Skysail Training



There are rapid developments in designs of anchor.  Modern 'roll bar' types like the Rocna and Bugel are reputed to be a significant improvement on the older designs

Types of Anchor

What to consider when preparing to anchor:

  1. Depth of water:  3 - 4 metres is a normal minimum except in a flat calm.  Also consider it you are over mud, sand or rock  Setting a few inches into mud is not a problem in calm conditions.
  2. State of the tide and future high and low water heights.
  3. Type of seabed:  mud and sand are good; avoid pebbles, rock, weed, foul ground, soft sand.  Clay is good holding but difficult to retrieve the anchor.
  4. Length of cable required:  4 times max depth for chain, 6 times max depth for warp.  Use nylon warp (plaited or twist) for its stretch properties.  In shallow water and high winds let out 10 times depth with chain and warp.  Although chain is excellent for its weight and catenary properties, it does not stretch and can snatch the boat and the anchor in waves.
  5. Shelter from wind and waves;  Weather forecast - future strength and direction;  Consider two anchors if necessary.
  6. Ease of escape if wind should shift.
  7. Other boats and their swinging circles; motor boats are more affected by wind, long keel boats by the tide or current.
  8. Use of an anchor buoy to ease retrieval.

Process (this can be done under sail or engine - if under sail push out the boom to reverse)

Set up a signal system between helm and crew to avoid unseemly shouting!

  1. Check the present and future depth in your selected position.
  2. Lay out required length of cable on deck and free the anchor to hang over the bow ready to drop.  Check the shackle is secured, preferably with seizing wire.
  3. Bring the boat to a stop into current and/or wind.  Other boats may indicate the correct direction, but motorboats may lie differently to sailing boats.
  4. Reverse gently while letting run the chain.  Avoid dropping all the chain in a pile on the sea bed.
  5. Check the anchor is biting:  the chain / warp will go tight.  Put on more power in reverse to check the anchor is bedded in.  Use a transit on a mark on your beam to ensure you have stopped. 
  6. Re check the transit or take a bearing on a convenient mark.  Check this at intervals to ensure you are not dragging.
  7. Set your anchor ball or turn on your anchor light.
  8. Check swinging circles of other boats from time to time.
  9. Set anchor alarm on the GPS (note sometimes these are very faint, they will not wake you up!)
  10. Check again if the wind gets up.
  11. Cautious skippers check again when the tide turns.


  1. Motor forward slowly while chain is recovered.  Indicate direction of anchor and required speed to helm from the bow.  Do not over run the anchor.
  2. Signal to helm when anchor is just below the surface of the water.
  3. If anchor is covered in mud or weed motor forward slowly to clean it. 
  4. Have a bucket of sea water available to wash off the chain and anchor.
  5. Chain may need feeding from below if it tends to stack up in the chain locker.
  6. Fasten the anchor securely in the well.

Updated 15th June 2011