Date: 7 December 2013. Anchoring.
The only folks who have never dragged anchor are either
those who never anchor or they are atrocious liars. The last time I
dragged was back in 2012 and I do not anticipate doing so again. With
proper (read: oversized) ground tackle I am safe and secure. I rest well
at night knowing that when I set the anchor, I am not moving until I raise
Why do such things happen? Well, last
month I listened in on a VHF conversation that gave some clues. It was
Oh-dark-thirty at night and two sailboats were anchored off Dog Island,
one of which was having difficulty. There are lessons to be learned, so
here we go:
Dog Island (at the red arrow) is a barrier island outside
of Carrabelle in the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a dark and stormy night and two sailboats had anchored in what was
the lee of Dog Island. Unfortunately they had apparently not checked or
listened to the weather forecast which predicted the winds clocking
around. Thus after midnight as the winds started kicking from a new
direction, they were exposed to the brunt of both the stronger winds and
One sailboat was dragging anchor. Although he had his
engine running to assist in keeping the boat in place, he was still being
driven towards shore by the storm. The TowBoatUS captain from Carrabelle
came out to give him a hand and saved the boat however there are lessons
we can learn.
ALWAYS listen to the weather forecast.
This storm was on the air, indeed there were small craft warnings out.
On VHF radios if you push and hold the Wx (Weather) button
the radio will show ALT (means Alert) on the screen. Then, when an urgent
weather forecast is issued, automatically the radio switches over to the
broadcast presuming your radio is turned on. You will hear a series of
beeps first, then the Marine/Storm Warning.
Basically what happens is the radio switches from your standard VHF
channels to the weather channel. Yes, while Alert is turned on you can
switch manually to Weather. After listening you have to manually reset the
VHF to Channel 16 just as you normally would. Aboard Seaweed I keep the
Weather Alert turned on. This is a handy feature -- and even my twenty
year old radio has it so yours ought to as well.
The two boats, instead of traversing the
channel/river to get into a less exposed spot, chose to anchor outside.
That normally would have been a great idea for an earlier start across the
gulf, however when you have small craft warnings out and rough waters
predicted it is wisest to be tucked in a safe and protected anchorage.
The anchor used by one sailboat did not
Another clue experienced cruisers are aware
of is when the shrimp boat fleet comes into harbor, it is a safe bet that
recreational boaters should be in port too. The professional fishermen
know their seas so if and when they determine the ocean or gulf is unsafe
you can be assured they are basing their decision on years of local
knowledge. Too many times the novice will fail to appreciate the signs
that are quite apparent to the rest of us.
If your anchor will not hold you in all conditions, it is
my belief that you need to upgrade. I did drag, once. Because I believe it
is best to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to ground tackle.
TowBoatUS at 0300 because you are afraid you are going to come ashore
is not good for your blood pressure either.
My anchor is oversized. It is a 33 pound Rocna,
My former anchor was a 25 pound plow that the books say is
more than adequate for a 23' boat. Before Seaweed dragged I was satisfied
with it -- not thrilled mind you, just satisfied. I always had a hankering
for one of the more modern designs but money being money, I held off until
that storm back when I was in Pensacola.
Please note that my Seaweed uses 1/4" G4
chain. I have 100' at present though when the budget can swing it I intend
to buy another 150'. I am extremely serious about anchoring. This is my
home and I am going to protect her. When the 25 pound plow failed I went
out (that morning) and ordered a 33 pound Rocna. The Manson Supreme and
Rocna are essentially equal in holding power in my opinion, however the
Rocna was a bit less costly so it was selected.
Folks who do not regularly dock at marinas must be prepared
to anchor in all conditions, safely and securely. When the hook goes down
it had better keep the boat in place. After more than 1000 nights
depending upon my ground tackle, I'm confident with this system of all
chain and an oversized anchor. By day three at anchor, I know that to get
the Rocna up I'm going to have to cleat her off, then power it out with
the engine. The windlass (a Lewmar V700) will not break it free from the
Consequently although I confirm my location
and swing radius with a GPS I do not worry about Seaweed dragging. I am
set and when boats get closer I know it is them not me moving.
