The anchor and chain are an important safety device and should be ready to deploy at any time. Knowing where the controls and the breakers are located is important because when you need to anchor in a hurry, you can't be running around looking for the control or activating the switch.
Keep the control handy or connected when under way, and it is not a bad idea to turn on the windlass power when under way. Then, if you have drive failure or wrap a line in the prop in a seaway or near a lee shore, you can deploy the hook quickly. Failing that, the anchor can be dropped manually, but care must be taken handling the chain to prevent personal injury.
Itís a common temptation to tie up to a dock because youíre nervous about spending the night at anchor, but itís a temptation well worth resisting. If you are conscientious and careful, anchoring can give your an experience of the coast and intimacy that raucous and crowded docks just canít match.
These tips should help, as will paying attention to the charts and getting local advice. Make sure you choose your anchorage well.
A good anchorage should offer:
Setting a Stern Line
In many anchorages, swing room is limited not just by other boats but by natural features. In these places itís wise to set a stern line. Reversing currents may make this a wise decision as well. The Fortress is known to work well with a straight pull, but may not reset well in reversing currents. The Rocna has a reputation for resetting itself well, but consider the bottom. Resetting in mud or sand may be immediate, but on rock this is less certain.
Retrieving the anchor in calm or mild conditions is quite simple. Regardless of what some say, as long as the chain hangs vertical, there is no need to power forward with the engine. As the chain is pulled in, it will eventually angle out from the bow ten or twenty degrees.
Up until that point, there should be no strain on the windlass and the weight of the chain will pull the boat forward. Sometimes the chain is just in a pile on the bottom. However, when the angle increases to twenty degrees (a foot forward from the straight up and down hanging position), the load on the winch increases, so stop winching and wait. In calm water, the weight of the chain will pull the boat steadily forward until the chain is again vertical at which time the winching can resume.
Continue with this until either the anchor appears just below the boat or until the chain goes taught.
If the anchor appears with no problems, slow down and make sure it is properly aligned before winching it the final distance onto the roller.
If there is wind or current, this may not work and then it is necessary to power the boat over the chain to keep it vertical while winching.
Never, never strain on a taught chain. The winch will not stand for that. It is designed to quickly lift up the chain and anchor, but not pull against any serious resistance.
If the chain goes taught when vertical, then the anchor is caught on the bottom and further attempts to winch will quickly burn out the windlass and possibly embed the anchor worse than it is.
To attempt to recover the anchor, put on a strong snubber to protect the winch and try motoring back and forth, then let out some chain and try motoring away at various angles around the anchor to dislodge it. Be sure to protect the windlass from shocks and excessive force while doing all this. It makes no sense to destroy the windlass and/or its mounts and then have to abandon the ground tackle anyhow. The anchor can be recovered by a diver for moderate cost, but a damaged windlass will cost big money.
If nothing works, let out all the chain and attach a buoy such as a fender or two to act a as a marker float, then untie the chain from the boat. Test to make sure the floats will support the chain before letting go by tying a light line to the buoys to hold while testing. In deeper water, there is more chain weight to support.
Mooring balls are available in many popular anchorages and offer a secure and reliable way to anchor in crowded bays. Many balls are private and marked as such, but many are public and available to anyone for a small fee -- much less than a marina -- during the summer busy season, and often free in the fall, winter and spring off-season.
Mooring balls are attached to large, permanent anchors by chain and all the boater has to do is find one, motor up to it, and pick up the ring, then thread two mooring lines through in opposite directions to form a bridle and tie off the ends to cleats.
There is no need to worry about dragging or swing radius as there is when anchoring. Water depth in mooring fields is always sufficient, even at low tide, eliminating the fear of guessing wrong. Mooring balls in parks are inspected and serviced regularly in our region, and failures are extremely uncommon.
The only difficult part to mooring on a ball, other than finding a one not in use on a busy weekend is picking up the ring. The job can be quite trying if the ring will not lift or the wind and current are strong.
Cassiopeia has a device to make the job easier. Read the instructions and practice a bit ahead of time, then catching a ball will be something to look forward to, not dread.
Click each instruction page to enlarge
If that gadget does not work for you, take a long dock line and cleat one end on a bow cleat. Pass the line under and over the lifelines as needed and hold the bitter end, making a large loop. Throw the loop over the ball, let it sink, then pull in the bitter end to bring the buoy close enough that you can either lift it or thread your two bridle lines through the bale. Pull carefully. If the line slips off the ball, try flipping an extra turn around the ball. Cleat the bitter end if you are drifting while you do this. Once properly moored, simply release the bitter end and pull your dock line back aboard.
If you have to lift a ball to thread it, be careful not to scratch the boat with the barnacles that are on many balls.
Marinas are a popular overnight destination. Tying to a dock provides security and allows the crew to come and go freely without having to negotiate to use the dinghy.
A vast selection of marinas, with phone and web details can be found in the marina guide. There are several copies on the boat.
Be sure to phone ahead to reserve. They will ask the boat type and length. You can take your chances and just show up, but you may be turned away. If you are, offer to anchor nearby, listen on the radio and wait. They do get cancellations and if you are right there, you'll get preference.