Anchor Up!

Elizabeth Jolin- Island Jane Magazine

Anchoring can be a murky task.  At times, the variables of wind, waves, weather, and anchor scope can get tangled to make good anchoring daunting. And yet, if you don’t have a strong handle on how to anchor correctly, you can find yourself in trouble–the anchor pulls and you fall off your fishing spot (trouble!); you return to your boat after a perfect snorkel to find your boat adrift (bigger trouble!).

Let’s simplify this to make anchoring a no-brainer. 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 10 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 – The bitter end of the anchor line should be attached to the boat somewhere. Have you ever dropped your anchor over to realize it wasn’t tied off anywhere to the boat? Sigh…it happens (but usually only once).

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 10. 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 (e.g., in 10 feet of water x 10 feet of line = 100 feet).

Check the Bottom – Never anchor on coral and try to avoid rubble and rocky spots because that just makes it hard to retrieve your anchor if it gets stuck. A good sandy or mucky bottom is best.

Elizabeth Jolin- Island Jane MagazineAnchor

Drop it Overboard – There is no need to throw your anchor overboard like a superhero. Not only does it look ridiculous, 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 strongarm your boat when you are ready to finally cleat it off.

Cleat it Off – Cleat off your anchor line, and double check it just for good measure.

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. Put your boat in ‘neutral’. Walk to the bow of the boat, pull in the slack, and cleat it off.

Go back to the helm, drive forward a little more, pull in the 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!

These pointers set you up for a lovely day at anchor!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *