Cruising

Cruising Tips - Anchoring

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Tripped by the Trip Line (August 2006)

If you ever have your anchor catch under a rock or other obstruction, you’ll be glad you rigged a trip line. But if you ever have someone else’s anchor buoy and trip line wound around your propeller, you’ll curse trip lines and all who use them. In crowded anchorages, trip lines often cause more problems than they solve. It is not unheard of for a boat to swing over its own or someone else’s anchor buoy, getting the line caught around the rudder or propeller and tripping the anchor unintentionally. If you absolutely must use a trip line, make it a long one; secure it to the anchor rode at intervals with a light, easy-to-snap string, and make it fast to one of the bow cleats. That way, the worst that can happen is that the trip line may get twisted around the anchor rode as the boat swings to a reversing current or wind shift. You may have a bit of fun sorting out the tangle when it’s time to leave, but that’s nothing compared to the joy of having your trip line wound around your own prop. Peter Nielsen

Marking Chain (Mary 2006)

There are a number of ways to mark your anchor chain, including using paint or plastic-wire ties. I prefer to use strips of colored nylon spinnaker cloth.

First lay out the entire chain on the dock and flake it in even lengths. Choose a length that is appropriate to the depth of the waters you will be cruising in. I use 25-foot lengths. Then tie one of those easy-to-see pieces of cloth through the links that start each end of the designated length. I wrap the nylon strip through the link twice and tie it with an overhand knot.

We bought spinnaker-cloth tapes from our sailmaker in 2-inch-wide rolls, in red, green, and white. We cut the tapes into 30-inch lengths and marked each with a felt-tip marker to indicate the number of feet of chain that have been put out.

The colors let the foredeck crew know how much chain is going out even if they can't see the actual numbers. I've tied green tapes on all the 25-foot marks (25, 75, 125, 175), red tapes on the 50-foot marks (50, 150, 250), and white tapes on the 100-foot marks (100, 200).

The colors are easy to see, the nylon cloth goes through the windlass easily, and the cloth lasts longer than paint. Fred Roswold

Chain collar (April 2006)

If your anchor is hooked on an underwater cable or snagged under a rock, you may be able to free it with a chain collar. Loop a piece of chain about 12 inches long around the anchor rode and join the ends with a shackle. Harden up on the anchor cable until it’s vertical and then slide the chain collar down it on a length of line. The aim is to get it over the shank of the anchor and down near the crown. If you ease off the anchor cable and heave up and down on the collar line, you may be able to pull the anchor clear of the obstruction. If it proves stubborn, try pulling on the retrieval line from the dinghy as the boat settles back on the rode; the change in angle may be all that’s needed to coax the anchor free. Peter Nielsen

A Shorter Scope (February 2006)

It is well known that three times the depth of the water is a good starting point for determining the scope you need when anchoring with chain. This rule is not cast in stone, however, and you might safely opt for less scope if space is tight, so long as your anchor seems well set, conditions are not extreme, and you will be aboard at high water. This can be particularly useful when swinging room is tight and the tide is due to fall during the night, because you know then that your scope will increase for some hours before it begins to decrease once more. If your anchor is holding at bedtime, it should hang on until morning light. Tom Cunliffe

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