Anchoring as a Spectator Sport

photo courtesy of Martin Holle

photo courtesy of Martin Holle

Of all the skills that a boater has to learn, anchoring is perhaps one of the hardest. There are so many ways to mess it up that even experienced boaters can get into difficulty executing the maneuver. This potential for disaster makes anchoring one of the greatest spectator sports among boaters around the world.

Among the many things a boater needs to know in order to anchor a boat are the kind of bottom that they will be anchoring in, the wind conditions and current that can be expected, how long they are going to anchor, and the amount of room that is available between them and other boats or hazards. All of that takes skill and experience to assess properly.

photo courtesy of Neil Gould

photo courtesy of Neil Gould

The sport begins as soon as a yacht enters an anchorage. It is usually apparent whether the skipper and crew know what they’re doing. One of the telling features is how they communicate on deck. When you see them prepare the gear, calmly go about their business, communicate clearly with voice or hand signals, and leave everything shipshape and “Bristol fashion”, you are witnessing a successful performance.

Ever so much more fun, though, is the when you hear the skipper bellowing to be heard above the sound of the engine, and hear the crew (often his wife) at the bow yelling back at him while looking forward, not realizing that he can’t hear her.

photo courtesy of Michele Tirinzoni

photo courtesy of Michele Tirinzoni

When the communication comes to the desperate waving of arms you know that you are witnessing an anchoring crisis. Chances are good that these are not going to be pleasant boating companions at the anchorage.

The counterpart to that is the boat that pulls up, dumps the anchor over the side and considers the job done. You know that everyone around that boat will be nervous if there is any kind of a wind or current, because the owner can’t possibly know if his anchor will hold. In an overnight anchorage, that means a sleepless night for everyone.

sunset in the Whitsunday Islands_3Then there is the “true believer.” This is the skipper that starts by doing everything right: they prepare the anchor rode, place the anchor properly, and set it by pulling against it with the engine. But this kind of boater doesn’t lay out enough anchor rode. They seem to believe that if the anchor is holding now, then it will be okay if the tide goes up sixteen feet, the wind picks up to twenty knots, or the wind changes direction by 180-degrees. Many of us have witnessed such a boat drifting away in the middle of the night.

Even the most seasoned sailor can run into troubles when anchoring, though, so you won’t often find one skipper that will criticize another—but every one of us will enjoy the sport of anchoring.

What’s your best anchoring story?


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