Skipper’s Tips #1 – Anchoring

I wrote my ‘Skipper’s Tips’ some years ago and now that I have my very own blog I think it is about time we get to see them again.  These tips have proved very popular in the past so I will be publishing them on a regular basis alongside my adventures and my pictures.

I’m not sure what made me choose anchoring as the first of my ‘Skipper’s Tips’. Maybe it was because I had three separate anchoring tips to share and that fact alone made tips for anchoring seem somewhat important.  Having given this some thought,  I’m also aware that anchoring is the subject I get asked about more than any other boating technique.  For some reason it seems to scare the pants off people, and in fairness, the first time I anchored overnight I was more than a little apprehensive – I was crewing on a delivery trip from Ellos in Sweden to Cowes on a Hallberg-Rassy 39.  We had decided to pass through the top of Denmark, rather than run the gauntlet of the Skagarrak Strait, which lies between Norway and Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, this body of water is notorious for its potential ferocity.  This magical inland waterway has stopping off points set at ideal distances apart, which make for a leisurely three or four day run through to the North Sea.  All except for one leg that is and this is where we had to ride at anchor for the night. If memory serves, it took me rather a long time to get to sleep that night but the next morning we were in exactly the same position and I’ve been happy to sit at anchor ever since.

Anchoring #1

Anchoring is seen by some to be a ‘black art’, but it needn’t be. During the RYA Day Skipper course we go through anchoring in detail but here are a few tips to get you going and alleviate some of your fears.

  • When underway, attach a lanyard from the anchor to the boat/winch to stop the anchor deploying accidentally
  • If you have an electric windlass, only turn the windlass switch on when you are ready to anchor
  • Operate the anchor from the bow where you can see the anchor going up and down
  • For boats without a windlass, flake the chain out on deck before you put the anchor down, so that you can put out the correct amount of chain
  • Lay out a minimum of four times the depth of water for chain only
  • Lay out a minimum of six times the depth of water for a chain and warp mixture
  • As the tide rises and falls adjust the amount of chain/warp you have out
  • If your anchor drags put out more chain (If in doubt, let it out)
  • Never anchor on a lee shore – wind blowing on shore

Check your chart for the nature of the sea-bed; mud or sand offers better holding than weed, and unless you have a tripping line attached to the back of your anchor, you may lose it in rocks.

When you are ready to anchor, turn the boat into the wind/tide and stop (You should be pointing in the same direction as other boats anchored nearby). Let the anchor out until it touches the bottom and then drift gently backwards, laying the rest of the chain out as you go.

Use transits (two objects in a line) forward and on the beam to check that you are not dragging your anchor. If your anchor does drag, then lay out more chain/warp – this is why you should not anchor on a ‘lee’ shore.


The first time you decide to spend the night at anchor it can be very daunting but do try and summon the courage to try it.  Waking up in a sheltered bay, to a gorgeous sunrise and the gentle lapping of the sea on the hull is something quite wonderful…


My next tip will be Close Quarters Manoeuvring, don’t miss these upcoming words of wisdom!

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventure.

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