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Date: 9 October 2014. Emergency Anchor Up (OpenCPN info too)


A fellow boater asked "Your anchor alarm goes off and your anchor is dragging,....(and it is happening at 2:00AM when its really dark with no moon) and to make thing worse the wind is blowing you really hard toward the unwanted shore and its also starting to rain), what do you and your crew do?" Here is the routine for Seaweed, when the anchor is not holding:

First, I shut down the inverter and start the
engine. Once running, I turn back on the inverter.


Side Note: I worry that the inverter powering the boat might be too large a draw on the batts for starting. The refrigerator takes quite a bit of power and I want all that amperage/voltage in the batteries available. This is the way I do it though probably an unnecessary precaution.

Next I turn on running lights and start powering into the waves (going ahead about 20') ... I want to take pressure of the anchor chain and snubber.

The depth sounder is activated too, if it is not already on. Ordinarily I leave the depth sounder on with an alarm pre-set so it is not uncommon for the depth sounder to run 24-7 for weeks on end. If memory serves me, mine draws just .25 amps so in the overall scheme of things, it is on.

In the meantime, I've turned on the computer and looked at OpenCPN [http://opencpn.org] to see where I am in relationship to where I need to be to find safety. This program (OpenCPN) works with a GPS attached to the computer via a USB. No internet connection is necessary for it to operate.


OpenCPN Review


OpenCPN is free, an open-source software developed by a sailor for those of us who cannot afford multiple-thousand dollar solutions to navigating. It is supported by donations so make one, or more! OpenCPN is an amazing program and I like it.

Upgrade to the current version if yours is at all quirky. Mine is just fine.

What is best though is the help file. It is written for real people.  I have found answers to everything in it. And it works off-line which for me is a tangible bonus.


As much as I like and rely on my paper charts, having OpenCPN is
my assurance that all is well. I consider both essential to safe boating.


Download it today. More info can be found at: http://opencpn.org


OpenCPN screen, showing me in motion. The Red Square in front of the boat icon is where I will be in five minutes.

OpenCPN Lesson: The square is only visible when you are in gear and making way. If at anchor just the boat shows. Red indicates your GPS is functioning and has a fix on your location.

Assessing that, I will start raising the anchor with the windlass. My remote for the bow is always hanging above my bunk and accessible from the foredeck. I use a snubber so I need to remove that line from my chain.

Windlass remote hangs from a hook on the inside of my forward hatch.

Once the snubber is off I return inside. I will finish raising the anchor from my pilothouse and then head for safety. I already know that the scope I put out was inadequate (and that is usually 7 to 1 even with all chain) so my first instinct would be to move Seaweed into a more protected area.

Side note regarding my snubber: It's just 15' of 5/8" three-strand, black and even if it were to fall off the chain it is too short to get tangled into my propeller. I would have preferred 20' but this was what I had, so it's what I use. Not perfect, but good enough...

I have read that having a longer snubber (significantly longer, i.e. 40') is more effective at lessening the effects of chain whip, however when weighed against the danger of entangling my running gear, I opted for shorter.

But, it's the middle of the night at Zero:dark-thirty and the anchor is back onboard. I would not chose to attempt to reset. I have already failed once in much better conditions here. Therefore I see no benefit in attempting again in the same area. My initial set should have worked and whatever caused the failure is still "out there" so I would rather start fresh, someplace else.

Instead, I will rely on the OpenCPN to guide me making note of the compass course. And that is another reason why my running lights are on -- to power the light in my compass. My old hand-held GPS has a bread-crumb trail for departure so I can follow it as well. The paper chart is always right by the helm, open to where I am with courses in pencil to escape/leave.


But first, determining where I am is made far less worrisome by the addition of electronics. As much as I advocate and indeed use paper charts, having the assurance of electronics has eased the "oh shoot" moments and is a blessing. OpenCPN is my choice.

A quick note to the time on the chart and within *ten minutes the anchor up and I am underway. I have done the up and departure in five minutes (daytime) so feel quite confident dark would disorient me a bit and double the time factor.

Of course with a cold engine I will be taking it easy until my engine temperature comes up to normal. By keeping an eye on my gauges I will know when I can safely increase speed.


I would also start the coffee (or tea) and plan on staying up until well past daylight.  I am not a heroine and prefer to prove my mettle by avoiding instances where I have to prove my seamanship. Thus, once anchored, I would be shopping for a new bigger anchor. That is precisely why I switched from a 25 pound Davis plow anchor to a 33 pound Rocna.


Currently my 23' trawler carries and uses a 33-pound Rocna. Seaweed weighs in at 7,000 pounds according to a scale at a boatyard on the east coast. The Rocna has held my boat well, however I did have an issue once and this still weighing upon my mind.


Skipper watching Anja approaching... they are coming to visit!


Remember Anja?  [See (Joshua Slocum's) Spray replica Anja article.] Well, she rafted to me one afternoon so I could do some work on their computer using my power. The two boats *relocated. There was no wind however the current was kicking. I am therefore less content with my anchor and want a larger one.

*Relocated: a fancy word used in my Log Book when a boat drags anchor.


The next anchor (when I can afford it) will be a 45 pound Mantus, Rocna or Manson along with 150' of new 1/4" G4 chain. I take anchoring seriously, and hope I can get a larger anchor before next summer. Then I will sell the Rocna to someone who is upgrading their system.


I use a 33 pound Rocna aboard Seaweed.

Affiliate links→


Rocna Galvanized Anchor, 20kg aka 44 pounds

Mantus Anchor 45 pounds

Manson Anchor 45 pounds

Aboard Seaweed, safety equals oversized anchor gear.


Cap'n Jeffery says on 16 December 2016: I am unable to sign your guest book or write in the comment boxes. I liked your weighing anchor in an emergency.


Me: Thank you for the compliment and the comment Cap'n. That was nice of you.

We (that's the royal we meaning my friend Ken on Sparrow) is working at restoring the Comments and Guestbook. There was an update and that broke stuff. I'm not totally familiar with the why's though.


P.S. -Thank you so much for Murphy's photo. I will be uploading it later today or tomorrow. I think I'm taking Seaweed over to the American Legion tomorrow. And in "my" cove I spotted a Mainship that surely was pretty. Today was Sunday so going out aboard Seaweed on the waterways wasn't in the cards.

Instead a neighbor invited a couple of us to go with he and his bride for a boat ride. It was fun to be on a 40'er that can (and did!) get up and go. Ron and Olga have a Viking. She's a beautiful boat...


I'd love to hear what you have done in similar situations. What if it's another boat dragging into you?
Would you opt to let out more scope, anchor again in the same area or move entirely?

Regarding the Comments Section, found at the end of every article:

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A favorite aphorism:  And while we live at anchor and thus live a normal life with a couple of drinks, I always remember that Neptune has decided that in my case all emergencies occur late at night. Marty on Bay Pelican.

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