Best Practice when anchoring sailing vessels

Traditional nautical practice for large commercial vessels at anchor is to mount an anchor watch.  However, mounting an overnight anchor watch represents quite a significant imposition for the cruising couple or a family on holiday enjoying a bareboat charter.  In good weather it has become common practice for yachties to get a good night’s rest by relying on best practice anchoring techniques and anchor alarms.  That is addressed in the SA Sailing Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper course manuals.  Some of the more important issues are:


  • New generation anchors

    Multiple anchor tests in yachting magazines have demonstrated that new generation anchors such as the Rochna and the Spade perform very much better than traditional anchors such as the CQR or the Bruce.

  • Setting the anchor

    Setting the anchor by motoring astern gently at first and gradually increasing the revs will set the anchor by digging it in. When diving on a well-set anchor, it is common to see most of the anchor buried with only the shank sticking out. If your anchor holds when motoring hard astern it is unlikely to drag in light winds. Yachts with well set new generation anchors have survived hurricane force winds at anchor.

  • Weather forecasts

    Weather forecasts should be consulted when anchoring, but must be used with caution. Weather forecasting is not an exact science. Cold fronts may come through earlier or later than predicted. Even when online forecasts for synoptic winds in web sites like Wind-finder and Wind-guru are light, it is quite common is some areas such as parts of the Mediterranean for thunderstorms to develop at night bringing extreme local winds which put anchored yachts at risk. Fortunately, many on-line weather forecasts now include indicators such as CAPE which indicate the probability and severity of thunderstorms.

  • Fog

    Many of the wind forecast web sites such as Wind-guru which are commonly used by yachties do not forecast fog. In this case, the formal shipping forecast did forecast west coast fog.

  • Alarms

    Anchor alarms provide a further level of reassurance. GPS alarms may be adequate if the yacht is not in close proximity to rocks or kelp or other vessels. A wind speed alarm is particularly reassuring. If your anchor is well set, you are unlikely to drag anchor in light winds. It is reassuring to know that if, notwithstanding the forecast, the wind picks up, you will be woken in time to reassess the situation.

SA Sailing Inland and Offshore Committee