The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored


You can have the best anchors and associated gear available, but if you don’t use that gear properly you won’t get anchored and stay anchored. In this post we carry on from Part 1 with some tips for techniques to help make you a happy anchorer.

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Sound advice. Thanks and Happy New Year

Peter Passano

You might fill in your anchoring post with advise on how to best anchor in high latitude areas that have very heavy kelp…and don’t just limit it to say everyone should have a Spade anchor.
Include your technique and the equipment needed to rid your tackle of kelp when collecting the anchor. Address the problem that single handlers have
In this situation…anchor off the bottom, drifting onto a lee shore and unable to man

Horacio Marteleira

Hi Peter and John,
No kelp in Portugal, but on two occasions I had a similar problem while single handing with a manual windlass and an 11-ton boat.
One was near a fishing dock on a windy day with boats moored behind me. I was working up a sweat pumping the stubborn anchor up when I saw a huge carpet of old nets clinging to the anchor. By now I was slowly bearing down on the boats behind me. After recovering from the shock, luckily I did the right thing. The mess was all at the bow, so I ran back to the cockpit, gave the engine a short blast in forward, ran forward, dangled over the bow and started cutting. I repeated this process several times before breaking free.
The other time was a solid carpet of grass dangling from the tip of the anchor in a channel. Used the same procedure except for a solid wood boathook to finally pound the darn carpet off.
Ironically, being single handed with a manual windlass may have worked to my advantage. A friend with a modern 51-foot boat just pushed the anchor-up button while slowly motoring ahead until he started hearing funny sounds followed by a stalled engine. The anchor went back down and it took his son nearly 3 hours to cut a huge roll of net from the prop, luckily on an almost windless morning.
Kelp, grass, fishing nets…use short engine thrusts to keep you in place while working at the bow.

Victor Raymond

Hello John,
Thank you for elucidating all your tips. Three thing we have found important:
1) get ready to anchor by having the anchor free and ready to deploy
2) have your communications clear: we use headsets as we can communicate a lot more than with hand signals
3) don’t pile your 4:1 scope right on top of the anchor but let it pay out slow as the boat backs down on it’s own or slight touch of power if needed.
Thanks again for spending the time to help us all out.
Happy New Year!


John, that’s true. I was singlehanding when we met in Greenland and it started to wear me down even though we were not even close to the extreme parts of that coast. As much as I still like singlehanding – I wouldn’t recommend it in high latitudes. Will I see Greenland again ? Perhaps, if I can find a good companion.

John Tynan

Thought you might be interested in this new (Slovenian) tandem anchored just introduced into Plastimo’s range.

As far as sailing around under anchor is concerned, how would you rate a bucket suspended from the bow?

Bob Tetrault

Happy New Year John, bout time I contributed after going to the dark side (power boat). Agree with all you have given as advise and want to endorse the one BIG anchor over two of any size provided the rest of the ground tackle is up to the task. We have the one big Rocna now and wouldn’t even think of deploying a second anchor simultaneously. One additional comment to add to your data base; we once anchored in Lookout Bight in a fierce SW’er. I thought it prudent to be in the middle for depth and room between us and a lee shore. Well it kicked up more during the dark hours and found we were sand blasting our new Strataglass. I felt the pelting when on my rounds but didn’t want to move in the dark and breeze. The damage was more than one would expect. Those little cyclones of sand did a lot of damage to the glass and everything else. I look forward to ideas on how to dampen the bow sailing on the anchor rode. We have fabricated a bow eye for the stem of “BJoyce” (N5517) but haven’t installed it yet. I doubt the new lower fair lead will make much of a difference however. We have always used riding sails but impossible to rig on this boat. This high bow and big displacement will bury this 70kg Rocna pretty deep.

Eric Klem

In the other anchoring thread I gave some of my thoughts on the easy ways to deal with sailing at anchor but this post has got me thinking again.

