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Date: 21 April 2015. Anchor Ball.


Still catching up, but life has been fun. And there is lots more to tell you about, including a fabulous festival. Watch for Festival Cruising, coming soon.

Of late online we have been discussing Anchor Balls, and the lack thereof on cruising boats. Though *A.I.S. is discussed frequently, the anchor ball is important too. Captain Scott aboard M/V Freedom said "Funny how AIS is praised so much and yet something that has been around for a long time is so foreign to many. My guess is anchor balls have been there, just not noticed by many."

*A.I.S. - Automatic Identification System is a technology that provides the names and other vital data about cruising ships and boats. Many vessels now have the receivers aboard. The fancier yachts also often opt for a transceiver (send and receiving) unit. Defender sells them.

Of course folks who love the newest and greatest have or want A.I.S. capabilities. I wouldn't mind it too though this is not near the top of the Wish List. Aboard Seaweed, my list includes:

*Note on the autopilot: I do not want nor need one of the fancy models that take you to a specific coordinate. What I want and hope to eventually be able to afford is a simple autopilot that can steer a compass course.

I shall eventually be learning more about autopilots after the engine swap is complete. Progress is happening on that front too. Have I mentioned life has been busy?!?

But that is neither here today nor likely to be real soon. Instead, you are going to hear one of my mantras:

Anchor properly, and that includes the use of an anchor ball.

And no, this is not something dreamed up by marketing specialists. This is actually a rule that all boaters need to abide by. Specifically the Navigation Rules book states:

Rule 30 - Anchored Vessels and Vessels Aground

  • (a) A vessel at anchor shall exhibit where it can best be seen:

  • (i) in the fore part, an all-round white light or one ball;

  • (ii) at or near the stern and at a lower level than the light prescribed in Rule 30(a)(i), an all-round white light.

  • (b) A vessel of less than 50 meters in length may exhibit an all-round white light where it can best be seen instead of the lights prescribed in Rule 30(a)

Thus, you need to display a 12" Anchor Signal Ball if you are at anchor in the daytime. They look like the radar reflectors however rather than metal these are made from a polypropylene. You actually could paint it black though I am uncertain how well the paint would adhere to the aluminum radar reflector.

Though plastic, the material is not crisp. It will not
break. Mine has not deteriorated aftere years of use.

Here's the anchor ball displayed on Seaweed, flying atop the pilothouse:


Mounting the anchor ball aboard Seaweed was relatively simple. I had an unused VHF antennae base on the pilothouse. The stainless pipe is the shaft from an old trolling motor that gave up the ghost. One hole drilled near the bottom (1/4" hole) and I through-bolted it to the VHF base.

But, there was a problem. The doggone pipe would rotate (port or starboard depending upon the wind) so I added the cap from a spray bottle. That prevents it from tipping over and solved the vertical issues.

Additionally, I had an old flag pole tucked into a locker. I screwed an eye bolt into the top to attach the anchor ball. Winds were twisting the rope used to tie it to the pole. Thus I added a swivel from my tackle box to allow for that rotation.

The black ball is secured to the top of the flagpole.
It is also easy to spot by fellow boaters.



However I was concerned about high winds taking my anchor ball off the pole. Thus, I added a line from the bottom of the black ball. It is tied it off to a hand rail.

I like things secured twice in
case one method goes belly up.

That extra line means I do not worry when winds increase. I know even if the ball flies off the pipe, I will still have my gear attached to the boat.


This is placed above the anchor light in the daytime and invisible at night. The light in the picture is a steaming light. I have got a Bebi Owl forward of that, attached to an old GPS puck from eons ago.

This was money well spent. Circa 2015, about $20 buys a brand new one. Or make your own. If I did not already own one I would opt for a radar reflector (same design as the anchor ball) and paint it black.

The second line I added was the best idea ever. I could have lost my anchor ball a couple times were it not for the safety of the spare line. And yes, both the top and bottom have holes so no modification of the unit is required.


Anchor Balls equal safety for the boat at anchor
and those of us traversing the waterways.


The captain of M/V Freedom (an Albin40) pointed out "I was happy to see the anchor balls displayed on barges in the Chesapeake and Delaware.

The wind and current made it hard to tell if they were underway and slowly maneuvering which would have required action on my part or not.....

Once you know what to look for and why....they are an invaluable tool for safety."


Additionally, for those of you in Canada displaying anchor balls up there is a law up there too. Specifically according to Phoenix Hunter (a 42' Kadey Krogen) in Transport Canada, Chapter 9: "Anchored Vessels Vessels that are at anchor and are less than 50 metres long must exhibit, depending on the time of day and visibility, an all-round white light or one ball where it can best be seen (see Figure 9-7)."

This is M/V Henrietta, a Kadie Krogen 42.

M/V Dauntless, another Kadey Krogen42 currently cruising in Ireland says "In Europe however they are used pretty much by everyone and you can be fined without it." Captain Richard of Dauntless has a website I enjoy reading. Visit it at: http://dauntlessatsea.wordpress.com/ for an amazing journey "we" (me, vicariously) made it across the Atlantic Ocean in a *single screw boat.

*Single screw: means one engine in the boat.

Since I am giving advice, I would suggest you play by the rules. Either make or buy an anchor ball and display it when anchored. My setup is simple and with a bit of ingenuity I am certain you can find a place to raise one as well.

Besides, I want to see more anchor balls out here. 

Do you have and display an anchor ball?
Where are your cruising grounds and do others use them in your area?

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