Anchor Up – For a Summer of Fun

Trust me when I tell you that anchoring (assuming you aren’t piloting the Queen Mary in hurricane force winds) is no big deal.

But, you have to be able to anchor competently, or this “summer fun” you are planning–is just not going to happen. The day at the sandbar, snorkeling at the reef, and sorting out your favorite fishing hole, all require good anchoring skills.

My suggestion for you:  keep these tips in mind, and keep it simple.

Anchor Prep

Right Sized – Make sure your anchor is the right size for the size of your boat. You’re not going to need a 100 pound anchor for your runabout, nor do you want a tiny mushroom anchor for your twin engine offshore vessel.

Anchor Line – Plan to put out at least around 7 feet of line for every foot of depth you might anchor in. Any less, and you are probably going to have trouble staying in one place.

Tie it Off – Have you ever dropped your anchor over to realize it wasn’t tied off anywhere to the boat? Oh yes, it happens. Tie it or cleat it to the boat before you put it overboard–it works so much better this way!

Boat Set up

Into the Wind – Always anchor facing into the wind to allow the boat to easily fall back on the anchor and pull the flukes into their holding position.

Do the Quick Math – Figure how many feet of water you are in. Multiply it by 7. Figure out where you want your boat to end up. Drive forward the number of feet you calculated and get ready to drop your anchor. (In 10 feet of water x 7 feet of line = 70 feet).

Check the Bottom – Do not anchor in living coral, lest you damage it! Try to avoid rubble and rocky spots because that just makes it hard to retrieve your anchor if it gets stuck.


Drop it Overboard – Please do not throw your anchor like a superhero. Not only do you look darn goofy, but the flukes of the anchor never land the way they should. Just hand over hand it until it hits the sea floor.

Fall Back – The weight of the boat will pull against the anchor and should “set” the flukes to hold the anchor and, ultimately, your boat in place. Just pay out your calculated anchor line, allowing the boat to “tug” or “set” the flukes into place as you set your desired length. Take a wrap on a cleat as you pay out your line to avoid having to strong-arm your boat when you are ready to finally cleat it off.

Get Your Bearings – Locate a stationary reference point to gauge whether or not your anchor pulls and you start to drift.

Simple Retrieval

Easy Does It – When you’re ready to retrieve the anchor, just drive your boat up toward it, without running over the anchor line. Walk forward, and pull in the slack and cleat it off. Go back to the helm, drive forward a little more, pull in slack and cleat off. Repeat until your boat is directly over the anchor. Sitting directly over the anchor will make it a piece of cake to simply pull it on up.

Reverse it Out  – Occasionally the anchor does get stuck under something. Not to worry. One solution is to use your engine to drive the boat around to the ‘back side’ of your anchor to essentially “reverse out” of whatever it is stuck under.

These pointers set you up for a lovely day at anchor, and a lovely summer of fun!

Captain Elizabeth Jolin owns She’s at Sea, a Boat Handling Course for Women. She has been chartering and teaching women to boat in Islamorada for the past 20 years. Contact her at to comment, ask boating questions or to suggest article topics. She would love to hear from you.

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