Anchoring a Sailboat When Chartering

Posted by Director of Education on June 17, 2014 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Crew, Maneuvering Under Power, Skipper | Comments are off for this article

Anchoring an unfamiliar boat

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Most charter boats use all chain anchor rode. The rules of anchoring say with chain you should use a 5:1 ratio. For example, for an overnight anchorage at a 4 meter depth plus 1 meter from the water line to your boat you should use 5×5 = 25 meters. If you have a 15 meter long charter boat then this is just over a boat and a half length. The trouble is no one has marked the lengths on the chain. So how do you know how much to let out?

Anchoring a Charter Boat

Anchoring a Charter Boat

This thought process gets a little more impossible the deeper you go. For example 15 meters deep (50 ft) you’d need to lay 16×5=80 meters (250 ft). Your charter boat does not come with this much chain/rode and nor do most boats for that matter. Typically you’ll have a maximum of 50 meters onboard. Thus at deeper depths the 5:1 rule needs to be relaxed a little to accommodate or better yet only anchor in shallower waters. The most important thing is that there needs to be plenty of chain, at least a full boat length laying on the sea floor during a strong gust condition. This ensures that the anchor is always being pulled horizontally across the sea floor and thus making the anchor dig in more rather than getting pulled upwards (and out of its hold of the bottom).

When chartering, the anchor chain is frustratingly never marked for lengths. Here’s what we do. Take with you some plastic tie-wraps. On your first anchoring, swim the anchor after you have settled and you feel it is a good length of payout. Ensure that there is plenty of chain laying on the ocean floor. When you are satisfied with the lay, mark the chain with one of your tie-wraps remembering the depth that this is good for. Mark it prior to letting out the bridle/snubber so that next time this is where you stop the paying out – then attach the bridle/snubber and pay out enough to make the bridle/snubber do its work. As you anchor at different depths you can attach different numbers of tie wraps. We attached 1 tie wrap at a comfortable 3 meter depth and then 2 tie wraps at a comfortable 5 meter depth. This made it so we would not have to snorkel it every time and be confident that what we were letting out would be fine.

See our video we shot in Martinique of our anchor chain laying on the ocean floor.

Anchoring Process

Motoring into wind the drop spot is selected. The helmsperson and the foredeck crewperson work in unison to let away the anchor.  The foredeck crewperson holds their hand up palm facing the helmsperson to indicate to stop the boat dead in the water. The anchor is lowered until it hits the bottom and then the foredeck crewperson points to the helmsperson to back the boat away. The chain is paid out at a rate to allow the chain to lay in a straight line on the ocean floor. When enough has been paid out, the foredeck crew person closes fist to indicate to stop the engines and allow the boat to continue drifting back. This will load up the anchor allowing it to set from the momentum of the boat.  The bridle or snubber line is attached and the job is done. After this, it is important to sit and wait for any signs of slipping backwards. Preferably snorkel the anchor every time.

We also used the App – DragQueen Anchor Alarm which is an anchor watch alarm. This alarm will definitely wake you in the night no worries. It did us – we had the tolerance set to low for swing.

We highly recommend the NauticEd Anchoring Course. You will learn the best types of anchors and ones to dump and make into lawn art. What types are best for each bottom type. Bridles and snubbers, The course was written by Alex and Daria Blackwell who have dozens of years of global sailing. They’ve anchored in more bays than most of us have had hot dinners. The Anchoring Course is a requirement for the Bareboat Charter Master Certification – and rightly so!

Take the NauticEd Anchoring Course now.

Anchoring A Sailboat

Anchoring A Sailboat Course

Coastal Navigation and Anchoring in Inland Waterways of Australia

Posted by Director of Education on January 6, 2012 under Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Rules of Right of Way, Skipper | Comments are off for this article

Where were you over the holidays? Sailing?

If you tried to email us over the holidays, you would have gotten a polite “out of the office notice”. We were busy catching up with our Canadian friends who have been sailing the world with their three kids for the past four years on a 42 ft PDQ Antares Catamaran. Early last year we meet up with them in New Zealand in the Tasman Bay (see the video in New Zealand). This year we meet with them in the inland water ways around Brisbane and the Gold Coast of Australia. Sailing with the Ellsay’s on Stray Kitty is a real insight to the lifestyle of world cruisers. They’ve certainly got it down and watching the kids in action with the lines and fenders was pretty impressive. This adventure was particularly interesting because of the intercoastal navigation issues in and around all the waterways. So here, I thought I’d relate a few stories as highlights of the issues and proof that both theory and practical knowledge is king.

