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For more on Anchoring:
  • Anchoring Gear
    more on anchors, anchor tests, rode, and associated equipment
  • Anchoring Technique
    more on anchoring technique, setting multiple anchors, and, of course, anchoring etiquette

Picking your spot to anchor

Advance planning is key

  • Review anchorages in advance
  • Check the weather reports
  • Check the charts and tides
  • Check anchor and rode
Finding a suitable place to drop your hook can be relatively easy in some anchorages and seriously challenging in a busy harbour. It always pays to do a bit of advance planning. Review your anchorage selection before leaving, searching through guidebooks and online for suitable places to stop overnight for the predicted weather conditions, taking wind direction and strength, as well as wave action and storm potential into account. You’ll need to know the tidal variation between low and high tide to be certain that the anchorage has enough depth to accommodate the depth of your keel at low tide and that you have enough scope (see below) out when the tide is highest. Check the charts and tides, noting depth at mean low water (MLW) and mean high water (MHW), the direction and strength of any currents, as well as the bottom composition of the potential anchorages.

Remember, your selection of anchor may depend on the type of bottom you encounter as some anchors work better in soft mud while others work better in hard sand. Once you have this done, check your anchor and rode to make sure the road is attached to the boat, that the shackle is secured, that your swivel if you have one has not corroded, and that your rode will flow freely when deployed. Check that there is no abrasion or chafe if you have a rope rode. Attach the trip line to the anchor and turn on the windlass if you have one before entering the anchorage.

Depending on the conditions present on a given day, in a given harbor different areas may provide the best holding ground, the most comfortable place with regards to wave action, or provide the most reasonable access to shore side activities. You’ll have to weigh your options against your plans and the weather forecast. Countless guidebooks are available to help you evaluate anchorages for the best locations for predicted conditions whether you are staying close to home or going far afield. It pays to have a current guidebook for your cruising territory. Keep in mind, that their advice about holding in a given anchorage may be tainted by the anchors used at the time of anchorage evaluation.

Choose a location that will be best suited for predicted overnight conditions. You want to face the direction of predominant wind flow and be within the lee of the land so as to limit exposure to wave action. Remember, it is more often the waves pushing the boat up and down rather than the wind pushing laterally that cause your anchor to pull out with potentially catastrophic effects. The broader the fetch (distance between land and your location), the more the waves have a potential to build up.

When you are studying an anchorage, there are things you may wish to avoid. If you do not like what you see, find another spot.

Some things to avoid

  • Exposure to a lee shore
  • Areas open to a broad fetch
  • Proximity to mooring fields and channels
  • Sloping or grassy bottoms
  • Boats that swing differently from yours
  • Rowdy or careless neighbors
  • Anchoring up wind of another vessel (so you end up over their anchor

Alex and Daria Blackwell are the authors of “Happy Hooking - The Art of Anchoring.” It covers every aspect of anchors and anchoring in a fun and easy to read format with lots of photos and illustrations. It is available from good chandleries, Amazon  and on our publishing website.

For more information on this subject or on anchoring in general, please see our book:

Happy Hooking - the Art of Anchoring


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