How to anchor in a safe way.
Laying at anchor in a beautiful bay is fantastic. It is a very special experience being in the middle of the nature, almost disconnected from the civilization. You will not hear any urban noises like cars, masses of people talking and walking, loud music from bars or your neighbors in the port. Also in most bays it almost dark during the night, so you will see a gorgeous night sky with thousands of stars. Your senses will become so much more sensitive. During daytimes it is pure fun to swim in the sea, the water is much clearer, so snorkeling makes much more fun as close to the beach. You will see many fishes, rocks and reefs, you will enter a new world of silence and awesome colors.
Question: Your boat is fixed at the bottom of the sea by your anchor. Is that safe? It depends. There are a few very important things, that you have to take care of to make your stay at anchor enjoyable and safe!
1. Plan your stay at anchor first
Check all available weather forecasts. Too much wind and waves are not comfortable for your stay on the boat and can be very dangerous for your boat. If you want to stay overnight also see, how the weather will develop for the next day(s). Choose a bay that offers the best protection against waves, streams and wind. Especially waves can effect the function of your anchor. If possible choose and sandy sea ground. Anchors will hold quite good and for leaving later your anchor will come up easy. Do not drop your anchor, when the sea ground is full of rocks or other obstructions (for example wrecks, cables, …). Sea plants like Posedonia will reduce the power of your anchor a lot, and these plants are protected! You will find all required informations in your nautical charts and even better in coastal guide books. Also do not drop anchor where it is prohibited. This information you always find in your nautical charts.
2. Prepare and check your anchor equipment
Check your chain, it needs to be in proper condition. A little bit light rust is no problem, if the diameter of your chain in not effected by the rust. Check the connection between anchor and chain. Set length markers on your chain. This is very helpful and important to know always how much chain you have set. It is ok to mark your chain every 5 meters. TIP: For a few euros you can buy plastic clips in different colors, that you can stick into your chain. You need to measure the diameter of your chain to buy the right clips. These clips are super helpful. You also can paint you chain, but after a while the color will disappear. The first 10 meters of chain i use RED clips (5m=1clip, 10m=2clips). Setting chain less then 10 meters is mostly not sufficient, that´s why i choose the color RED (reminds me „NOT SAFE“). For 10 to 20m chain length i use YELLOW clips (reminds me „OK, BUT CHECK), 15m=1clip, 20m=2clips. Depending on the depth of water (let´s say 5 m) 15 to 20m chain is sufficient, if the weather is calm and you stay only during the daytime or in very calm nights. GREEN clips i use for 20 to 30 meters of chain length, 25m=1clip, 30m=2clips (reminds me „SAFE“). This is a very safe amount of chain by a water depth of 5 to 6 meters. BLUE clips i use in deeper waters or while anchoring overnight in stronger wind conditions (reminds me „SAFE BY STRONGER CONDITIONS“). In general: 1:4 (1m depth:4m chain) for good weather conditions and stay during the daytimes or calm nights. 1:5 in stronger wind conditions and overnight. 1:3 is okay if there is no wind and no waves, but better don´t leave your boat! Remember: Huge boats have more draught so they need to anchor in deeper waters and that´s why they need more chain.
3. Set anchor (the safe way)
Look for a safe bay with sandy ground. Remember that your boat will swing around the anchor if the wind or streams changes it´s direction. Stay clear from rocks and the shore in case of swinging. Also from other boats! Turn your boat into the wind let go chain 1:4 wait until the boat does not drift backwards anymore and use the engine in reverse (dead slow astern) and pull the anchor slowly into the ground until the boat stops Go 1/2 astern with your engine. If your anchor holds it will be nicely in the ground and you will sleep well If the anchor does not hold do the maneuver again Set up the day signal (and /or anchor light during the night) Set up the anchor alarm on your GPS and take some compass bearings to control your position from time to time. An anchor ball connected to your anchor is helpful for you and other boats to markt the positioned of your anchor.