Anchoring a Boat

Take your time. Anchoring procedure, especially in weeds or rock, involves the slow approach, such as choosing your anchor for the conditions. Cruise the anchorage watching the depth sounder to find a good location. Don't anchor near a lee shore (where you end up if your anchor drags). Don't anchor directly downwind of another boat (who ends up on YOU when their anchor drags). Try to determine from the chart where mud or sand is, and where rocks and weed aren't (unless you have a specialized anchor).


In mud, weed and some rock, a Rocna, CQR or Bruce anchor with 30 metres of chain can work well. A Danforth tends to drag in strong wind almost everywhere. If you want a folding anchor as a backup, a Fortress is a good choice. There are new anchors that seem to do well in testing, but I have no experience with them. Here's a great article comparing anchors: Best Sailboat Anchor (Paul Shard)

How to anchor

  1. Drop your anchor straight down by hand (slowly) until it passes through the weeds and settles on the bottom.
  2. Slowly lay out 4:1 scope (4 times as much line as the distance from your deck to the bottom) as you drift back so the chain lies straight on the bottom. Wait a couple of minutes for your anchor to dig in to the bottom rather than the weeds.
  3. Proceed slowly astern with your engine and the boat should stop as your anchor sets. Increase your throttle to make sure you are set watching the bottom and shore.
  4. If you start "harvesting weeds" (you keep moving), just haul it up, cut off the weed (you brought your machete didn't you?!), and try again.
  5. Once you are happy that the site lines on shore are not moving, let out more line until you have 5:1 scope (I'm assuming you have at least 10 metres of chain on your anchor, otherwise let out more).
  6. Take relative bearings on shore with a compass so you know if you are dragging.
  7. Plan your "escape route"! (Hope you never need to use it!)

Thunderstorms are common in mid-summer in most Canadian waters, and the time you spend anchoring securely will result in a better sleep at night - or at least more time before you drag!

Anchor watch

Many people use Loran or GPS anchor alarms but sometimes low-tech works! You can drop a weight over the bow which is attached to a line with a little slack led to a metal pot in your cabin. The idea is that when you drag anchor, the weight pulls the pot to the floor and wakes you. My mate swears another good anchor alarm is saying "Gee, I hope the anchor doesn't drag" on going to bed. Guaranteed to keep me awake.