The problem lies in there being a net torque on the boat about the yaw center when the angle of the rode to the bow in the horizontal is small. The torque trying to turn the boat is due to the center of wind resistance being forward of the center of resistance in the water. The anchor rode applies a restoring force to the bow but the force actually pushing the bow back up into the wind is a very small proportion of the total anchor rode force until the bow gets pushed off a lot and the angle grows. In gusty conditions where the boat is moving closer and further from the anchor, the total load on the rode can often be quite small until the bow has fallen off quite a bit and taken the slack out of the rode.

To solve the root problem, you need to change the placements of the center of resistances. Changing either one or both will work fine. I have posted in the past that a daggerboard/centerboard at the very bow of the boat would work well. This would be a difficult retrofit but could be incorporated into a new design without too much of a headache. Unfortunately, it does not qualify as a simple solution. Riding sails obviously change the resistance to the wind. The other way to change all of this is to simply turn the boat around and anchor off the stern. One of my relatives owns a classic wooden sailboat with a large mast stepped quite far forward (fractional rig). When anchored off the bow, the boat sails around like crazy so they don’t ever do it anymore. When anchored by the stern (it is almost a double ender so this is fine), it sits scarily still to the point where in an unpredicted squall in a relatively exposed anchorage this summer, I didn’t wake up until the wind was well over 30 knots steady and the waves were over 5′. On our own boat which is still quite good at anchor, we would have long since been awake and holding an anchor watch. Anchoring off the stern does have issues, especially if the boat has a wide stern but it might be the answer for some boats. Since boats survive unbelievable conditions lying to series drogues, I would have to think that many sailboats and powerboats can withstand it but it is probably design specific.

Another way to help the issue but not fix it is to significantly increase the restoring force from the anchor rode. This is one of the major reasons that multihulls do so well with a bridle because the bridle effectively moves the rode attachment forward to where the two bridle legs meet. By moving the rigid attachment point forward, you increase the restoring torque in 2 ways. First, the force is applied at a much greater moment arm from the center of rotation and torque is force cross distance. The second reason is that the attachment point will physically move sideways much more the further forward it is and this will increase the rode angle more quickly. In a practical sense, there are two ways to accomplish this. The first is to put a strong bowsprit (maybe similar to a retractable sprit for an asym?) with the rode lead through the end of it. The other way is to have a bridle that is wide enough that neither leg ever goes slack so that it effectively creates a rigid geometry. This is easy on a multihull but nearly impossible on a monohull without adding something. If you added a spreader bar all the way at the bow that was sufficiently beefy or properly stayed to take the loads, this would work. Unfortunately, in most cases I suspect that it would be a lot of trouble to do anything to increase this restoring force. The one practical thing is to tune the anchor rode by modifying the snubber so that the boat doesn’t surge up on the anchor too much and has as constant a force as possible.

Maybe someone has an idea to take some of this and make it more practical? Really, I wish the designers would take this into account and get a boat that is stable in the first place so that none of this was necessary. Some do either intentionally or by accident and the boats are very pleasant and other designs are practically unlivable at anchor once there is a decent breeze.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Since we got on the topic of anchoring from the stern, I wanted to quickly mention some things to think about with it. The thing that terrifies me is the speed that the boat could attain if it suddenly began dragging. Anchored from the bow, most boats will lie beam on and drift at 1 knot or so even in severe conditions giving the crew time to come up with an action plan. Anchored from the stern, the boat is likely to accelerate straight ahead up to several knots leaving little time to react and things like engines that can’t start without glow plugs become a really big deal. If we didn’t immediately get underway once the anchor broke out, we found that the boat shot ahead and you really couldn’t look down at what you were doing if singlehanding unless you idled in reverse. The good news is that recovering an anchor in really rough conditions is really easy for the same reasons that you like to back up to a dock in the wind.

