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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

by Jackie
May 2006

Most bareboats are equipped with a plow type anchor, which is a good choice for sandy bottom conditions. All the boats we have chartered have been equipped with chain. The rule of thumb is 5 feet of chain for each foot of water.  If you are in 25 feet of water you should plan on letting out 125 feet of chain.  Your 40 foot boat is actually going to need about 165+ feet of space. Therefore, if you have a boat to your stern, their anchor is probably set 100+ feet ahead of their bow so before picking your spot, you should take into consideration the amount of scope you have to let out. Also remember that the anchor will take at least a few feet to dig in and actually set.  Last month I saw a boat anchor too closely to another and their anchors and chains became fouled.  The solution took a good part of the day to correct. This is not how you want to spend your limited vacation time.

Once you have selected a clear spot, drop the anchor while moving very slowly backwards, downwind, so the chain does not land on the anchor and foul it. Continue moving the boat astern, putting the minimum strain on the anchor line - just enough to keep your bow pointing into the wind. If you can, let out more rode than you need, before cleating it off to set the anchor.

The first pull on the anchor should not be too strong or the anchor will not set but skip along the surface. Once the anchor line is cleated and under tension, a good trick is to pull the anchor line sideways slightly with one hand. As the line tightens, it should stretch evenly and exert a smooth pressure but if you feel the line pulsing, the anchor is dragging. Slow the boat to a minimum and you might find the anchor will catch, but if it doesn't or you have run out of room, pull it up and start again. Once you have a steady pull on the anchor line, increase your RPM to 2000, while watching the bottom or looking at landmarks ashore.  If you rev much higher you will probably lift the anchor out of a soft bottom. 

Once you are sure you have not moved and the anchor line is not pulsing, you can assume the anchor has dug in properly and adjust the rode to the correct length. Even so, it is a good idea to standby with your engine in neutral for several minutes, keeping an eye on your position.  I have watched the boat forward of us drop their anchor, shut down their engine and immediately go ashore. Moments later we were fending off their boat - it happens all the time!

It is also a good idea to dive on your anchor, particularly in The Caribbean as the water is so clear. I have found just putting on a snorkel and mask will allow you to see if you are secure.

In tight spaces, you can restrict swinging room by using two anchors, set at a 45 degree from the bow. Never use a bow and stern anchor in The Caribbean - the strong side winds will pull both anchors out if the wind direction changes. First drop your initial anchor and make sure it is fully dug in. If you have experience with this type of thing, you can motor slowly forward, taking in the slack and drop the second anchor, dropping back on both of them. The danger is of course that the first anchor line can get caught in the prop, so unless you are very confident, take the second anchor out in the dinghy.

In an effort to accommodate more boats and cause less damage to the coral, The Virgin Islands have now added so many moorings that anchoring is actually discouraged in many places.

All the popular B.V.I. anchorages have moorings available, with the exception of Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, home of the famous Foxy’s, and Little Harbor on Peter Island, both of which are good, comfortable overnight anchorages. You might however find yourself dropping the anchor for lunch, or for a snorkel in an out of the way spot outside The National Park mooring sites (where anchoring is not allowed).

The V.I. moorings often take up most of the prime area we used to anchor in, so if you arrive at an anchorage too late, you will find the areas you can safely anchor are some distance away and not always ideal.
There are more charter boats than moorings, so you should plan on being at your destination by 2 pm, to assure a mooring.

Do not try to anchor within the mooring field as there is not enough swinging room and you could catch your anchor on the heavy ground tackle.

When the wind picks up in the middle of the night (and it always seems to), you will sleep more comfortably knowing you have made sure you are secure, whether you picked up a mooring or used your anchoring skills.

A post note to my last article on picking up moorings.

I received several emails from people telling me of their experiences (thank you all). One in particular caught my attention because it detailed another possible problem.

He was in Virgin Gorda, picked up a mooring via looping a line, and did not notice the eye on the pendant was badly chafed.  He felt lucky that he and his family awoke when their boat landed on the soft beach and not on the reef during the night!!

The lesson is-always check the mooring lines for weak spots.

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  Ed Hamilton & Company
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