/Stability. ...
  • Entrepreneurial Creativity. ...
  • Service/Dedication to a Cause. ...
  • Pure Challenge. ...
  • Lifestyle.

What is a sea anchor called? ›

A sea anchor (sometimes known as a drift anchor, drift sock, para anchor or boat brake) is a means by which the sailor can arrest the drift of his vessel (when not underway).

What is anchor in navigation? ›

Anchor links, also called jump links or in-page links, are links that lead to another part of the page. If someone clicks on an anchor link, he doesn't go to a new page but to another part of the same page.

What are the 2 methods in anchoring? ›

Various anchorage methods include wind direction and strength, current and tidal current. Often a good knowledge of local conditions helps the seafarer to determine the necessary maneuvers and actions to be taken when anchored.

What are the types of anchoring? ›

There are four main types of anchoring junctions- adherens junctions, desmosomes, hemidesmosomes, and cell-matrix adhesion complexes. Each type of anchoring junction is involved in a distinct type of adhesion. Read more..

What are two types of anchoring systems? ›

The common type of anchors used in such permanent deployment situations is the mushroom, auger, high-holding, and deadweight methods.
  • Mushroom Permanent Anchors. ...
  • Auger Permanent Anchors. ...
  • High Holding Permanent Anchors. ...
  • Deadweight Permanent Anchors. ...
  • Northill Temporary Anchor. ...
  • Grapnel Temporary Anchor.
Mar 10, 2020

What is a thumb rule in anchoring? ›

Whilst the amount of cable required depends on a number of factors, a rough rule of thumb is: “The amount of cable used should be at least three to four times the depth of water”.

What is the most effective method of accurately positioning a vessel when anchoring? ›

We should aim for lowering the anchor to around half shackle from the bottom before we let go. Approach the anchor position heading into wind and tide with speed around 2 knots at 0.5NM from the position. Give Stern movement to stop the vessel over the ground once the vessel is in the anchoring position.

What is the general rule when anchoring in calm waters? ›

To anchor safely: Lower the anchor to the bottom and let the vessel travel backwards until enough line is let out. Allow 3 times as much line as the depth of water. If the weather deteriorates, or in strong currents, increase the line to depth ratio to 5:1 or more.

What is anchoring and example? ›

Anchoring is a heuristic in behavioral finance that describes the subconscious use of irrelevant information, such as the purchase price of a security, as a fixed reference point (or anchor) for making subsequent decisions about that security.

How many types of anchoring are there? ›

Anchors can be divided into four big groups: grapnels, plough anchors, patent anchors and stock anchors.

What are anchoring phrases? ›

For an internal anchor, you can repeat a phrase in your mind. For instance, you could say, “I am calm and relaxed.” This is similar to positive affirmations. By continuing to repeat this phrase, you will naturally feel more at peace. This anchor involves the sense of touch.

What are anchoring skills? ›

Communication skills: A news anchor's main duty is to communicate the news. They typically possess strong verbal and written communication skills and the ability to speak with conviction, confidence and purpose. Interpersonal skills: News anchors work with a team of journalists and news staff.

What are the 4 different types of anchors? ›

Types of Boat Anchors
  • Mushroom Anchor. Very large mushroom anchors are used for moorings or securing buoys. ...
  • Danforth or Fluke Anchor. ...
  • Plow Anchor. ...
  • Claw Anchor. ...
  • Grapnel Anchor. ...
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How do you determine anchor position? ›

Anchor chain direction

The direction of the chain is measured in two different ways: Clock format – The bow of the vessel (facing forward) is 12 o'clock, the extension of your arms is 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock accordingly, and the tail of the ship is 6 o'clock.

What is the most important maintenance of an anchor? ›

Lubricate Moving Parts

It is particularly important to clean and grease the surfaces of the two clutch cones and the chainwheel where they meet.

Do you anchor the front or back of a boat? ›

You should never drop your anchor from the stern of your boat. The stern, as you may already know, is the back of the boat. As the back of the boat sits lower into the water, adding the weight from the anchor could cause major issues.

How do most anchors hold a boat? ›

Traditionally, the anchor buries itself when it reaches the bottom. It will dig cavernously as the boat floats on the water. Most anchors work this way, but some may vary due to new designs and parts crafted by manufacturers.

What is the proper procedure before dropping the anchor? ›

A proper method for lowering an anchor is from the bow. Anchoring from the stern could cause the boat to swamp or capsize. Pick a spot with swinging room in all directions. Should the wind change, your boat will swing bow to the wind or current, whichever is stronger.

What does 4 shackles in the water mean? ›

A shackle is a unit of length and equal to 15 fathoms or 90 feet and is the standard length of a chain . >> In this condition the weight of 2 shackles is able to moor the ship. As the tide builds up the ship drifts aft picking up about two more shackles making the length of the catenary now to 4 shackles.

What does 3 shackles in the water mean? ›

1 shackle = a length of cable or chain equal to 15 fathoms (90 feet or 27.432 meter). “3 shackles in the water” means that a ship has passed 3 shackles (of anchor chain) into the water. For a given depth under the ship you want to have 3 to 5 times that lenght of chain on the bottom of the sea.

What is the ideal anchoring depth? ›

The ideal anchorage has a sandy bottom, a water depth between three and five meters, and provides enough space for the ship to float in all directions even in shifting winds without obstructing another ship or getting too close to rocks.

Can you anchor a ship in the middle of the ocean? ›

Anchoring in the middle of the ocean is not possible due to the depth. In order to maintain good holding, you want at least 7 times more line out than there is water underneath your boat. The ocean is thousands of feet deep in the middle and the line needed to anchor there would fill a cargo ship.

Do anchors need to touch the ocean floor? ›

Does A Boat Anchor Have To Touch The Bottom? Yes, all anchors rest on the seabed. An anchor is designed in such a way that it digs into the seabed and holds the boat from moving away.

How do you approach the anchorage position? ›

Approach the anchorage slowly (less than 3 knots), with the dinghy in davits or tied alongside and short. Ensure that the bitter end of the dinghy painter (rope) is not in the water and that the anchor is prepared to be dropped. Have a crew member forward looking for any reef.

What is the proper technique for anchoring quizlet? ›

What is the proper technique for anchoring? From the bow.

What are the rules for anchoring? ›

An anchor has to grab the bottom, dig in, and set to really hold, which usually entails letting out enough scope (5-to-1 rode to depth, measured from your anchor roller to the bottom), backing down on it slowly until it hooks the bottom, and then more strongly to dig its flukes in until it's clear the boat will remain ...

What is an anchoring technique for anxiety? ›

' It's about using a physical sensation (normally pressing on an acupressure point on your body) to concentrate on and anchor your thoughts and feelings on that point while you wait for the feelings of panic to subside and your breathing to return to normal.

What are anchor principles? ›

Summary: People tend to focus on a single, initial piece of information, which influences how they estimate value and make subsequent decisions.

Do boats anchor in the middle of the ocean? ›

The answer to that is 'no'. Anchoring in the middle of the ocean is not possible due to the depth. In order to maintain good holding, you want at least 7 times more line out than there is water underneath your boat.

What is the 3 3 3 technique for anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.


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