In the above picture the chain comes
almost straight down from the bowsprit, and the black snubber extends out
a bit. For Seaweed I use a 5/8" 3-strand black rope. One end has a spliced
loop and fits over the Samson post while the other attaches to the chain.
There are a lot of fancy (read 'expensive') attachments
available to connect the snubber to the chain however there is one that is
perfect. It's a knot: specifically a simple Rolling Hitch. That knot ties
easily to the chain, does not loosen but is easy to remove when retrieving
the anchor. It has never come off regardless of strain (or not) placed
upon it. In my book, the rolling hitch works, and the price is
Link to Video of Rolling Hitch by Grog:
This boat has all chain. His snubber line (white, attached
half way up the bow) is not deployed.
The captain only stopped for a short time (I was watching) and chose not
to use a snubber.
Without a snubber the action of the chain can be too sharp.
That action is called catenary and is essentially when the anchor at one
end and the boat at the other end bounces. The sudden snap when the chain
tightens can be discomfiting to the uninitiated, and this motion is
definitely not comfortable.
Too little catenary and you are in
danger of dragging plus the movement will be sharp and unpleasant. Too
much and it is a lot of work to raise the extra length of chain. A
snubber will all but eliminate the sharp bounces though of course when the
winds go over gale force you are going to have a bit of motion to the
My snubber is 15' long. If worse comes to worst and the
line somehow frees itself from the chain, there is no danger of the liner
getting tangled in my propeller. Black was recommended by a friend so I
chose it. As an aside, most of the snubbers I see are white.
There are two U-bolts at the bow of Seaweed. The one at the waterline is
to haul her on a trailer. The higher was intended as a snubber attachment
I installed the higher U-bolt however
afterwards became concerned. If I had a catastrophic failure in my
anchoring system I could be left with a line wayyyy down there and no easy
way to get the snubber off. I like being in control, so now use my samson
In snubbers bigger is not necessarily
better. You want the bounce/springiness of a 3-strand so sizing is
important. I'm not an expert but chose 5/8" for Seaweed. When I tried 3/4"
braid (borrowed to test) it wasn't as comfortable as with the 3-strand
smaller stuff. And 5/8" may be a bit larger than required however I am
concerned with chafe as well, so opted for a bit thicker than may have
It is great to know that the anchor holding my boat is
sized appropriately (bigger is better!) and I know when I anchor I am not
There are consequences to poor anchoring. This boat
dragged. Then the tide fell. Later when
the tide came in he was able to move without issue -- except for a bit of
embarrassment no doubt!
Today I watched as a sailboat anchored near me dragged.
When he finally raised the bow anchor I was not happy. The anchor (a
Danforth-type) was tiny. I would have considered it adequate for my dinghy
Algae, but certainly not for a real boat. This guy had laid two anchors
and although he has reset the tiny one he had forward I am concerned.
Having seen his bow anchor, I can only imagine how small his stern anchor
If you anchor out do not think two small
anchors are adequate.
Buy one BIG anchor, and I recommend at least your boat length in chain.
That way, you will stay put when the hook
The one nice thing about the boat that dragged is that he
is using an anchor light. That will be handy because when he drags again
at least I'll be able to see when he gets closer to Seaweed.
That is it from here. Take care, and please
use a big anchor. If you have to use one (or two) of those toy
pretend anchors at least have the decency to anchor a long distance from
me, plus down wind and down current would be helpful too. Thank you.
Have a great time on the water and make sure if you plan on
anchoring out that you allocate enough funds to buy good, oversized ground
tackle. Bigger is better so don't skimp on this very important aspect of
I'd love to hear of your anchoring experiences.
And, have you ever run aground? Please provide details! (anonymously is
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