From a comfort and convenience standpoint, it really isn’t bad. There is a lot of airflow down below if you keep the companionway open which is great in good weather and bad in less than ideal weather. I am really stubborn and try to sail on and off the hook whenever I can but anchored off the stern, I have yet to find a way to do it as smoothly and easily. If you want to leave the dinghy in the water, you can’t simply tail it off the stern, you need to take it to the bow. When singlehanding, it is great that the anchor handling is right next to the helm. The only time that it has ever been uncomfortable to be anchored this way for me is with a swirly current where the boat danced all over the place.



Iris is a vessel with a swing keel. She swings like a carousel at anchor. Not pleasant. Preparing for the 2013 summer I did a bit of research on how to stabilise the vessel at anchor. We ended up with a delta wing rider sail. It made the world of difference and swinging is now highly limited – leading to most nights being spent at anchor during 2013 – sleeping.

Iris is 43ft, wights 16MT loaded. The sail maker recommended a size 4, but we ended with size 3, which works nicely. I think the sail is surprisingly large and draws a lots of wind. Hence it is important to secure it well and very tight.

Fell free to check the friendly sail maker or head over to my blog a picture of the rider sail.

Simon Wirth

Hei John
What do you think about anchoring of the stern? Working with anchoring gear similair to what is used on the bow would be a real hassel, but is there an other reason not to do it? Something not so obvious to the inexpirienced eye as the weight of the gear?


Le principal probleme d ancrage en Espagne ( mediterranee Costa Brava) ou je navigue est la densite ou nombre de bateaux sur une surface limitee, ” les navigateurs du dimanche? ” qui rendent difficile les manoeuvres meme avec du bon materiel et de l experience , les criques au mois d aout ressemblent a des parkings de super marche , je vous invite a imaginer le tableaux ;…..
Effectivement cet article contient de bon conseils techniques
Bien cordialement

Svein Lamark

Hi John,
I have the same experience as Petter, an anchor plough(plow) can stabilize the boat. Doyle has even constructed an advanced anchor plough to me. It looks much like the plough a farmer uses when cultivating his soil; the sides are shaped round (concave), while Petters is more straight triangular. I think the Doyle plough can be rather small because it is so efficient.
I also use another technic to calm the ship when at anchor: In the water line I have a hook to keep the waterstay. I have attached an elastic line to this hook and the other end of the line I shackle to the anchor chain and give out more chain. The boats pull in the chain will then be from the water line of the bow. This will contribute to stabilize the boat ( and also give the chain a better angel when attacking the anchor, release the weight on the anchor winch, prevent the chain from making noise on the waterstay. When not in use at anchor, I use this line as an extra waterstay.


John, I know how you feel about kellets, and we don’t use one any more with our Spade. However… we did use one for 15 years with excellent results — I don’t know if it improved holding power at all, but I do know it made a significant difference in tacking at anchor.

It was 12 kilos of lead I had poured in an iron skillet, popped free and then fitted with a stainless U-bolt on center — think (very) short-shanked mushroom anchor or very crude rocker-stopper. We suspended it from the (mostly) nylon and chain anchor rode so that it hung about a half meter below the rode.

When the bow tried to tack off, the plate drag of this kellet and gravity stopped the process within a meter or so and dragged the bow back to windward. Numerous tests proved to us it was making a difference, I suspect something lighter might have worked as well, but who knows? This was with an 8.7 meter boat and the solution with lead might not scale well, but since the whole concept seems be tied to stopping the boat’s acceleration perhaps a lighter weight solution (ala a big Sechi disk?) might. I’m not sure a small para style drogue would inflate in time to help.

We haven’t found it to be necessary on this boat as both the inertia and dynamics are different, but…

A riding sail for us is a non-starter due to the solar array.


