Single handed

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anchoring under Sail

 So here are techniques to ensure a good night swinging “on the hook” after anchoring under sail.
Heavy weather sailing
Find a safe anchorage in heavy weather
When heavy weather hits, anchoring in a protected harbor may be your best way to avoid the worst of the storm. When the weather is fair, a night in a serene anchorage may be part of your planned itinerary. When you are ready to anchor, several decisions come into play.
Look for sheltered, calm water where there is not much wind or current.
Never anchor in a channel.
Check the chart to make sure there will be enough water under your keel at low tide.
Choose a spot with enough room to swing without hitting other anchored boats, obstructions such as submerged rocks and shallow areas, or swinging too close to shore.
Your anchor is either kept in an anchor locker on the bow or stored in a lazarette in the cockpit. Bring it out on the foredeck, coil the anchor line so it will run free, and secure the end of the anchor line not attached to the anchor to a cleat on the boat. You may think this is a silly, unneeded directive, but many anchors are lost because someone forgot to tie it to the boat.
Since you will be sailing right up to the point where you want to anchor, your halyards should be ready to drop and crew members should know they will need to ease the main and the jib as soon as you head into the wind. It is actually preferable to roll up the jib completely or (if you don’t have roller furling) lower and clear it off the foredeck so you have a clear area to work with the anchor.
Look around and decide where you want the bow of the boat to be when you are finally anchored. Check the depth of the water in the vicinity of that spot to determine how much anchor rode (the amount of line attached to the anchor) you should use. You should eventually let out enough rode to equal seven times that depth of water. The ratio of anchor line length used to the depth of water where you are anchoring is called scope.
The ratio of anchor line to depth is called "scope"
Head into the wind when you reach the spot where you want to anchor and allow the boat to coast to a complete stop before the anchor is lowered. It is always good practice to lower the anchor over the side, as opposed to throwing it overboard. Anchors have flukes that allow them to dig into the ground below; if the anchor line is tangled around these flukes, the anchor may not hold. Make sure the flukes are clear and the line can run freely.
When you head into the wind, release the mainsheet and the jibsheets. As the boat starts to drift backward, feed out your rode until you have let out five times as much line as the depth of the water. When you do this, your scope will be 5:1. For example, if the water is 20 feet deep, you should let out about 100 feet of line at first. In many cases, a scope of 5:1 is adequate for small boats when the bottom is good for holding, there isn’t much wind, or you are anchoring for a short time. For peace of mind, increase your scope to 7:1 in a lot of wind and anytime you want to ensure you won’t start dragging, or drifting backward.
As you let out more rode, the angle the rode makes with the bottom gets smaller; this in turn gives your anchor greater holding power. A smaller angle allows the line to pull the anchor against the bottom, which cause the flukes to dig in. With a larger angle, the rode will lift the anchor up, which can release the flukes.
This sailing lesson is excerpted from Fast Track to Cruising: How to Go From Novice to Cruise Ready in Seven Days written by Offshore Sailing School owners, Steve and Doris Colgate. No one is more dedicated to sailing education than Steve and Doris Colgate, and our books are an extensions of that dedication. Published by McGraw-Hill in 2005, Fast Track to Cruising is available in bookstores, on line and in e-book format. To order a copy of this book and others written by the Colgates, visit or, call 800-221-4326, or
See you on the water!
Doris Colgate, President and CEO
Offshore Sailing School 

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