Episode #045: Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast How-to to anchor like a boss!

Photo by David Whiteford on Pexels.com

There is something magical about spending a nice, quiet, night at anchor! When we were in Croatia, it was a blessing to be able to get away from all of the other tourists for some quiet R&R! Anchoring is a pretty simple thing once you master some basic steps. Here I will break it all down for you and provide you with some of my pro tips! Learn to anchor like a boss! Enjoy! Don’t forget to send me any questions!

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Here are my most recent episodes:

#58: When things go wrong… my 5 step process to stepping back and getting $hit done! Your Pocket Sailing Instructor Podcast

  1. #58: When things go wrong… my 5 step process to stepping back and getting $hit done!
  2. #57: Chartering Step 3 – Trip planning, provisioning and check-out procedures
  3. #56: Chartering Step 2 – Type of charter & collecting quotes

Technical Terms Used in Anchoring

  • Ground & Tackle: includes the anchors, cables, and other tackle used to secure a ship at anchor.
  • Rode: is the connection system between the anchor and the boat. Traditionally it is a combination of rope and chain, or all chain.  
  • Scope: is defined as a ratio of the length of an anchor rode and the depth of the water under the the bow of the boat measured from deck height.
  • Snubber: is a bridle used to take the strain of the chain rode. This reduces wear on your boat from the chain and also acts as a shock absorber and silences the chain. Usually made of nylon rope or tough rubber.
  • Windlass: is a machine that restrains and manipulates the anchor chain on a boat, allowing the anchor to be raised and lowered by means of mechanical aid.
  • Anchor Roller: is a device situated at the bow that consists of a wheel within a framework that is designed to guide an anchor when it is lowered or raised.

Types of Anchors

There are several types of anchors on the market now. The classic anchors include the Bruce, Danforth, and Plough. Newer anchors such as the Mantus and Rocna are gaining a lot of popularity though. Personally I upgraded my small Bruce to a Rocna and absolutely LOVE IT.

This handy dandy summary was retrieved from Anchoring.com. This webpage has a great breakdown of the different types of anchors and how to choose the one that is right for you. Be sure to check it out!


Alright, hopefully you have done your pre-trip planning and you have an anchorage (or two) selected for your lovely night! What are some of the things you are looking for in a good anchorage? Here are the key things:

  • Shelter: you should have shelter from wind, waves and traffic
  • Depth: you need adequate depth for your draft
  • Bottom Type: make sure your anchor will hold in the type of bottom you’ll have
  • Swing Room: goes along with depth. You need to be able to swing 360 around without hitting anything.

Those are the basic needs for basic anchoring with 1 anchor. Nothing fancy! Easy to prep and prepare. If you are anchoring in a tidal area, you will need to take the tidal height into consideration. How much will it fluctuate and how will that affect your depth, swing room, etc. You can use a kellet to help decrease your scope in a non-tidal area, as well as a tidal area.

Images retrieved from Anchoring.com and Sailingissues.com


Things to consider for shelter:

  • weather forecast – do you know what the next 12-18 hours will bring?
  • traffic – have you ensured that you are anchored in a low traffic area away from typical traffic
  • swell & current – have you considered the natural swell in the area? Your boat may not face the wind if there is strong current in the area.


This one is pretty self-explanatory, however be sure to check your tide tables if you are in a tidal area and prepare adequately. For the amount of scope you need, we generally use:

  • 3:1 for short stays – lunch, swim, nap, etc. staying 1-4 hours with no anticipated weather changes
  • 5:1 staying overnight in good weather – no anticipated poor weather or high winds
  • 7:1-10:1 riding out a storm or overnight in poor weather – the saying is “when in doubt, let it out!”

If you are anticipating poor weather you do need to make sure that your increased scope does not put you in danger as far as running aground, lee shore, swing room, etc.


Make sure your anchor will hold in the anticipated bottom type. On Kootenay Lake we start to get a lot of weeds growing in August. So even though the chart says nice muddy bottom, it may not be the case. Check your position and some people will even dive down to check the anchor! If you are lucky, you may have clear enough water to see it – we do on Kootenay Lake!


This one can really trip people up, but be aware that not all boats swing the same way or at the same rate. You must make sure that you are not overlapping your 360 degree circle with anyone else. Some boats may have an anchor buoy to help you figure out where their anchor is. If not, you will need to look at the angle of the rode off their bow and guestimate where the anchor may be set.


Anchor Buoy / Trip Line: this is a line with a float that you can attach at the head of the anchor. It can be used to mark your anchor position (coil up extra line so the buoy floats above your anchor) or it can also be used to pull out your anchor if it become fouled.

Another image from Anchoring.com.

Anchor Alarms: I have never used an anchor alarm as they appear to be more trouble than they are worth. However, I take several positions from shore and I also make a note on my Navionics of my position and watch closely to make sure there are no issues. Generally, all things staying the same and your anchor is properly set, you should have no problems. It is only when the weather/wind picks up that you may need to consider adding more scope so you do not drag.

Anchoring Hand Signals: many people will come up with hand signals to indicate when the anchor is down, when to use reverse/forward, etc. for the motor, and so on. It is a good idea to discuss these items with your crew before trying to set your anchor.

Basic Anchoring Steps

Now I would suggest watching some YouTube videos and taking a course, however here are the basic steps for anchoring:

  • choose an appropriate location (Swing, Shelter, Depth, Bottom)
  • approach slowly and determine where you would like to lower your anchor
  • approach your desired anchor point in irons (head to wind)
  • motor into neutral
  • boat momentum almost at 0.0 knots
  • skipper indicates depth (using depth sounder, or it has been pre-determined with chart)
  • lower the anchor
  • foredeck person let’s skipper know when anchor is on bottom (they can usually feel it or see it)
  • foredeck person puts out the remaining scope (3:1, 5:1 or 7:1)
  • foredeck person cleats rode
  • skipper puts boat into reverse
  • extra rode is picked up from bottom and stretching out
  • you should feel the anchor catch (there may be a physical feeling on the boat, rode will become very tight, sights abeam of boat do not move in relation to each other)
  • if rode is bouncing/vibrating, anchor has not set (flukes are bouncing on bottom)
  • add more rode and try to set
  • if it does not set second time, raise anchor and try slightly different location (bottom type may be wrong? Weed?)
  • once anchor is set (no longer bouncing) stow the rest of the rode and add a kellet to the rode if using
  • once anchor is set – relax, swim, music, anchor light at night, enjoy!


Overall, learning to anchor like a boss can be a pretty simple task once you have figured out what works for your boat and the types of anchorages that you enjoy staying in. I have not discussed setting multiple anchors as that is more advanced, but I will do a separate article/podcast all about that as well!


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