Simon Wirth

Hei John
Maybe use Backstays or something similair to take some of the forece of the arche?
Regarding kellets, I have found an interessting, but whery technichal explanation about its use.
The math behind it looks solid to me and I found it an interessting read.
The same with this:
Another “explained math example” that says very much the same as you do and backs it up with numbers.
Regards Simon

Jean-François EEMAN

Dear John

Excellent post.

point 4) Don’t forget that very often in those kinds of places the gusts might come either from a very different direction than the main wind direction (when you entered the bay of compared to what you see from the clouds), either from “all directions”…
Whne you enter that kind of place it is very often diffcult to guess where the wind will come from when gusting.
Hence the importance of swinging room



Hi John,
Thanks for all the advise. Here is one for the ages for dumb anchoring.
Pulled into a small bay in Gurnsey in afternoon, no wind, 4 meters depth. Dropped anchor and put out 3 to one scope, bay was crowded with boats. As evening came everyone left and we stayed. I forgot about the 20 foot tides and we had anchored on a low tide. Guess what the wind came up that night and the anchor alarm went off. I was up fast and we were already closing on the cliffs. The spade anchor I don’t think was even touching bottom.
Remember the tides and your scope and please check your anchoring before night fall no matter where you are! Lesson learned I hope.

John Pedersen

I currently have a 9m catamaran. Anchoring with a bridle makes the boat very steady holding bows into the wind, but with wind against tide, it starts to sail about. This behaviour was most severe in a river in the north of Spain, where I was anchored in a near gale, with a 3-4 knot ebb going against it. I saw the GPS show 4 knots SOG while the boat was surging about! I should have moved, but I had engine problems. With the boat sailing from one side to the other, and coming to an abrupt halt at each side, it seemed just a matter of time before it broke the anchor out.

I resolved it by throwing a drogue over the stern attached to a bridle. It hung just a few feet behind the boat, but it ended the sailing about almost entirely. Though the drag on the anchor was increased of course by the drogue, the pull was now steady and the boat felt much more secure. The anchor (a Mantus) didn’t drag at all.

I now always have a drogue at the stern ready to throw over if the wind blows against the tide.


Skip Novak has released part 10 of his heavy weather series – on anchoring.
Refreshing to hear his clear views and advice, not very differnet from what may be found here I imagine.
To be enjoyed

Petter ;-)

The other videos in the same series also contains good info.

Patrick LIOT


Hi John
I am the skipper-owner of Cipango, a Lagoon 42 catamaran, currently cruising in the Mediterranean sea. Being a fond user of your hi-quality website, I have chosen a 25 kg Spade anchor with 100 m 10mm chain for my 42 feet, 12T catamaran, ie one step from the builder recommended anchor size.
I am currently anchored in Milou bay, in Milos island in Greece. It happens to be right on the trajectory of a mediterranean hurricane ( a so called “medicane”) building up in south of Greece and Sicily and expected to move over the area in 2 days, around Saturday Sept 29th afternoon.
I am therefore revising best-in-class anchoring practices to confront expected winds of 50 knots with gusts at 65kts, with a swing of direction from South to North as the medicane passes.
I am wondering whether deploying my second anchor ( a 15kg Delta anchor with 10m chain) in front of my Spade would be a good idea. This is called “empennelage” in French but cant find the translation in english.
What is your recommendation on this topic? I asked last night the Spade manufacturer which provided by return a cautious answer (for likely liability risks reasons), but basically points the risk of having the 2nd anchor attachment impacting negatively the Spade behavior. I am sure there are discussions of this on AAC site but cant find them beyond the recommendation not to mout 2 anchors in the summary.
Rereading your site, I will apply your smart recommendation of removing the rolling furler headsail.
Thank you in advance for your attention.
Patrick Liot,
Skipper owner of Cipango, currently anchored in Milou bay, Milos island, Greece.
A usually silent user of AAC website but regarding it with high regards.

Eric Klem

I am not going to wade into whether anchoring is the right plan in this situation as it is always so hard to tell without being there and it is really a risk based thing. I will say that 1-2 meter waves will lead to large shock loading which is survivable with the right setup but can also easily cause physical breakage of components like cleats, chain, etc or dragging.

