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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 09-10-2009
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Inching toward shore

Can anyone provide some guidance on approaching a shoal to anchor? This is my first year sailing. I'm in Narragansett Bay, RI with a 6'5" keel. I just purchased a dinghy and would like to cruise up to some of the anchor spots in the bay, but I'm really concerned about running aground. I have a GPS plotter Depth and charts but I'm still hesitant to try this. I really don't want to have to call SeaTow to pull me off. any advice?
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Old 09-10-2009
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Hiya Spec,
Congrats on getting out on the water.
I probably do this all wrong - but self taught and all.
1. Obviously from the chart you will know what you are anchoring in
2. We do a 'drive by' and motor over our 'swing room' just in case there is something on the depth sounder & not on the chart.
3. I use an oversized anchor and if not more chain, then a snubber with a long loop of chain. I hate using 2 anchors.
4. At night, we always prepare as if we are going to move (dinghy up etc)
5 Sometimes we anchor, then dinghy ashore with a loop of line to put around a tree for a stern line ashore. (again - easily removed if need to up anchor at 3.00 am)
6. Practice makes perfect and each situation will be a little different.
Good luck
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Old 09-11-2009
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I don't know how well you understand your gear so if this response insults your intelligence I apologise.
The important thing with any sounder is to be sure that you know exactly what it is reporting. They are all "calibratable" and unless specifically set up, they are rarely correct.

Two ways to do this. The first is set the offset to report the depth of water under your keel. The second is to report the water depth from surface to bottom.

I prefer the second setting because then the depth on the display directly relates to the depth on the chart.

The best way to do either is to use a lead line, sound the depth in a place where the bottom is known to be flat and then adjust the offset accordingly.
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Old 09-11-2009
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I see the sense of having the depth sounder match the chart. Having said that, there are two truths

1. Never trust the chart. Things change - sediment builds up, crap is dumped in the water, etc. not to mention that MLW might sometimes be higher than the low water you are getting TODAY.

2. Its nice to have a margin of error

Thats why my depth sounder gives me a reading that leaves a foot or so extra under my keel compared to what it is actually reading. Sure, I know it is there but it helps when anchoring over the old washing machine or shopping cart or whatever that somebody dumped in the bay.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Know what you are sailing into. I've been burned once before by an underwater "shelf". Had 30' of water and went to 2' in one boat length. Clearly marked on the chart, but relied too much on the depth sounder. Use both and leave room to spare and it'll be a long time before you run aground.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Spec,

What you propose to do is fairly commonplace, so don't worry overly about it.

I would suggest, given the tide range in your area, that you find a time when you can practice at low tide. That way if you misjudge, it will be a matter of waiting for the tide rather than Seatow.

Study the charts carefully, approach the area slowly, circle to check the depths and swing room, them put the bow into the wind, stop the boat, and deploy the anchor.

If you are new to anchoring, there are plenty of threads here that describe the process and tips. Revive an old one or start a new one if you have unanswered questions.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Lots of good information here. I've run aground twice, once in each boat I own. The first time was INSIDE a marked seven-foot depth channel...but at a time of year (October) when the people running the St. Lawrence Seaway are draining the lake to reduce ice damage potential downriver, and so we hit the MLW and had to scrap what I suspect was a six-inch trench until we found a finger's width of space farther out in Presqu'ile Bay.

The second time was right in front of the Queen City Yacht Club, where a little more "local knowledge" would have told me about the uncharted sandbar that forms in the summer right in front of their entrance. Comic relief for the drinkers, and I wasn't going fast, and I learned a lot about the utility of having a large diesel and lots of thrust.

So "MLW" and "uncharted" were both in play for me at different times. Never knock the usefulness of simply peering over the side or of sailing to a depth contour. Both have helped me out, even in the age of GPS. Also, keep the Notice to Mariners updated and don't be afraid to amend your charts or to update a large-scale area chart more frequently. People lob construction fill in the oddest places.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spec2 View Post
Can anyone provide some guidance on approaching a shoal to anchor? This is my first year sailing. I'm in Narragansett Bay, RI with a 6'5" keel. I just purchased a dinghy and would like to cruise up to some of the anchor spots in the bay, but I'm really concerned about running aground. I have a GPS plotter Depth and charts but I'm still hesitant to try this. I really don't want to have to call SeaTow to pull me off. any advice?
Come... on... up.... Sounds like you must be from down Newport way.... the land of the 100' water. I call NGBay "shallow" but 99% of it is deep enough not to worry much. Although my current and last boat's keels are only 5' it's just not that bad. I did my first 8 years around NGBay without a GPS/Chartplotter and the only time I ran lightly aground on a sandbar up in Greenwich Bay was pure stupidity/lack of concentration. The last 8 I've had a GPS/Chartplotter and I certainly will admit it makes things easier because all the squiggly ins and outs of the NGBay coastline all look the same from the water until you get in close to see there really IS a little cove or outcropping there.... 99% of NGBay is easy and obvious with a quick glance at the chart. When I anchor anywhere, familiar or not, I do like a dog and circle the rode scope area to re-confirm the depth that I may swing into overnight. I also used to set my depth alarm (now I'm just too confident and no doubt will get burned for it one day ) for a few feet more than my 5 for a little help if I get a bit of course and also - always still do - for a wake up call in the middle of the night - possible anchor drag - never happened.
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Last edited by christyleigh; 09-11-2009 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Thanks for all the good advice. I've run aground in Greenwich Bay as well. Clearly no fun! It doesn't take much at MLW. Ngst-bay does have very deep water in many spots, but as you approach areas such as Prudence Is or Conanicut, many shallows make for difficult anchorages for a 7' draft boat. Appreciate the thoughts on approaching this at low tide. Instinct would have told me to approach this at the high. I'll also recalibrate Depth as recommended as that has not been done since I've owned the boat.
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Old 09-11-2009
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Riding a depth contour is a very good option. You can employ a fog technique---run a zigzag formation on the contour and this will help you if you use a paper chart.

watch out for rocks though.
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