What is the Proper Technique for Anchoring?

Though it looks simple enough on television and in films, anchoring your boat actually requires a lot of skill and technique. In fact, there is a “proper” way to anchor your boat that ensures you are anchored securely and safely at all times to help prevent damage to your boat and the boats around you. But what is the proper technique for anchoring? Again, it’s not just as easy as lowering your anchor over the side until it collides with the bottom. Patience and focus are key for the proper anchoring technique, and we can teach you what it is and how to do it by the time you finish this article. Ready? Let’s go!


What to Do When Anchoring Your Boat: Preparatory Steps

1. Find a Good Spot

The first thing you need to know about proper anchoring is that the technique starts long before  you begin lowering your anchor. Proper anchoring must always begin with you choosing a great spot. As you know, anchoring is all about protecting your vessel from floating away, colliding with other vessels, or being buffeted by heavy wind and waves. With this in mind, it makes sense to search for a spot where you are protected from waves, wind, dragging, and collisions. When thinking about a good spot you must also consider the radius of your anchor rode, the length of your boat, your boat’s swinging circle, and potential change in the wind, current, or water depth due to the tides. If you can help it, your ideal spot should have no rocks, shoals, or other boats within the swing circle. Lastly, be sure that you have the right anchor for the bottom you’re working with. Different anchors are effective on certain bottoms and you don’t want to have your anchor and bottom mismatched.

2. Approach Your Spot Slowly and Carefully

Once you have found your spot on the water, you want to approach it slowly for optimal safety. If you vessel has sails, you will want to lower or furl them as you approach. If you have a motorboat, approach slowly and steadily without putting too much power into the engine. Be sure to approach your spot into the wind, and have a depth-finder or chartplotter handy to ensure you get the exact spot you want. If there is a strong current in your chosen spot that is affecting your boat, try approaching into the current instead.

As you get to closer to your spot, slow down or kill the engine entirely in order to coast to a stop. If you find that you aren’t in the exact spot you wanted, you will have to circle back and make the approach again until you are in the correct spot. Be patient!

3. Prepare To Lower the Anchor

Before you actually lower the anchor, you have to ensure that you are prepared to let it go over the bow of your vessel. The first thing you should do is make sure that you have plenty of anchor rode that will reach to the bottom and secure your vessel. The rode should be free of tangles and knots and it is best to mark rode length before you set sail so that you know how much you  need to put out. In addition, as you prepare to anchor you must make sure the boat is as still as possible. Any forward movement can ruin the anchor drop, causing the anchor to knock against the boat’s stem or side.


Proper Technique for Anchoring

Now that you’ve got the preparatory steps under your belt, you can begin executing the proper technique for anchoring. In truth, this topic is rather expansive. There are many books on how to anchor your boat properly that cover all sorts of tips, suggestions and ideas to make anchoring easier than ever. For our purposes, however, we’ll cover some quick and simple ways to master proper anchoring technique for you boating needs:

Proper Anchoring Technique When Using One Anchor

Smaller boats really only need one anchor to hold them in place, and they do so with tension. This means that the anchor rode must be taut - meaning pulled tight, straight up and down - at all times. To do this, you vessel must face the wind and position in reverse, pulling your anchor into the sea bottom to create better tension and hold to keep you boat in one space. When you have let ⅓ of the rode out into the water, cinch it off and allow the boat to straighten. This will look like the boat turning across the current or wind as you move, straightening itself out due to the minimal slack given by the taut rode.

Once you have done this, test that your anchor and anchor line are set by throwing your boat in reverse and backing up until you can tell the that the line is indeed taut and secure. You must always test your anchor to ensure it is holding well, otherwise you may be in for a big surprise in the form of a collision or drifting well off course. If you find your anchor is not as secure as it should be, you should try again until you feel safe with it’s holding power.

Proper Anchoring Technique When Using Two Anchors

Some boaters may want to double up on their hold and control by using two anchors to hold their vessel safe and secure in the water. Two anchors offer much better control and are typically deployed on either side of your vessel. For best results, you should lower one anchor near the shore and the second offshore, giving you a chance to gauge the boat’s position between them. The tension in the rode of the first dropped anchor will help set the second anchor. For the actual lowering of the anchor, refer to the above technique and do it twice: once over the bow, and again over the stern.

Anchoring Etiquette

The final bit of proper anchoring technique is all about anchoring etiquette. Just as there are rules of the road, there are rules of the water, and it is best to follow them to the best of your ability for safe and effective anchoring at all times. Some anchoring etiquette rules include:

  • Recognize First Anchor Seniority: When boating, you may find that your perfect spot is already occupied or that another boater is closely anchored near your prime spot. If the other boater lowered their anchor first and feels that your vessel is a little too close for comfort, you should be polite and move further away. A good way to know if you are too close is if you can have a conversation with your boating neighbor without shouting. In that situation, some distance is needed.
  • Move On If You’re Too Close: Again, don’t try to make a spot work if you’re too close to another boat. This can only spell out disaster both for your boat and theirs, so allow yourself to move on and find another spot. It may be a little time consuming at first, but its the best choice all around.
  • If You See That Your Neighbor has Two Anchors, Use Two Anchors Yourself: If your boating neighbor is using two anchors, chances are that you should do the same. Two anchors offer more security and hold and if your neighbor is using two they are likely doing so for a good reason. The bottom line of proper anchoring is always safety, so stay safe and follow their example!
  • Approach Boat Neighbors from Behind: Always approach your neighbor boat from behind. If you start to lower your anchor and set hook in front of your boating neighbor, you will likely grab their attention and their anxiety. They may worry that you could inadvertently foul their anchor, set yourself up too close, or cause another problem. Save them from worry and apprehension by approaching behind and ONLY if you know you have adequate room to set down your anchor.

So there you have it - proper anchoring technique is not difficult, but it is precise. Should you have any more questions about the proper way to anchor a boat, know that there are a number of ways to conquer this task. So long as you are careful, courteous, and well-informed, it’s safe to say your anchoring technique is great!