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Preview: How to Anchor a Boat, Part 1: Anchoring a Small Powerboat with a Yachtsman

November 17, 2011

This video answers two questions facing a small boat owner: what kind of an anchor do I need and how should I use it, using as examples a traditional stock anchor (sometimes called a fisherman, herreshoff or yachtsman anchor).

This video covers such principles of how to anchor a boat as setting up a yachtsman anchor, proper scope for a yachtsman anchor, advantages and disadvantages of different anchor types, how to drop anchor and pay out anchor rode, setting the anchor, how to remove a stuck anchor and more.

For more anchoring tips and techniques, be sure to check out our other anchoring videos:

How to Anchor a Boat, Part 2: Reliability & Versatility of a Danforth vs. a Yachtsman Anchor

Anchoring a Boat, Part 3: Creative Solutions with a Traditional Anchor

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– We’re at Torrey’s Island this morning, and we’re about to anchor. And we’ve more or less picked our location, it’ll be fine-tuned as soon as I get the anchor set up and we’re ready to go. Setting it up, this is called a stock anchor, a yachtsman’s anchor, and sometimes a Herreshoff anchor. It’s my favorite, it’s the only type I use. It’s got two disadvantages, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by a mile. The disadvantage is, of course, you’ve gotta do this to it every time you use it, because on a small boat there’s no real way to store it, in its three-dimensional form, so you collapse it and it’ll store better. And the other disadvantage is that if you have it overboard for a length of time, one of these flukes digs into the mud, lays like this on the bottom, the stock keeps it level. This one digs in and this one is standing up, usually, unless you’re in a real soft bottom, which enables the line to snarl around it, and if it does and sticks, when you’re anchored backwards, you’re gonna pull it out rather than dig it in. Two of these, or two anchors of some kind, eliminates that problem, but for a lunch or for short term, or if you’re on the boat, we use it to anchor overnight, it’s perfectly fine. And these things will dig in. The advantage is now that they’ll dig in on almost any kind of bottom. And you can rely on them. And they’ll do it without chain, which I think is a mess to bring aboard any boat, especially a small one. They’ll do it on short scope, you don’t have to let out 10 miles of scope in order for them to dig in like you do, say a Danforth anchor, or any one of these lightweight, supposedly good holding anchors. They hold well as long as you’ve got scope, but if you don’t have scope, forget it. They’ll pop right along the bottom just as happy as can be, and offer almost no resistance at all. All right, let me tell you about scope. Let’s say this is the bottom, and this is where the boat is afloat, this is the surface of the water. And here’s the boat. So, scope is the ratio of this distance to this distance, here’s the anchor. So, say for example, if this were 15 feet, a 3:1 scope would require that you pay out 45 feet of anchor rode. This gives you a 3:1 scope. Let’s say that we come in, using a fisherman for example, to a cove, and we plant the anchor here, and we put out a 5:1 scope, which I always like to use anyways, it’s a nice scope to have. And let’s say in the middle of the night, your judgment hasn’t been very good to begin with in the daytime, and in the middle of the night the wind shifts, and your boat starts to do this, head in this direction. Well, it’s getting nearer and nearer to shore, and you’ve gotta pull in some anchor rode in order to keep from going ashore. So, it’s nice to go from a 5:1 scope to a 3:1 scope, and end up like this with your boat clear of the shore, a 3:1 scope, and you can go back to bed feeling that you’ve got that anchor planted and it’s gonna stay there. You try that with any one of these other anchors, and they’re very apt to pull out because they require a minimum of 5:1 scope, and a 3:1 scope, the angle is too steep and they just won’t hold. Anyway, we’ve got this thing ready to go. What I’m gonna do is fine-tune our location. Say we’re gonna have a picnic in on this beach. The tide is going, so we don’t wanna get in there too far and get tide-nipped, but I wanna get in a little bit further than where we are right now. I usually take most of the weigh off of it before I drop this. And we can drop it like this, let it run out until you feel it hit bottom like that. And then so that the line doesn’t snarl around the anchor, I just put a little weigh on her, and I can feel it, and then let the anchor out as we run along. Take a turn around the cleat just to help hold it. Keep slacking it out until I think it’s got enough scope. Let’s see what happens on the bottom to the anchor in varying amounts of scope. The anchor is gonna hold the most is the scope