Dealing with anchoring failures
Anchoring failures can ruin your day. Fouled anchors, dragging anchors, fouled lines and keel wrapping can turn an otherwise glorious day on the water into an unpleasant slog.
Dealing with a fouled anchor
You can’t predict a fouled anchor, but you can take steps to monitor the situation.
- Set an alarm for the time of tidal change.
- Observe how the boat moves, particularly if the tide changes from low to high.
- As the current and tide change, temporarily reduce anchor-line scope to keep the anchor line free of the keel/propeller/rudder.
- Set an alarm on your depth sounder to alert for unsafe water depth and an alarm on your GPS for location changes.
- If your boat has radar, use it to establish a “guard zone,” and set an alarm to indicate that something is entering your “circle of protection.”
- Know the type of bottom you’re anchored in. It can help you anticipate potential problems.
Coping with a dragging anchor
Signs that your boat may be dragging anchor include changes in the intensity of your boat’s rolls or perceived changes in the other boats’ positions in your anchorage. If this happens, take these steps:
- Survey the situation. Are you in danger of hitting another boat or fouling its anchor? Has the placement of the boats around you changed significantly and is it continuing to change? Do you have room to reset your anchor?
- If you have enough space, try resetting the anchor. Release additional rode; pull on it sharply to try to get it to bite. Should the anchor not dig in, or if you do not have enough room to maneuver, check that the propeller is clear and start your engine. Repeat the anchoring process.
- Once the anchor has been reset, consider adding a sentinel anchor to the anchor rode. This will help keep the angle of pull on the rode as low as possible.
- Reset your GPS alarm or select a new range for the new location. At night, you may have to rely on the other boats in the anchorage for a range (keeping in mind they will be moving), nearby lighted buoys or lights on shore.
Handling sailboat keel wrapping
When the tide changes from low to high, your anchor rode can become wrapped around the keel. In wing keel sailboats, the current causes the boat to swing in such a way that the keel becomes entangled. A sentinel anchor on the anchor rode just above the bottom at low tide will help keep the anchor line near vertical when current is slack and minimize the chances of a keel wrap. Use care in starting the auxiliary engine in case the anchor rode has become wrapped around the shaft and propeller.
Freeing an anchor or anchor line
Fouled anchor lines can occur both at anchor and when preparing to depart. Rarely will a fouled anchor, twisted anchor line, keel wrap or fouled anchor line free itself. Freeing a fouled anchor or line requires patience and a cool head:
- For a wedged or deeply set anchor, motor forward so the rode is past vertical. If the anchor doesn’t release, fall off and approach from a different direction.
- When the anchor line leads from under the boat instead of from the bow, it could be wrapped around your propeller. Don’t put the engine in gear. Identify the line’s direction, using a dinghy or snorkel gear if needed to confirm, and free the line.
- If two anchor lines are wrapped around each other, select the one with the least amount of strain, loosen it and untwist the lines.
- With some types of fouling, you may be able to unwind the anchor rode by turning the propeller shaft with a pipe wrench.
Watch “Anchoring a Boat – Doing It Right” and “Anchoring – Problems to Avoid” from America’s Boating Channel to learn more hands-on tips for dealing with anchoring failures.
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Learn to boat with confidence by taking the Boat Handling course online from America’s Boating Club.