Anchoring

Living on the Hook

After living aboard in a marina for 5 years, dreaming about living on the hook, going cruising (and subsequently living on the hook) felt like a dream come true.

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Living aboard was fun, but it was still just a “floating apartment”. I didn’t really feel the freedom of living aboard until we left our daily lives behind to go cruising. Suddenly, we were as free in our lives as the boat was in relation to the anchor. 

Everyday starts when we feel ready for it to begin, and everyday ends when we want it to. One of the best reminders of this freedom comes when we would dinghy back to our boat at sunset. To see it floating all alone, independent of any structure around it made us feel equally free. 

We didn’t have to worry about things like anchor dragging or debris floating into us because we chose our anchorages carefully. We would always pick an out of the way spot with good holding to drop the hook. We also have oversized ground tackle, so we could sleep easy knowing it would be hard to make us budge. 

Secondly, with unlimited time, you can find the best place to hang out and relax there as you explore. Then brainstorm where you want to go next and pop over to that port. All the dreams I had about living on the hook were realized when we went cruising, and all the worries of daily life vanished at the very same time! 

Raising Anchor in Bad Weather

When waves are high and winds are powerful, raising your anchor to escape the conditions can be a real challenge. In a situation like this, a manual or an electric windlass will still struggle.

The force of the wind and waves is pushing you back with such fury that the chain will be bar tight! How will you get your anchor up in this? You can try to motor up to it, but any slack in the chain will cause the bow to fall off the wind and pull the chain tightly from an angle, making the entire endeavor futile.

The best solution is to negate the engine entirely and simply use the power of the waves in your favor.

When the bow raises up the face of a wave, the chain will go bar tight. As the boat crashes down the back of the wave, the chain will go slack for just a moment. This is when you bring the chain in.

It is a slow and tedious practice but it will bring in around a foot with each wave, which can be as often as every 4 seconds if the period is close.

When you reach the anchor, the waves will help break the anchor free from the bottom and allow you to reel it in as it skips over the bottom with too short of scope to reset. Now you are free to sail away and seek a safer harbor.

Easy Bahamian Mooring

Bahamian mooring is aptly named, as it is a necessary anchoring technique when cruising in the Bahamas. Currents will whip through your anchorage with furry, and cause your anchor to raise up and reset every 6 hours.

To combat this resetting fiasco, all you need to do is set two anchors, one forward and one backward of the yacht. Now, an easy way to do this is to set your bow anchor like you normally would, and then hop into your dinghy with the second anchor. The current will take you away in a straight line from the bow anchor. When you get to the end of your rode, all you need to do is drop the hook and return to the yacht. Now, when the current reverses, the yacht will swing around and begin pulling on the other anchor. This process will repeat itself 4 times a day until you move on to the next beautiful destination.

The strong currents in the Bahamas help you in placing the second anchor. All you need to do is drift along and the current will do all the work for you!

Once the stern anchor is set, the stern rode can be tied off to the main anchor rode and a little more scope let out on the main rode. This will put the junction well below the level of the keel so that as you swing around, you will not foul your keel.

Anchoring in the Bahamas

Anchoring usually involves dropping your anchor off the bow of your boat and seeing it disappear into the murky water you are floating in. This all changes in the Bahamas! The anchor drops and you can see it on the bottom! You can see it dig into the sand, and you can see if your rode is fouled on anything!

The nice thing is you know what you are anchoring on. You can precisely set your anchor on a sandy patch and watch it dig into the sand. Weeds can foul your anchor, but in these clear waters, it is easily avoidable.

While anchoring may seem straight forward, there is one profound issue to deal with: currents.

The currents in the Bahamas are notorious, and for good reason! They will whip through an anchorage with several knots and reverse in a few minutes. If your anchor has trouble resetting, it will prove itself an issue every 6 hours!

To remedy this, all you need to do is set two anchors, one upstream and one downstream of the yacht. When the current reverses, the boat will swing and pull on the other anchor. The result is that you will simply switch the anchor you are pulling on and not have to worry about resetting your anchor with each tide.

Proper Anchoring Technique

There seems to be a lot of buzz about anchoring with shorter scope. The only reason I can imagine this has become a popular practice is because people are lazy and the more rode you let out, the more rode you will need to pull back up. 

We met a couple while anchored by the Lake Worth Bridge in Florida who were anchored with merely 40 feet of chain in 8 feet of water. Their yacht has a freeboard of 4 feet, meaning that their effective depth was 12 feet. This would produce a scope of 3.3. 

Their anchor held fine and they enjoyed being anchored very close to the pier and walkway to town. 

Then we all moved on and anchored in Lake Worth just at the southern end of West Palm Beach, and they anchored once again with on 50 feet in 11 feet of water. When you add their freeboard into the equation, they have an effective depth of 15 feet and a scope of 3.3 again. The difference is that now they are anchored with no protection from the current and they soon began to drag anchor. 

I noticed their boat drifting through the anchorage and thought that they were moving to another place, but noticed that their chain was still led into the water and no one was at the helm. I called the owner and he rushed back to his boat to re-anchor. He decided to reanchor close to us, so I informed him how much rode we had out so that we don't swing into each other on the next tide. 

I sit here anchored securely with 120 feet of chain out. This gives us a scope of 7.5 at low tide and 6.3 at high tide. He seemed shocked at how much chain we had out, yet we remain securely anchored while he had his dragging adventure through the anchorage (narrowly hitting a boat in the process). 

I do fear that when the tide comes up 3 feet, he will once again drag, as his scope will be reduced to 2.7. Hopefully, he will get lucky and no one will have to fend off as he comes dragging into them because he has insufficient chain out.