Anchoring in bays: tips and what you should definitely pay attention to
Interview with Sönke Roever (BLAUWASSER.DE)
Sönke has 80.000 nautical miles of sailing experience in his wake, from 2007 to 2010 he circumnavigated the world together with his wife Judith. He is the organiser of various seminars at boat shows and the author of several books on bluewater sailing. He also is the founder of BLAUWASSER.DEand regularly sails with his wife and kids on their boat HIPPOPOTAMUS, which is currently based on the Spanish Atlantic coast.
A sheltered bay, clear water and peace and quiet. Anchoring is the perfect alternative to mooring in a harbour.
What difference does the sea‐bed make, where I want to anchor? Is sand better than rocks?
The type of bottom plays a major role when anchoring, because it has a significant influence on the hold of the anchor. Clearly, the anchor can easily dig itself into sand or clay, rather than on a rocky sea‐bed. These two types of bottom, sand and clay, are therefore among the best grounds for anchoring. Care is needed in sea‐grass. Due to the roots and depending on the density of the grass, it may be impossible to get the anchor into the bottom there. Also, sea‐grass is protected around islands like Mallorca, for example, and must not be damaged by anchors.
Here is a tip: In many nautical charts the bottom condition is indicated and described in the form of a letter. An „S“ for example stands for sand.
Sand, plants or rocks. When anchoring, the bottom of the sea is a vital factor.
How much chain should I pay out when anchoring?
Many books give general rules, – such as „five times the water depth“, which often do not work in practice. It is important to understand that, in addition to the water depth, the expected wind, the windage of the boat itself and the sea state at the anchorage are important factors as well. It also makes a difference, whether I anchor with chain only, which has a high helpful dead weight, or whether I use an anchor rode, which is less suited compared to chain and needs to be significantly longer. As a rough rule of thumb, the „25 plus water depth“ approach provides a good guide for minimum length.
How much distance do I need to keep from other anchored boats?
You should basically anchor in such a way that there is enough room for the boats to swing at anchor, so the answer could be „the more distance, the better“. However, space in anchorages is often limited and the challenge then lies in the proper judgement of the situation when dropping the hook. When doing so, it is helpful to think from end to beginning. First, choose the spot where you want to end up lying at anchor, then move the boat forward far enough to drop the anchor. While the chain pays out, the boat will drift back accordingly – depending on the wind and current.
When anchoring, make sure there is sufficient distance to other yachts and anchors.
Do I need to keep an anchor watch all night or are there any alternatives?
It is important to set the anchor properly, by slowly motoring astern. While doing so, the chain will sort itself out on the ground. Once the anchor holds and the chain is tight, I increase the revs of the engine to 1500 rpm. Then the anchor still has to hold. If not, something is wrong. Setting the anchor in this way is the best precaution for a stress‐free night. I then leave further monitoring to the electronic anchor watch. This can be done by apps or the GPS or plotter on board.
The remote control of the anchor windlass makes anchoring safe and easy.
Wind, current or tidal range, what should I take into account when anchoring?
To put it simply, the stronger the anticipated wind, the more chain should be let out. A rope strop on the chain is helpful, as this dampens shock loads when a squall hits. In tidal waters, the length of the chain has to be sufficient for high water, while the water depth at low water must of course be enough for the draft of my boat.
Here is a tip: If the wind and current are against each other and the yacht is moving around a lot, it can be stabilised by deploying a sea‐anchor from the stern.