Waterways south of Brisbane

Waterways south of Brisbane

One beautiful sunny afternoon we were anchored at a place called Jumpingpin. We went for a walk along the beach and came across a uniquely Australian experience by encountering a group of wallabies hoping across the sand.

Jumpingpin - A popular day stop (so long as you anchor properly)

Jumpingpin - A popular day stop (so long as you anchor properly)

After a nice stretch along the beach we returned to the boat just in time to beat an approaching thunderstorm. And in Ausy fashion, this one turned out to be a real beaut. About the time winds reached a peak of 40 knots we realized the washing was still on the lifelines and my bald head got a real pelting with the huge sideways rain drops as I brought in the now drenched washing. All the while that I was doing this, Chis, the skipper was pulling out fenders ready to fend off any of the at least ten yachts that were now dragging anchor.

To make matters worse, the tidal range in the area is around five feet. This creates particularly strong tidal currents in the narrow waterways. As the thunderstorm pelted us, the tidal current had risen to about 5 knots and was flowing in the same direction as the wind. This put huge forces on the anchors and it was pretty hair raising to see how fast the boats that had drug anchor were flying by. As an observation, almost all of the boats that had drug anchor and were now trying to reset them were using CQR plough type anchors.


CQR Anchor

The Dreaded CQR Anchor. Leave it at home.


Stray Kitty uses a Rocna roll type anchor and it held fast. Of course, in typical style of many boaters, the scope used was also way to low on boats that were dragging. And so we were able to watch the comedy of anchoring errors unfold in front of us. In reality there was no comedy. Some of the dragging boats were coming way too close, way too fast.

Boats anchored at Jumpingpin. Anchor scope too small caused dragging.

Boats anchored at Jumpingpin. Anchor scope too small and CQR Anchors caused dragging.

Next, one of the boats that re anchored abeam of us did it a bit too close and so as the current reversed later that night we began to come dangerously close. We elected to raise anchor and reset further out into the channel. However this presented quite a challenge with site selection. The wind was flowing in one direction whilst the current was in the other, and, we knew the current would again reverse before we awoke. Couple this with the difficulty in determining distance at night from other boats made us both glad of our previous anchoring experiences and knowledge. The worse scenario consequence of dragging anchor in the night and being washed out of the protected albeit high current waterway into the huge breakers coming in thought the cut was not one I wanted to spend to much time thinking about.

Another challenge was the markers. First off, Australia abides by IALA-A system which is opposite to the America’s IALA-B system of navigational marks. I.E. red right returning doesn’t work – it’s green on your right when returning. And in the USA the intercoastal water way fairly consistently uses green to seaward along the full length of a waterway with specially marked intercoastal day marks. IE heading from New Jersey past Florida and onto Texas you would keep green intercoastal daymarks on your left. In Queensland, they don’t seem do that and so the green and red swap inconsistently up and down the waterway.

Red Day Marker

Red Day Marker

Sometimes the red and green swap sides, some times they don’t. They seemed to use the yellow special purpose marks to designate a channel intersection rather than a preferred channel marker with red over green or green over red that is used in the USA.

Special Purpose Marks designating a channel intersection

Special Purpose Marks designating a channel intersection

Twice we were caught out nearly heading onto a sand bar because the day mark swapped over. The Australian navigation system also uses cardinal marks. Being able to read these quickly kept us out of trouble when it came to isolated dangers.

East Cardinal Mark

East Cardinal Mark (Safe Water to the East of this mark)

On top of all that, sand bars move and so your highly relied upon GPS map showing the exact position of the day marks can’t be trusted. When sand bars move the local coast guard move the day marks to remark the proper deep channel. So you can be looking at your GPS telling you that the channel is in one place when the marks tell you some thing else. Which do you trust? You have to trust the day marks.

Waterway Chart. Even with GPS don't rely on the chart. Follow the day markers.

Twice we had to turn right angles to follow a day mark went the GPS was telling us that the depth was one foot. Of course a slow and easy pace combined with the depth sounder readings is essential. Still, when you have only two feet to play with below the keel, sometimes it’s not the greatest comfort.

We tried our best to time our sailings each day with the changing tidal current so that it would help our speed. On the day that we approached Surfers Paradise this was not the case however and our 7 knot though the water speed only gave us a three knot SOG (speed over ground) due to current. On one particular day we had to ensure that we crossed under powerlines at half tide or lower due to the height of Stray Kitty’s mast.

