Dragging Anchor

Dragging anchor is a bore at best, dangerous, and life-threatening, at worst.

We’ve dragged anchor many times, in fierce conditions, and in calm water. We’ve come close to losing our boat and always had to act quickly.

Learning navigation means you learn how to use your compass effectively in many different ways, including anchoring safely. Here are a few tips for safe anchoring:

*An anchor alarm is great, but you should be adept at using the compass to check for dragging. (Electronic equipment can have errors, in a tight anchorage this could be critical!)

*Always assume your anchor will drag at some point.

*Your anchor and rode is an insurance policy, not an ornament.

*Always use bearings to check your position (and GPS as a back up).

Anchored at Gambier Islands - vortexing winds meant we came close to losing our boat as we dragged while on anchor
Anchored at Gambier Islands – vortexing winds meant we came close to losing our boat as we dragged while on anchor (post-event, we are the boat on the far right-hand side after re-anchoring, after a terrifying night)

Aim for bearings on the port or starboard beam of the boat.

  • Find two objects that form a transit near or on the shore. (A tree may line up with a corner of a jetty).
  • If you only have one object use your hand-bearing compass (or ship’s compass with a pelorus) to shoot a bearing.
  • Make a note of the transit bearings and/or compass bearings in your log book and ensure everyone understands them.
  • Instruct everyone on board to periodically check these bearings, if they change/are not in transit, you are moving!

You must stay on anchor watch if conditions are likely to cause dragging, you will not have much time to act!

Do you have a scary anchor story to share or some good advice?

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