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When you sail into a crowded anchorage, how do you know when you have enough room to anchor? Would you share your method or technique for making that decision?
 

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It depends on the nationality of the other boats.

French and Germans you can park so close as to be nearly touching. Americans think they own the whole f'ing bay and will scream too close if you are in cannon shot!

Its really just practice.
Books say drop 3 boat lengths behind a boat. well, thats a huge area you are then taking up, so I drop right on the stern of the boat in front and put out a huge about of chain :)

But if there is only one boat in the anchorage and you drop that close it would be too close... so it can be like finding a spot equidistant from all other boats, and the more and more boats come in the smaller those distances are.

Now that I think of it, its not an exact science. Its an art where eveyone seems to be a wanker trying to own some water.

Others must have a better method :)
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Yep, as Mark said, +1 come up right on the stern of an anchored boat and drop. It helps sometimes to ask the other boats how much scope they have out and try to do likewise. That said, if tide is running against wind or boats are not all setting the same way, it's totally a judgement call. Sometimes it's necessary to re-anchor when you discover it's not working out as planned. Sometimes it's wise to not even try to anchor in certain situations.
 
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My first thought when anchoring is to find a place where my swing radius does not overlap any other boat’s swing radius. It can be difficult in a crowded anchorage but I’ll try even if it means dropping on the periphery of the anchorage where it might be less protected from the wind. I have a high degree of confidence in a rocna anchor.

If I can’t do this I will try and stay away from boats that are likely to swing differently such as launches and different keel shapes. Next I try to anchor by boats with similar ground tackle. If anchoring within an overlapping radius of another boat with different ground tackle it is not a matter of if a collision will occur it is a matter of when. What it takes is the right conditions. However these conditions will likely occur when the wind is negligible so damage should be minimal.

I look to drop in a spot with open space behind me so if I were to drag I would hope to miss the boats behind me and also give me time for evasive action. This is also why I would not drop directly behind a boat as some have suggested.
 

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In a tight anchorage I ASK whenever possible of the other boats "how much rode do have out" and use that same distance plus a little more to gage where to anchor. My chain/rode are all marked (every 25ft) so I know how much to let out.

If the wind/waves increase and there is now room astern, I then let out more rode to get the scope I think I need for the present conditions .... or move. When the other boats are using chain, I use chain; and when the other boat are on rope, I use rope.
 

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When you sail into a crowded anchorage, how do you know when you have enough room to anchor?
If I'm in a crowded anchorage(luckily, that's rare), I probably don't know if I have enough room to anchor, without trying first.

In that case, I'll drop the anchor with the understanding I'll probably need to raise it and re-set it after a bit.

If somebody starts advising me from a nearby boat, I pretend I can't hear(that's so annoying). I'll know if I'm too close soon enough.
 

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I look to drop in a spot with open space behind me so if I were to drag I would hope to miss the boats behind me and also give me time for evasive action. This is also why I would not drop directly behind a boat as some have suggested.
Good advice, I know I always feel more comfortable with nothing behind me to drag onto to. But in regards to dropping directly behind another boat, even if you are a few feet to the side as soon as the wind shifts slightly you now end up behind them. And wind shifts probably have a greater tendency to cause your anchor to drag.

So according to Murphy's Law it is probably safest to anchor directly behind them.:)

Of course the farther off to the side you anchor the more the wind direction would have to shift to end up behind them, which decrease the chances of that happening especially in areas with fairly constant wind direction.

Also I think you need to consider if you or the boat in front of you is more likely to drag (depending on bottom conditions and wind exposure). If their anchor rode has a lot of growth on it chances are they've been there a long time and you should be more worried about yourself dragging then them.
 

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But in regards to dropping directly behind another boat, even if you are a few feet to the side as soon as the wind shifts slightly you now end up behind them.
There is that chance but if anchoring directly behnd a boat you will be behind them until a shift in the wind. I consider dropping a few feet either side to be pretty much behind a boat anyway.
 

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If it is really tight instead of anchoring off the stern of a boat come alongside the boat and drop level with their bow. This WILL produce screams of protest on occasion from some cruisers but just be polite and say that if there is a problem it is up to you to move. If your anchor sets promptly you may of course need him to power forward to allow you a safe lift. I have only had this refused once and they anchored after me.

Another thing to consider when choosing where to anchor is do the boats in front have anything noisy. Some wind generators can be really noisy and the boat with a building site generator on the swim step is to be avoided at all costs. Barking dogs are a pain but few bark at night.
 

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When I anchor in almost every anchorage, I will drop the pick halfway between the sterns of the two outside boats. I run a generator in the morning and evening and prefer not to force someone who was there before me, to smell the diesel exhaust.
I usually don't bother to ask how much scope others have out as I will assume they have as much as I would use, which may give me a little leeway, as I haven't found that my chain does a whole lot of good in the chain locker. If the anchorage is especially crowded, I will anchor outside of everybody else, putting up with being uncomfortable, if necessary, rather than worrying all night about hitting (or being hit by) another boat.
 

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I do not drop right up to the upwind boats transom. I've learned that the hard way, when they drag overnight and I don't.

I usually put out as much scope as I can. If it's going to blow over 20kts overnight, I prefer to put out everything I have. However, in a crowded anchorage, I will try to get a good set on 5 to 1, all chain, if we are going to be clocking around. No one should be shorter than that. Last guy in has to give way to those already anchored.
 