Your Spade will have much higher holding than your Delta in just about any bottom there is so you need to be absolutely sure that deploying the Delta in no way effects the holding power of the Spade. This means that it is critical that you do not try to do inline tandems (I believe this is what you are calling empennelage) as the first anchor (presumably your Spade) ends up basically being a kellet and not an anchor. John’s post that he linked to is spot on about the issues but there is an even more fundamental one which is that you don’t actually increase the holding power in the first place even in a straight line pull situation due to the geometry. Drew Frye who posts here sometimes did some good work on this which you can find in various sources such as Practical Sailor, his website, forums and his new book. What he did find is that attaching the rode of the second anchor to the middle of the chain of the primary can be effective, if this is appealing try to find his writeups and pictures. I would just caution you to keep the lengths such that the Delta can never foul the Spade as that is your primary asset. Our own plan (never implemented) for a storm large enough that we are not willing to stay aboard uses this technique with our Mantus primary and a large Fortress secondary but our normal storm plan has the Fortress staying on deck ready to deploy.

The other way to do 2 anchors is in a V configuration directly off the bow. Once you have done a circle or 2, this is a mess but it can be effective in the right circumstances although adjusting lengths to equalize load on a cat is likely not possible with the bridle requirements so the equalization would come from dragging. The other consideration here is that you create a really big target for other dragging anchors so if there might be another boat upwind and someone will be aboard, having the anchor ready to deploy but not in the water can be a safer technique sometimes. A lot of this depends on how much room you have to drag, in a tight spot you don’t have time to get another anchor in the water so you have to start with everything you ever need down whereas in a big open area you have time to put another anchor down.

Given the waves you mention, I would focus some effort on keeping your bridle intact and having an already rigged backup. The other thing that is really important is bottom type, holding power can vary by 10X between good sand and soft mud and by much more for bottoms that the anchor can’t penetrate at all. On occasion, we have sampled the bottom with the anchor to make sure that it isn’t soft mud but even better would be to take a swim if you can. Obviously exposure is important but you are already well aware of that.

Good luck.


Eric Klem

Reading John’s reply and re-reading what I wrote I realized that I wasn’t clear on one thing. While I consider the technique that Drew describes to be a decent option if no one is aboard, I personally would not use it if anyone is aboard (this is based on our having a large new gen main anchor). The reason for this is exactly as John describes, it really limits your options and may cause you to try dangerous things with highly loaded tackle.


Patrick LIOT

One additional point on the anchoring situation of Cipango: I plan to re-anchor in North East of the Milou bay. The bay has a fetch of 2 NM for South winds. Local people say 1 to 2 m waves will build up during the first phase of around 6 hours. This is what makes the local harbour unpractical for boat survival, given it is not protected from South nor East.

Rob Gill

Hi Patrick,
I have just looked at Milos on Google Maps and viewed the map and some photos on-line. There seem to be high cliffs on the bluffs of NE Milos Bay (hard to be sure), but it also looks like there may be some lower lying areas further to the East in the main bay.
In case this helps in your storm prep, be careful that cliffs are not your friend when the wind gets over about 50 Knots. At this strength or more under the influence of cliffs, the wind may (will) at frequent intervals come at you in back-eddy gusts, 180 degree difference to the true wind direction, but in many instances of equal violence. This is a frequent cause of anchors breaking out in such conditions and friends (highly experienced round the world sailors) recently reported boats dragging in opposite directions on either side of them in the same anchorage only a few hundred metres apart (in the lee of cliffs in Fitzroy Harbour, Great Barrier Island, NZ). For this reason, I would stay with a single anchor strategy as John advises – it will survive rapid changes of pull, or even break-outs far better without attachments, as long as you have sea room.
The other danger in my mind is the fetch coming in from the North West and breaking around the corner into your anchorage or re-bounding from the far side of the Bay as can happen in many “hard edged” Medi anchorages. On this, the tropical storm appears to be tracking to the west of you on the European model, but GFS is showing it passing almost overhead and shows a possibility of the storm fetch coming directly into the bay as the system passes Northwards. Does this change your shelter strategy?
Best wishes and best of luck.

