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Anchor Setting

Setting your anchor in close quarters can be tough. Use this simple maneuver to be sure your anchor and your boat end up where you want them.

During a cruise in Tortola, we tried to anchor in a harbor on Jost Van Dyke. It was late in the afternoon and the anchorage was crowded. The wind was blowing on shore, so we rounded the sterns of the anchored boats and headed out between them to drop our hook. It was clear that we would be unable to drop the anchor and drift backwards without fouling one of the boats on either side, because we couldn't track in a straight line until there was enough scope out to take a bite with the anchor without dragging. So we chose to go upwind of the fleet, power straight downwind through the fleet and drop the anchor over our bow between two of the anchored boats. When there was enough scope out so that we were behind the other anchored boats (but not too close to shore), we snubbed the anchor line. The anchor grabbed and spun us around 180 degrees, right in the spot we wanted to be for the night.

The crucial part of this maneuver is to put the engine in neutral as you drop the anchor and pay out the line lest it get caught around the prop. Also, the anchor line should be flaked on deck so it can pay out quickly without snagging, and the bitter end must be cleated. You must be powering at a good clip when you drop the anchor, so you'll continue in a straight line. It's a system that's rarely called for, but under special circumstances, it's one that really works.

Happy Sailing from Steve Colgate, founder of Offshore Sailing School!