As harbours become more crowded and harbour dues continue to rise, more and more people are resorting to anchoring their yachts and, if necessary, going ashore by dinghy. Provided that a suitable anchorage is used and the correct drill is carried out, lying to an anchor has great advantages over berthing in a crowded harbour that more that compensates for the possible inconvenience of not being able to step directly ashore.
Selecting an Anchorage
When deciding upon a suitable place for anchoring the first and most important consideration must be the weather conditions. Anchoring close to a lee shore in a rising wind, or even a weather shore when a complete change in wind is forecast, might lead to a nerve racking and sometimes dangerous experience of trying to beat away from a lee shore at night in a strong wind. Full use should be made of any local knowledge as well as recommendations made in pilot books or given on charts, while information about the quality of the bottom would be used to decide whether the selected anchorage has good holding ground. The proximity of underwater cables or other obstacles should be checked, and where the tidal stream or current may change in direction allowance must be made for the yacht to swing full circle without hitting an obstruction or going aground. The depth of the water in the anchorage is important and selection is to some extent conditioned by the length of the chain or warp carried on board. The depth to be allowed for is the maximum envisaged during the period of time at anchor.
Preparations for Anchoring
It is most important that all preparations are made and all ground tackle laid out ready for use well before the actual approach to the selected anchoring position.
Where a stemhead roller is fitted the chain is shackled directly to the anchor lying in position on the roller. The length of chain required for anchoring is then flaked down on the foredeck. This ensures that no jamming will occur in the hawse pipe or anchor locker. The length of chain required is 4 times (6 if using chain leader and warp) the maximum depth of water that will occur while the yacht is at anchor. The inboard end of the chain must be secured with a stout rope lashing to a strong point in the chain locker.
When anchoring on a rocky bottom, or whenever there is a possibility of the anchor fouling an underwater obstruction, it is good practice to buoy the anchor. A length of strong line at least equal to the depth of the water is attached to the crown of the anchor with a fisherman's bend, seized if anchoring for any length of time, with the other end secured to the buoy. The line and buoy are then laid out neatly on the foredeck ready to be paid out after the anchor is cast.
In non tidal waters the approach to the selected position should be made into the wind, and the anchor cast or lowered when all way is off the yacht. As the yacht begins to fall astern the chain or warp is veered out slowly to the desired length, snubbing the yacht occasionally with a turn round the samson post or a cleat to encourage the anchor to bite into the bottom. In tidal waters or where there is a strong current the approach should be made against the current and the anchor cast when the yacht begins to make sternway.
When the yacht comes to rest at the end of the chain or warp, the required day or night signals for a vessel at anchor must be displayed; a black ball by day and an all round white light by night, hoisted at the forward end of the vessel. When finally anchored, it is important to take a bearing on some fixed object ashore, or to get two prominent objects in transit, so that a periodic check can be made on the yachts position to ensure that she is not dragging. Another simple way to check whether dragging is occurring is to lower a weighted line over the side. If the yacht is still the line will remain up-and-down, but if she is dragging, the weight will appear to move forward.
Warp in Place of Chain
With the great strength an durability of nylon ropes, it is now common practice for a nylon warp to be used instead of a chain. Although it may not give quite the same feeling of security, if the right size of warp is used it can be as strong or even stronger than chain. Other advantages are that it is much quieter in use, easier to handle and far gentler on deck fittings and wooden trim, it has more give and elasticity when anchored in a choppy sea, and it can be used in conjunction with the yachts sheet winches when an anchor winch is not fitted. The main disadvantages are that it is not heavy enough to give a good horizontal pull to the anchor, and is liable to chafe if lying on an abrasive bottom. These disadvantages can be minimised by shackling two or three fathoms of anchor chain between the anchor and the warp.
Lying to Two Anchors
In some circumstances it may be either necessary or desirable to lay to two anchors. For example, in very strong winds two bow anchors would give greatly added security and reduce swing. This method is not suitable for strong tidal waters, as there would be a danger of the two warps becoming tangled when the tide changes.
In restricted areas the swinging circle of the yacht must be controlled, a bow and stern anchor may be used, but this has the disadvantage of exposing the stern to the weather, with all the consequent discomforts.
A better method is shown below. The kedge anchor is lowered as the yacht is approaching the anchorage, and after finally coming to rest on the main anchor the two warps are shackled together just above the waterline. Sufficient bow warp is then veered out to take the kedge warp just below the surface. The yacht will now ride to one anchor or the other as the wind or current changes, with only a small swinging circle