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Vol 49 | Num 11 | Jul 10, 2024

Offshore Report Ocean City Report Delaware Report Virginia Report Snarky Lines Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Ship to Shore

Article by Capt. Steve Katz

Hook, Line & Anchor Time

Understanding how to set the anchor and retrieve an anchor is critical—an anchor can hold your boat in place in a productive fishing spot, secluded cove for swimming, a sandbar for a party or an overnight stay, but it is also an essential piece of safety gear.
While each boat, location and equipment may vary, here are the basic steps that apply to most anchoring situations:


Select an area to anchor with plenty of room. Ideally, it should be a well-protected area with adequate water depth and a sandy or muddy bottom.

Head slowly into the wind or current to a position upwind or up current of where you would like to anchor. Keep in mind wind, waves and current will cause your boat to swing while on anchor, be mindful of other boats and nearby fixed objects.

While moving ahead, stop the boat and slowly lower the anchor over the bow to the sea bottom. Never anchor only from the stern as this can cause the boat to swamp. The stern may be hit by waves or pulled down, allowing excess amounts of water to enter the boat.

Once the anchor is on the bottom, slowly back the boat away downwind or down current. Deploy about seven to ten times as much anchor line as the depth of the water, depending on the wind strength and wave size. Tie off the line around a bow cleat and pull on the anchor line to make sure the anchor is set.

After anchoring, take visual sightings of onshore objects or buoys in the water to help you know where your boat is positioned. While at anchor, recheck these sightings frequently to make sure the anchor is not dragging.

Periodically check connecting knots and hardware on your anchor line.

When possible, use splices instead of knots. Knots weaken a line more than splices.


Identify the direction of your anchor line and location of your anchor. Slowly move the boat toward the anchor while pulling in the line. As you get close to the anchor and your boat is directly above the anchor, pull briskly straight up, this should cause it to release from its hold on the bottom.

If the anchor is stuck, slowly pilot your boat in a large circle with the anchor in the center of the circle while keeping the anchor line pulled tight until it hopefully releases from the bottom.

When the anchor releases from the bottom, stop the boat, and retrieve the anchor. Never drag the anchor behind the boat.

How to Choose the Correct Anchor

Choosing an anchor is easy, choosing the right one for your boat can be difficult. Your first task in choosing an anchor is to understand three things:

-Your boat’s size, weight and design characteristics affect what kind of anchor you will need to use.
-Location - Where you plan to anchor often dictates what type of anchor you should use. Is the bottom rock, sand soft mud? If you are not familiar with the area, ask around or look at a local chart.
-Local Conditions - Anchoring in a calm protected cove can be quite different to anchoring offshore or on a large open bay. And do not forget the weather--high winds, tides and waves can all make anchoring difficult, if not impossible.

Holding Power

Anchors are rated by their holding power, or the amount of pull force the anchor will withstand to hold the boat in place, this is different than the actual weight of the anchor.

Anchor Weight vs Style

A combination of actual anchor weight and style will affect the ability of your anchor to grab ahold of the sea floor and create the holding power. Bigger is better when choosing anchor weight. You will not need as much to hold the boat in a quiet cove, but you will need much more weight for an emergency in the wind. Holding power and weight are only as good as the anchor’s ability to penetrate the bottom. In the mid-Atlantic area, Anchors that easily penetrate hard sand bottoms are best, though you get less holding power in mud. The anchor weight is more important than design in grassy bottoms.

Popular style of anchors used in our area:

The fluke-style anchor (commonly referred to as Danforth) is like the plow style but is lighter. It is also good for most pleasure craft and gets its holding power from its pointed flukes digging into bottom sediments. (Danforth is a registered trademark of Tie Down Engineering, Inc.)
Plow-Style Anchor-The plow-style anchor is good for most pleasure craft and gets its holding power by plowing into bottom sediments.

Often Heavier than Fluke Style

Mushroom Anchor -The mushroom anchor gets its holding power by sinking into bottom sediments. It should not be used to anchor large boats, since its holding power is weak. You should never depend on a mushroom anchor to hold a boat in rough water or rough weather.


An anchor is only as good as the connection to the boat, an anchor line or “rode” is the connection system between the anchor and the boat and its sturdiness during mooring is undoubtedly essential. The critical point is often the splice(s) where the rope and chain are connected to each other, the anchor, and the boat. A typical pleasure boat rode consists of a short section of chain connected to a much longer section of rope. The rode needs to be rated to accommodate the strength or load of the anchor system. The length of the rode is dependent on the size of the boat and depth of the water. It is recommended that you use a scope of 7:1, meaning that for every foot of water depth, you should use 7 feet of rode.

Combining the proper size and type of anchor for your boat, along with the necessary length of rode will help to make the task of anchoring much more enjoyable and safer for all aboard. §

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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