Anchoring 101 – A Dozen Tips and Techniques

3rd March 2022

There’s a significant difference between tossing a “lunch hook” over the side and securing a boat anchor for the night. Entire books have been written about proper boat anchoring. It is one of the first things you learn in seamanship. Here are a few basic tips on anchoring 101.

Here they are:

1. Anchors vary in their abilities to set and hold in different types of bottoms. Select one that is best for your cruising area.

2. The anchor needs to be correctly sized for your boat. One size up provides peace of mind. Check the anchor manufacturer’s guide for your boat’s length, displacement, and hull type.

3. A properly sized nylon rode, either twisted or braided, with at least a half boat length of chain is fine for light-duty anchoring. More common on the Pacific coast is an all-chain rode. The chain will aid in setting the anchor and keep it set by lowering the angle of pull, thus helping to absorb the shock of a tossing boat in difficult wind or sea conditions.

4. Check the weather forecast and tide table so you know what is coming.

5. If you’re the first or only boat in the anchorage, you’ve got priority. Otherwise, choose your spot carefully to allow enough swing room to stay clear of others. Remember that big boats wing slower and tend to have a bigger arc than smaller ones.

6. The proper technique for anchoring begins with having good communication with the helmsperson and the crew on the foredeck, along with a pre-discussed plan. A nice pair of wireless headsets will help greatly in this.

7. You’ll need to know about how much scope to use, since this will affect where the boat will lie once the hook is set. When calculating the length of rode to be deployed add the distance between the bow pulpit and surface of the water to the depth at high tide. Experience and local knowledge of the bottom are the best teachers. Also, the type of rode will determine the scope. An all-chain rode requires less scope than a twisted 3-strand nylon rode. A chain rode will typically provide reliability at a scope of 4-to-1 over a good holding bottom. A 3-strand rode with a half boat length of chain would require a 7-to-1 scope for similar holding power.

8. At dead-slow speed, head the boat up into the wind or current to your estimated scope length. Come to a stop. Release the anchor slowly paying out rode, don’t let the rode pile up on top of the anchor or itself. Let the current or wind back the boat down. If there is no current or wind use the engine to slowly lay the desired amount of rode out.

9. When enough rode is out, snub up on the cleat. A shot of reverse gear can help set the anchor, digging it in.

10. Cleat the rode with a bridle or the use of a chain lock. Keep in mind, a windlass is not a cleat and shouldn’t take the load of the boat when anchored.

11. With the hook set, use your radar, GPS, chart-plotter, and depth-sounder to monitor your position and ensure that you are not dragging the anchor. Setting the anchor alarm on your electronics will alert you if something changes while asleep.

12. To weigh anchor, again the windlass shouldn’t take the load of the boat. Instead, reclaim the slack as you slowly motor forward to break the anchor free. Secure the anchor with a trace of line and chain stop.

Following these anchoring 101 tips and techniques will help you rest easy when out on the water!


(Deane Hislop – In partnership with Freedom Marine)