is horizontal, pulling in this direction, because it’s got all of this bottom density behind it. If you shorten the scope, say like this, and it pulls in this direction, there’s only this much bottom material behind it. And ultimately if you reduce the scope so much that it’s pulling even more vertically like this, there’s so little bottom material behind the fluke that it simply lifts out. Much as we’d love to have a horizontal pull on our anchor every time we drop it, the real world doesn’t allow that, so we end up with less than the ideal amount of scope. And oftentimes a 3:1 scope will end up looking like this, and in those cases I love the yachtsman’s anchor because it has some bottom material behind it, and it allows to you rest comfortably and know that you’re not gonna drag. That’s looking pretty good. Notice there’s not an awful lot of scope out there. She’ll take a minute to dig in, but I think she will. I’ve still got the boat in forward. If you really wanna make sure that you’ve got her, just goose it a little bit and watch the land, you can tell whether you’re moving or not. See, she’s dug right in nice as can be. Not any chain, not an unreasonable amount of scope, and she’s there. You can rely on it. In normal conditions we would just anchor off the stern, but if it’s blowing hard, or for any other reason, sun is in your eyes, or whatever reason it might be, you can change from mooring by the stern to mooring by the bow or someplace in between, making those two lines up. This new line that I’m using is attached to the mooring cleat up forward. I’m gonna let the current just drift her, shut the engine off now that we know the anchor’s dug in. If you wanna side to the wind, you can adjust the length of this original anchor rode until she lies beam to. And if you wanna swing all the way around, 180 degrees more or less, you just run this line out completely slack. As you can see, the line off the bow is doing the work. And then if you want her back, you just reverse the process, she’ll come right side to the wind and current. And eventually after I untie that knot, she’ll be back again swinging stern to. This is what the British Navy used to do all the time with those big, ungainly Men of War. They could turn them right around. So, we’re bringing in the anchor rode, and then at the same time as it swings the boat, we’ll bring that other line in so we can untie the knots. So, I’m just gonna cleat her here temporarily, gonna quarter cleat again so we don’t have too much going on at any one time. Now this line is slack and I can get rid of that forward line. Now, with this boat I’m anchoring over the stern just because it’s more convenient. Getting up forward would be kind of a balancing act, and whereas aft you’re down inside the boat instead of top of it, and there’s plenty of space for the anchor and for the rode to lie in the cockpit without fear of it falling overboard. So, I don’t have a big enough foredeck to do it there. Now, this we’ve dug in pretty well, I’m gonna try to take it out manually. Yeah, she’s coming up okay. But if I can’t, what you can do is cleat it right up on short scope and scoop it up and down, and just run the motor around, and she’ll come out. And sometimes you have to be patient, you just wait with it right up on short scope, and gradually the anchor will come up out of the mud and release herself. Now, the other advantage of these anchors is that they come up fairly clean. See how far this one has dug in, this was lying right along the bottom and the whole fluke, the one that heads down, was right into the mud. But to clean it, you do this and bang it a little bit. You’re ready to put it away without a whole lot of dirt and mud coming inside the boat. So, now we’ve got the anchor back onboard, we reverse the process of collapse it instead of open it up. We wanna save this key and the line that goes with it. There are a variety of things you can use, I happen to have a piece of line and I rigged it up for this use, but a snap hook or any device you wanna use there would work. And for this boat I just have a fairly big coil for the anchor rode. Store the anchor and the anchor rode together under the seat. If you wanted to be more formal, you could rig up chalks and so forth and so on, but we never, with this boat, are in a hurry to anchor. We just don’t go out in those kinds of conditions, so having to take a little time to get things ready is no big deal, really. You’re all set to drop it within three or four minutes of needing to. Seems to stay together better if you wrap it up from the anchor end instead of the bitter end. Two, three times around like that, and then a loop through and over. She’s ready for the the next time, the next use. That’ll stay if you throw that around or do anything with it, it’ll stay together. This now gets tucked under the seat out of the way, and ready for the next use.



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