Originally Posted by engineer_sailor
The Admiral and I have had some issues getting our anchor to set recently needing several tries to get it done.
We are in the Chesapeake (read: mud) and use a Danforth as our primary. 30 ft of chain and usually at least 5:1 scope
You don't state what kind of boat you have, but I will assume you have the average 30-35 sailboat. I will also assume you have the typical fin keel underbody configuration, which will sail from side to side at anchor.
The Danforth is one of the best anchors for the Chesapeake, which usually presents mud or sand on top of mud bottom, without too many plants. The Danforth flukes will dig in deeply in most Chesapeake anchorages and can flip and reset easily if there is a change in wind direction. There is no better anchor for the Chesapeake. Your greatest difficulty will be pulling it out of suction from the bottom the next morning (and cleaning off all the grey mud).
Why 30' of chain? Why only 5:1 ratio?
I use only 6-10' of chain and usually go with 10:1 ratio or more. For my Pearson 28, I carry 2 relatively light 200' nylon 3-strand anchor lines, one at 3/8" and one at 1/2". I typically let out half the line, or 100 feet in calm weather when I am in 10 feet or less of depth. If the wind picks up or a front comes through, I will release the rest of the anchor line. The great length of line and relatively small diameter allows for considerable stretch, which helps keep the anchor set. The Danforth works best with a high ratio, as every pull causes the anchor to dig in even more deeply, instead of pulling it up and out of the bottom.
The Chesapeake has so many beautiful, well-protected anchorages with relatively shallow water, there is really no reason why you should ever have an uncomfortable night or drag your anchor. You do not have to contend with any great forces moving the boat or exposure that you might have in other areas of the country. Avoid the crowded spots - not only will you have difficulty using the right length of anchor line, but you may also be affected by someone else who drags during the night.
Keys to anchoring in the Chesapeake.
1. Pick the right place
to anchor - protected 7 -15' depth, plenty of space to sail at anchor. You can almost always find an isolated spot where you are protected from all directions and still pick up some cooling breezes. There is no reason to anchor in the open, an exposed area, or to feel crowded. (Buy Shellenberger's "Cruising the Chesapeake" for insight into the best spots.)
2. Use three strand nylon anchor line
with a small bit of chain, maybe 10'. Three strand nylon is light weight and will stretch up to 50% of its length. It absorbs shocks so well that it allows the anchor to set better. There is no need for chain in the Chesapeake Bay - few rocks, no coral, rarely anything that could cut your anchor line. While you need some additional weight near the anchor, a great length of heavy chain could actually inhibit your anchor from setting or re-setting properly in the Chesapeake. Further, why should you subject yourself to dealing with such a heavy anchor rode, when you could be easily handling something much lighter, easier on your hands, and more suitable for this environment?
3. I like to turn off the engine, drift into the anchor spot, drop the anchor gently to the bottom, and allow the boat to drift where it will, while I slowly pay out the anchor line
in order to set the anchor, allowing the 10:1 ratio
mentioned, or more, then snubbing it down to set it. It takes some time, but at least your boat will be initially set in the right direction and the anchor will dig in. Your anchoring position may not be simply a matter of wind direction, but may also be influenced by the current, tide and coastal configuration in the area.
If you back up using the engine (I know the seamanship books recommend this), you are forcing the set, deciding the direction of the set, and the natural motion of the boat may reset the anchor, resulting in a bad anchor set and dragging when the wind picks up. Even if you look at how the other boats are riding to determine how you will back up, your particular boat may ride differently at anchor. While it may feel a little odd at first to allow the boat to drift in order to set, you will end up with a better anchoring position.