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In anchorages without current, and steady trade winds, the drop off the stern technique works very well. You end up back, and things don't change.

Around here though, we are often in anchorages with reversing tidal currents, and changing wind patterns during the night, particularly when N of the cape. When that happens, I try to imagine where everyone's anchor is relative to their boat when I enter the anchorage. Then I drive around for a bit, scoping out a spot where I've got 360 degrees of clearance when I swing in the night.

Ever notice how when you are the first boat in a big open anchorage, that the next guy anchors right next to you? Why's that:D
 

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I do not drop right up to the upwind boats transom. I've learned that the hard way, when they drag overnight and I don't.

I usually put out as much scope as I can. If it's going to blow over 20kts overnight, I prefer to put out everything I have. However, in a crowded anchorage, I will try to get a good set on 5 to 1, all chain, if we are going to be clocking around. No one should be shorter than that. Last guy in has to give way to those already anchored.
I agree. I anchored down wind of a boat in a crowded anchorage in George Town once, and the boat started dragging toward me later. The captain, a really old guy came out and informed me that I was dragging upwind into him and should move. Rather than debate him, I decided that it was a good time to find a new place to anchor. :D
 
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Dragging upwind. Tell me it was a stinkpotter. :)

Last time this happened to me, I was in the Federal Anchorage just north of Goat Island at Newport. It's lousy holding for sure, very rocky. We were running in for lunch. It gets quite crowded, so the only acceptable spot was behind this big stinkpot (prob 80 ft). I don't climb right up on him, but maybe within 100 ft. I then let out about 150 ft of my own chain. When I get back a couple of hours later, he is clearly much closer. I check my anchor app, I've not gone anywhere. When I retrieve my hook, its underneath his boat. No one aboard.

I got up as close as I could and powered backward to break it loose. Not good for the hook, windlass or my blood pressure.
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Coming up close to another boat's stern is only for close anchorages. If there is plenty of room, there is no need to get that close. Where there is little room, coming up close saves space by keeping swing circles as tight as possible. When a boat comes up close on the stern, as soon as the conditions change, the boats no longer align with the wind but will always be out of each others swing circle if they have equal scope. The most difficult part in a crowded anchorage is trying to figure out where all the boats around you, different hull types, etc., will swing when conditions change. Being the last to drop, it's you who will need to move in the middle of the night if you call it wrong. The most common difficulty I've found is with stinkpotters (or fancy new sailboats) who have not a bloody clue as to how or where to drop anchor and wind up crossing and fouling your anchor line or even dropping right on top of your anchor line.
 

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I love that ll the charter boats have charter flags, you can assume 90% of them don't know anything about sailing so I stay clear. I had this great idea that we should all fly flags showing not only what anchor we use but also what rode. I use only 30' chain so I stay clear of all chain anchor rodes as I swing a lot more than they do. I don't know what it is but I can anchor in a completely empty bay with half a mile of good holding ground and every boat that comes in anchors right on top of me. DONT be afraid to ask people to move. You were there first and if the situation is clearly not good better to fix at at 5pm rather than at midnight when the wind shifts 90 degrees and pipes up to 20 knots. My experience is that greater than 50% of all boaters have almost no experience in anchoring. I like my boat and so I protect it. If I have to move to protect my boat I move.
 

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Anchor far away from others while you are still gaining experience.

The tip about going right up to the stern of another boat and dropping the hook only works if the wind is blowing enough (or the current is running enough) to have them stretched out somewhat on their rode. If you did that in a flat calm, you might drop your anchor on their pile or bight of rope or chain.

Err on the side of too much scope, power set in reverse, and generally things will go well.

MedSailor

PS Mark, I love your comment about nationality. I had a guy once (US boat) get all huffy and yell at me for anchoring about 100yards in front of him. I couldn't even hear his yells, he was so far away. He ended up pulling up his anchor (which reached his bow when he was waaaay behind my boat) and he drove off blasting his horn and giving me the finger.
 

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In tight spots, a Bahamian moor can often work wonders. You drop two anchors and essentially sit between them, so your anchoring circle radius is really short. We did this once, anchoring at night in Arcachon, France in the pitch dark. We woke up next morning with the woven wood wall of an oyster bed less than a boatlength off our bow: our anchoring circle radius must have been about 40 feet. Your rodes can need untwisting in the morning if you turn at anchor, but that's better than bumping into things in the night.
 

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In tight spots, a Bahamian moor can often work wonders. You drop two anchors and essentially sit between them, so your anchoring circle radius is really short. We did this once, anchoring at night in Arcachon, France in the pitch dark. We woke up next morning with the woven wood wall of an oyster bed less than a boatlength off our bow: our anchoring circle radius must have been about 40 feet. Your rodes can need untwisting in the morning if you turn at anchor, but that's better than bumping into things in the night.
A Bahamian moor is a really bad idea unless you are the only one there or you KNOW FOR SURE everyone else is on a Bahamian moor.

Otherwise expect close encounters of the third kind as other innocents anchored as most do on a single anchor bump into you.

Inn 11 years of living on the hook year round the I can count on the fingers of one hand the anchorages visited needing a Bahamian moor.
 
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