Under Sail (Me Posing for the shot)

Under Sail (actually me just posing for the shot)

As hairy as I seem to have made the above sound, we definitely had a spectacular time visiting this area. It’s off the beaten track when it comes to top charter locations around the world and probably for good reason due to the complexity and also due to the spectacular and more popular Whitsundays area to the North.

There are two highly relevant NauticEd sailing courses to this article. The first is the NauticEd Anchoring a Sailboat Sailing Course. I’d venture to say that none of the power boats that drug anchor that day would have done so if they’d taken this course. First thing they’d have done was to leave the CQR in the garden at home and secondly they’d have understood scope a little better. Surely those people are embarrassed that they drug so badly.

The second course that would really help someone enjoy our intercoastal venture as much as we did would be the Coastal navigation sailing course. This course teaches in depth the navigation marks of both IALA-A and IALA-B systems including cardinal marks.

The other comfort to the whole trip was having very experienced world cruisers  on board. After a hard day of tidal currents, thunderstorms, crazy reversing navigation day marks and shallow waters we were rewarded with gourmet type dinners under the southern sky. The crew of Stray Kitty, after living on their cat every day for the past four years, did not sacrifice food quality one bit and were even able to whip up a birthday cake for me on the 31st.

The Crew of Stray Kitty (next to their Christmas Tree)

The Crew of Stray Kitty (next to their Christmas Tree)

Other tasty delights on the menu were kangaroo, pork roast, shrimp pasta, steaks, roast turkey, gammon (cooked in the oven on board), plenty of salads and cookies. Some great Australian and new Zealand wines were poured on top of the above in the warm southern hemisphere summer over the Christmas and 2011/2012 new year.

Christmas Dinner Table Setting Aboard Stray Kitty

Christmas Dinner Table Setting Aboard Stray Kitty

Thanks to Stray Kitty and her Crew!!!!!!!!!!!

Alexandra, Andrea, Grant, Ryan, Christine, Cari, Chris, (Vanessa photographer - Nikon D3100)

Christmas Dinner with Alexandra, Andrea, Grant, Ryan, Christine, Cari, Chris, (Vanessa photographer - Nikon D3100) on Stray Kitty - a 42 ft PDQ Antares Catamaran

NauticEd Launches New Sailing Course: Anchoring a Sailboat

Posted by Director of Education on April 14, 2011 under About NauticEd, Bareboat Charter, Maneuvering Under Power, Skipper | Be the First to Comment

PRESS RELEASE: NauticEd Launches New Sailing Course: Anchoring a Sailboat

Today NauticEd released another sailing course: Anchoring a Sailboat. The sailing course focuses on knowledge required to effectively and successfully anchor a sailboat.

Anchoring a Sailboat Sailing Course

Anchoring a Sailboat Sailing Course

Captain’s Alex and Daria Blackwell, authors of The Art of Anchoring, wrote the NauticEd specific sailing course. The sailing course consists of 12 modules and will be sold for $17 online.

The Anchoring a Sailboat sailing course modules are:

  • Module 1: Introduction to Anchor Types
  • Module 2: Anchor Types
  • Module 3: Anchor Selection
  • Module 4: Rode and Connections
  • Module 5: Site Selection
  • Module 6: Charts
  • Module 7: Dropping the Anchor
  • Module 8: Scope
  • Module 9: Setting the Anchor
  • Module 10: Swing
  • Module 11: Time to Relax
  • Module 12: Anchoring Etiquette

Grant Headifen, Educational Director of NauticEd, says that the Anchoring a Sailboat sailing course is a welcome addition to the 12 other sailing courses that NauticEd offers. NauticEd plans to make the Anchoring a Sailboat Course a prerequisite to gaining the NauticEd sailing certification rank of Bareboat Charter Master. “We’d received lots of requests for a comprehensive anchoring course from our students. Anchoring expertise is one of those really important sailing skills that is required and sort after. On a bareboat charter sailing vacation, for example, you spend more time at anchor than you do sailing. And anchoring is a bigger stress on the charterer than most other sailing activities. Charter companies don’t really realize that more people would charter if the stress was taken out of overnight anchoring” says Headifen”.

NauticEd believes that the Anchoring a Sailboat Course will be a big seller and will surpass their popular Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power sailing course.

To learn more about the coastal skipper sailing courses and NauticEd Sailing School, go to our website.