First off, we use a trip line less than 1% of the time and only in places that we think may have junk on the bottom, such as commercial harbours. And in over 40 years of anchoring we have never had an anchor saved by a trip line and we have never lost an anchor.
We have got an anchor fouled, probably half a dozen times but have managed, on every occasion but one, to get clear by shortening up the rode, engaging the chain break to unload the windlass, and then pulling with the engine from various directions until we pulled the anchor clear. (You need strong gear for this game as the loads can be prodigious.)
On the one occasion that did not work, we got clear by lifting whatever we were snagged on a bit off the bottom, using our massively powerful Ideal Windlass, and then letting the chain run, which popped the anchor out from under whatever it was.
One other point. Your risk of getting your anchor fouled on an obstruction goes way down if you use one of the new design anchors like a SPADE or a Rocna in comparison to an older design like a CQR. The reason is that the former set in their own length, but the latter usually drag for at least 20-feet before setting, thereby increasing the chances of finding something to hang up on.
For the occasional time that we do use a trip line, this is how we do it:
- Tie a line to the crown of the anchor and a buoy to the other end of the line. On most anchors there is an attachment point on the crown for this purpose. Often it is just a hole drilled through the fluke. In this case you will need to add a shackle to the anchor to give you something to tie to that won’t chafe the line. In the photo to the right, we have done just this and used a wire-tie to lock the shackle.
- Make sure the trip line is good and strong as you may have to really haul on it hard.
- Write the boat’s name and “Trip line, do not pick up” on the buoy in large letters with a permanent marker. This won’t deter every desperate mooring seeker, but it is more politically correct than the “Danger, high explosives” that we have been tempted to use.
- Make sure the line is at least as long as the water is deep, but not much longer or it will foul. Don’t forget to allow for the tide. If the line is too long, you can coil the excess and tie it to the bottom of the buoy.
- Lead the buoy and line outside everything and back to where you will be working next to the windlass.
- Coil the line carefully and then split the coil into two halves, one for each hand. (By the way, we always split a coil this way when about to heave a line because it allows us to throw it much further and more accurately.)
- When ready to anchor, throw the buoy and line as far as you can out abeam.
- Drop the anchor.
If the anchor snags you can pick up the buoy and pull the anchor up by the crown.
As you can see, this is all a bit of a palaver. Also, a good 10% of the time, despite our best efforts, the chain will foul the trip line, either when anchoring, or later as the boat swings, and drag the buoy under.