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Independent Yachting Magazine

A brief theory of anchoring a boat

A brief theory of anchoring a boat

Updated on June 9th, 2024

There is nothing complicated in anchoring a yacht. But, as with everything, it takes a little experience. Here is the easiest way to do it.


1. Move slowly to the intended anchor drop point upwind. You should consider that after releasing the anchor, your boat will have to drift in the opposite direction in order to etch the chain to the desired length, which should be about four depths at least (more is better than less). And after that, the anchor must dig into the ground, which will require a few more meters of the yacht moving back.

2. Drop the anchor with the winch or by hand.

3. After the anchor touches the bottom, release the chain while the boat is drifting back with the wind. If there is no wind, use reverse engine.

4. Check the reliability of anchor engagement with the ground. This can be done by bearing to coastal objects, that is, simply by observing whether the position of the boat relative to them changes. Or with GPS.

5. Lock the chain to take the load off the winch.

6. If you have an anchor alarm, turn it on.

Lifting the anchor

1. Drive slowly in the direction of the chain towards the anchor point. If the view is bad, then the crew must indicate the direction. Wind and currents can make their own conditions, you must make the necessary adjustments.

2. In the process of movement, the crew must take up the slack in the chain.

3. If the anchor is deeply buried in the ground or caught on something, then go a little forward to unhook it.

4. Wait for the report from the crew “Anchor clear”, signaling that the anchor and chain are fully aboard and you can start moving.

How to anchor a yacht

Seabed types

The seabed is not uniform and each type of bottom will hold anchor differently. In most cases, you will come across the following options:

Clay. Perfectly holds almost all anchors with a flukes. However, if the clay is very hard, then the anchor may not dig in, but slide on top.

Gravel. It does not hold any anchors well, even with a wide flukes.

Rocks. The rocky bottom is undesirable for anchoring, because if the anchor hooks, then there is a chance that it will be very difficult to get it later. Some fishing anchors are designed for rocks, but yachts are usually not equipped with them.

Sand. A good option for anchoring. But too light models may not work.

Dirt. If the mud is not too soft, then the anchor is holding up well.

Silt. Something between sand, mud and clay. A good option for anchoring, if not the best.

Grass and algae. Worst bottom for anchoring, because the anchor will not be able to hold the boat securely and will simply slide.

For each type of seabed, there are many models of anchors that are more or less successfully used on different types of vessels. But boats and yachts are equipped with the most versatile models, such as CQR (plough) or Cobra, so there is always a slight compromise.

Yacht anchoring

General tips

  • Although not always possible, try not to anchor on the leeward side. Breaking the anchor, especially at low tide, will inevitably lead to a meeting of the yacht with land. It is better to anchor in the place where the wind is from the shore.
  • Be sure to check the tide almanac to be aware of their levels.
  • If your chain is not marked, then do it yourself by tying bright colored ribbons every five meters.
  • Remember to use lights and signs to indicate your status: a black orb on the rigging during the day and a white all-round light at night.
  • Before dropping the anchor, make sure that you are not in the zone of the prohibition sign or near the sign of the approach of underwater communications.
  • To determine the direction of the resulting force of the wind and current, take as a guide the position of neighboring yachts standing at the same bow anchor.