Patrick LIOT

A deep thank you to each of you who contributed your wealth of experience. It definitely makes a difference to have a trustworthy reference site for such kind of situation.
A quick update after a busy morning getting prepared:
– tandem option definitely eliminated
– max reduction of windage (headsail,..)
– doubling of bridle (On this, I wonder whether there is value to have a more elastic bridle than the main existing one. This would provide additional softening of wave blows. There is already the elasticity provided by the anchor chain of 100m but in a depth of 5 m, the slack from “raising the chain” under blows is lower than what it would be in greater depth say of 15 m)
Interesting to note that the numerous models did initially diverge significantly on the trajectory of the eye, which impacts dramatically the anchoring area strategy. 24 h before, models are converging much better.
Interesting also that the 4 local skippers operating charter boats initially planned to move to other islands and finally are deciding to stay in the bay. The situation is somewaht similar to the interesting article highlighted by John on Block island. Having a bay where you can pick your place and possibly change without major risks is a huge plus in the case of a hurricane-type phenomena with major windshifts in short time. This is different reasoning from traditional protection against meltem in Greece, bora in Croatia or mistral in France, where you basically look for a nice cove downwind. With climate change making such phenomena unfortunately more frequent in mediterranee, it would be useful to add a chapter to the heavy weather planning strategy.
Again thank you. I will keep you posted on final outcome. At this stage, it seems the medicane is softening a bit due to latest trajectory bound to hit Peloponnese, but better planning for the worst. Attached the Windy URL,27.290,5


Hi John, not sure if this is the correct place for this question : Any advice on gear and technique for singlehanded sailor on a 50ft sailing boat? I have heard of anchor chain counter, remote windlass control but not sure if it is the right path…

Eric Klem

Hi Robgoh,

Here is my take on it from having done this some on several different boats. It is a messy process any way you do it if the weather is up. It actually used to worry me enough that my wife and I both intentionally reanchored solo several times during a strong front several years ago on our own boat with the other one standing by to help if anything went wrong. Actually anchoring is usually pretty easy if you can get the anchor on the bottom quickly, on boats like this I have never not been able to walk forward and anchor. For weighing anchor, I think you have to choose between being on the bow and being at the helm, both have their issues.

At the bow, you need a powerful windlass and a situation with a bit of room. In benign conditions, this is what I do and just use the windlass to move the boat. In stronger conditions, I have experimented with having the engine idle ahead with the autopilot on to make it easier on the windlass and this can work but I am not in love with being in gear not near the controls. The windlass does most of the steering as you use the chain to pull you sideways and the rudder is not effective due to the low thrust. Once the anchor is broken out, the boat will fall off as there isn’t enough flow over the rudder so you need to get back to the helm pretty quick. Also, be ready to re-drop the anchor quickly if things are not going your way, we usually sail off the anchor without the engine on and occasionally get caught on the wrong tack in a tighter spot and simply put the anchor back down on short scope. On ketches, having the mizzen up can be an advantage and some sloops/cutters benefit from a hard sheeted main instead of the engine idling ahead. I have seen people race back and forth to the bow but I really don’t like that option.

From the helm can work but seeing what is going on is a big issue. Seeing the chain angle is the biggest one on most boats. Some center cockpit boats put you high enough up to see and on some aft cockpit boats, you can lean out sideways and see. One trick is to intentionally motor slightly to the side of the anchor so that the chain is in a predictable place. You also need to be able to see the chain so good length markers are key and lighting if it is dark. On our boat, we have a wireless remote wired in parallel to the wired switch up forward to allow for one of us to control the windlass from the helm. I put a switch in to disconnect the wireless remote receiver most of the time in case it ever commands the windlass when it shouldn’t but it is one more thing to remember when you need to use it (I can only remember 1 time when I actually needed to use the remote due to someone dragging down on us and I have used it for convenience in tight spots a few more, usually I just use the windlass from the bow).

