We all know there are a number of anchoring techniques. Anyone who has ever anchored in the wild has seen that other sailors have varied approaches to this sometimes delicate task. After six months of cruising, I am willing to present my totally unscientific findings on this subject. I hereby declare that there are seven distinct ways to anchor.
1. Let someone else do it for you The technical nomenclature for having someone else do the dirty work for you is known as either "rafting" or "mooring." When you raft up alongside other boats, you rely on someone else's anchor and the various components of their swivels, cotter pins, seizing wire, and the extent that their hook has, or has not, connected itself to the earth.
When you catch a mooring, you have to rely on whatever-the-heck is down there, which can run the spectrum from mushroom anchors to cement blocks or engine and all sorts of things in between that have been corroding beneath the water's surface for unknown timeframes . Personally, I don't know which technique is scarier. I would hate to ruin a good friendship over a raft-up gone bad, since any number of wave-induced wakes can send hulls bashing into each other and squish fenders into oblivion. On the other hand, the last time I dove on a mooring in St. Thomas, I discovered that it was a golf cart battery with a half-shredded piece of rope.
2. Plowing in reverse This is a rather basic technique broken into the four crude parts of driving forward, halting abruptly, dropping the anchor, revving the engine into reverse and "plowing" the anchor into the holding ground. I can't say I like this technique much. It scores high in the machismo factor, and in addition to being inconsistently effective, it's not very reliable. Without good holding ground, your anchor will just leave a long stripe in the mud and you'll waste the precious cocktail hour trying to set and reset it in an impossible situation.3. The litmus test Here's a fun piece of performance art to try when you're the last boat into the anchorage at the end of the day. You can take a lot of pride in disturbing a quiet anchorage and rousing people from the dinner table when you have this excited discussion over the dull roar of the engine.
"9,8,7,6, HONEY IT'S AT SIX!!!"
"THROW IT IN REVERSE!"
"HONEY, I'M IN REVERSE!"
"OK, PUT IT IN IDLE!"
"IDLE? I THOUGHT YOU WANTED IT IN REVERSE!"
As you can see, this can be a good, reliable test of your neighbor's threshold for outside stimuli, providing important information about how loud you can turn up your music at night without attracting their attention.
4. Follow the leader Sailors who are novices in the athletics of anchoring frequently try this one. They motor into an anchorage that is a mile wide and protected from all directions and decide that they must, absolutely, without a doubt, park next to the only other boat in the anchorage. It's almost as if this other boat has a large sign painted across its hull proclaiming "ANCHOR HERE!" or if the switch activating the tractor beam has been thrown. Unfortunately, these novices are on a course to learn the many torments and horrors of dragging, fouled lines, and dealing with incompetent skippers as they risk falling into that category themselves. We can save you the trouble and the next time you have the temptation to anchor near a fellow boater, remember that just because someone else has anchored there doesn't mean it's a good place to anchor.
"Like Goldilocks, I'm a perfectionist. I can't anchor anyplace that is too deep or too shallow. It has to be just right."
5. Circle like a dog Have you ever seen a dog or cat make circles before settling down? This is the same principle. You can do one big circle around the entire anchorage or you can do a few smaller spins on your own. When I've been at the helm, I've found this technique useful for one of two reasons. First, I may be watching the depthsounder, trying to find a good depth for anchoring. (Like Goldilocks, I'm a perfectionist. I can't anchor anyplace that is too deep or too shallow. It has to be just right.) Second, I may be watching the depth sounder to see what my swing radius is when I anchor. Goodness knows, I'd hate to wake up and discover myself grounded before having my first cup of coffee. (After that first cup, however, I've come to expect a grounding or two during the day, but that's another story.)
6. The sneak attack This is another favorite of mine. My husband likes to look at a point on the chart, drive up to it, slow down at the last minute and drop the anchor once we've come to a complete stop. That's a fine method, but it lacks what I call the "thrill of the hunt." I like to slow down before we've left the main highway, just so I can draw out the fun of anchoring. I can easily drift cautiously through an anchorage for a full 10 or 20 minutes before spotting my prey. I try not to do this too often, however, since it does seem to wear on hubby's nerves.
7. Sailing to a stop You can't get much better than this. Try this technique and you'll have tradition on your side. Sail into a sheltered anchorage on a reach. Rest assured all eyes will be on you, even if you can't see anyone watching. (There's no point in running into an anchorage, is there?) Point your bow into the wind. Wait until the boat comes to a stop. Drop your anchor. Drift down onto your anchor to make sure it has set. Lower your sails. Back down. If there are others watching, take a moment to savor the applause. As mathematicians would say, this is truly an elegant solution.