Another consideration is that if you are in a shallow anchorage with waves, you really need to watch the shock loading once you get the snubber off. With 2 people, this isn’t nearly as big a deal but with 1, I try to either trip the anchor out at short scope by driving over it or make sure that the chain can go back out during high loads. Since no discussion of anchoring would be complete without pointing out that it is a system, having good ground tackle that sets quickly and doesn’t drag is probably the single most important thing in all of this as it will decrease the number of times you have to deal with the anchor singlehanded in the middle of that nasty but short thunderstorm or whatever it is.


Rob Gill

Hi Rob,
On the occasions that I single hand the anchor (usually early morning/little wind/1st mate still sleeping) I try to keep a look-out for other moving boats, buoys etc. Single-handed, this is an extra task than normal for the bowman. The main distraction I find is getting fixated (head down) on washing the chain properly, so a really powerful wash-down hose that is permanently rigged (or can be easily rigged in our case) to auto-wash the chain allows me to maintain situational awareness from the bow.
Have to agree with John and Eric though, #1 is an anchor, chain and windlass set-up that anchors and up-anchors predictably every time.

Eric Klem

Hi Robgoh,

One other thought as I was making my fall to-do list on our own boat. In my experience, the majority of cruising boats require you to knock down the chain pile if you have significant chain out and a shocking number of them require going below to do it. When the weather is up, this can turn into a real issue if you are solo so make sure that this isn’t the case for you. In my own case, there is an amount of chain out above which we need to knock it down and do not have deck access so I am hoping to deal with that before next year.


Bernard Stockman

Hi John,

“If you follow these rules, the biggest danger to you while anchored is another boat dragging down on you”

A few weeks ago we were anchored during a thunderstorm in the Netherlands.
It was a really hard blow with gusts to 58 knots, lots of rain and lightning.
A lot of yachts left the anchorage at dusk, just before the thunderstorm.
But we decided to ride it out. We had 50 m of chain out in 5 m of water and a SPADE groundtackle. So we were quite confident.
Leaving the anchorage wasn’t on option for us anyway. There is a shallow bar at the entrance and we didn’t want to pass that bar in those conditions and lowering tide.

An old barge (steel, 23 m) was anchored 0.2 nM in front of us, which we presumed was a safe distance. At a given moment it started dragging in our direction. The visibility was very low and the radar confirmed the situation. We had the impression that the heavy barge could hit our bow (and anchor chain). So we started hanging out all our fenders. Luckily they “missed” us with a few boatlengths.

It ended well for us. The barge ended on a sandbank, just one hour after high tide, and could leave 12 hours later, without any damage.
Apart from taking out the fenders, could we have done something else to protect our ship?
Could I have used the bowprop to move sideways? We are riding on the anchor anyway. The effect of the bowprop is like a kind of forced riding in one direction. We had 50 meters of chain out, so there was some margin to move 10 meters. But of course, I didn’t want my anchor to break out. More chain was not an option because of yachts behind us.
Could I have used the motor in idle RPM to move away a little bit? But this is maybe more dangerous than using the bowprop?

So, John, could you share thoughts on what to do in a near-collision situation at anchor.

By the way, the only trouble we had was breaking our anchor free the next day…

Met zilte groet,

SY NoMad

Bernard Stockman

Hi John,

Thanks for your advice. The link above is also very interesting.
I was mentally not prepared to slip the anchor, although I have a rope at the bitter end of the chain and a knife ready in the anchor locker.
There are also some fenders in this locker and normally I have to hang out one or two fenders to make space in the locker before dropping the hook.
So, I will consider this next time.

It was a difficult situation.
Often people drop their anchor to close to others. Some hours before the thunderstorm someone dropped his anchor to close to my stern (in my opinion).
At that time, I had a rode of 40 meters in 5 meters of water. (I always use at least 5:1)
Luckely he gave some more chain at the beginning of the thunderstorm, so I could also ad 10 meters. Holding is very good in that spot, so I was very confident about my anchor. But I couldn’t veer more chain to escape the drifting barge.
Somedays before I moved, in the same spot, because another-one anchored really close to me (with an announced windshift during the night). After I left, two other yachts moored on his yacht and stayed for the night on one anchor chain (rope) and an anything but oversized anchor (racing yacht). They started the disco, so we where glad we moved.

The tip of veering the chain and motoring away is certainly very valuable. (I have 100 meters). Meanwhile preparing to slip the anchor.
I will try it next week in acceptable conditions. Not really doing the slipping, but at least preparing till the last step. I have to clean the locker anyway and that’s easiest with all the chain out.

Met Zilte groet,

SY NoMad HR-48

Eric Klem

Hi Bernard,

Something to think about with a boat dragging down on you is that not only do you need to think about boat to boat (or barge!) contact but also their anchor/mooring fouling your rode.  If the anchor goes one side of you and the boat goes the other, in my experience it is almost guaranteed they will foul you, their anchor never seems to skip across your chain.  This is one reason why I really don’t like 2 anchors in most situations, it makes you a much bigger target to hit.

In this case, you have a few options.  If you get lucky and the conditions are not too bad and the boat dragging down on you is not too big, rafting them up and then sorting out can be a good option.  If you do this, you really need to think through what happens if you also start dragging, trying to maneuver 2 boats stuck together is a mess.  If you are not really sure that your anchor will hold both boats, you have a bit of a harder call.  Ideally, the boat dragging down is fast enough to react that they can pull forward before fouling but this is unlikely.  Depending on how much rode they have out, they usually end up either alongside you or just off your stern so they can slip their rode but I suspect many people would be unwilling or unable and you would still have the mess on your rode.  Finally, slipping your own rode is an option and often the only thing within your power to prevent a collision as you basically never have time to haul up.  When I used to work commercially, we made a bit of a game of seeing if we could tie up a dragging boat alongside without them waking up, the boats were almost always much smaller and it made disentangling much easier so that we didn’t simply crush them.  

A specific example on our own boat occurred earlier this year in a tiny anchorage with 3 of us in there on short scope.  The sudden wind increase to 30 knots woke us up so I walked topside and realized that the boat now upwind of us was rapidly dragging down on us.  I grabbed a spotlight and foghorn and set about alerting them.  While they were aware quickly, their situational awareness was not good enough to pull ahead before they had overlapped our chain.  They were close enough that I had lost my opportunity to try to take evasive action so my options were to slip the chain really fast or get out fenders.  The boat was about 3 times our displacement and it was high tide putting us at just over 3:1 scope but it is an anchorage I know well with good holding and we have an oversized anchor so I judged we could hold both boats and I was not confident I could do anything else in time.  Out came the fenders, we rafted up, made sure that our anchor was holding, then started hauling their anchor to see what was going on.  Eventually their anchor was close enough to our bow that I could put a line through the rollbar, hoist the anchor, slack their chain, pass the anchor over our chain, slack it into the water and let them haul it back up to their bow roller.  In discussion with them, it appears that despite a large Rocna, they didn’t have enough scope out and had not really set the anchor.

The funny thing in all of this was that in the middle of it, the owner of the other boat in the anchorage came over by dinghy to try to help.  As I was checking my rangemarks I noticed that it looked like his bow was about 90 degrees off the wind, usually a clear sign of dragging.  He assured me that it was not dragging but when I looked again, it was no longer in the same spot so a second prompting sent him scurrying off.  Assuming no current, a boat lying sideways to the wind is one of the clearest signs of dragging.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

Yes, that is definitely one of the unfortunate things of cruising in more popular areas, I can think of at least 10 incidents where I have been on a boat that has been dragged down on and I have witnessed many more (hmm, I don’t keep track of total nights at anchor but this must be something like 0.5%, yikes).  New gen anchors seem to have greatly improved this, the incident earlier this year was the first in a long time.  If you want a real mess, try being dragged down on when you have a bowsprit.

Your situation didn’t sound like fun at all.  No quick solution available, rowing out that kedge must have been excruciating.


Colin Scott

Any thoughts on a bridle/snubber?