There are some boaters that choose not to carry an anchor and rode aboard their vessel. Usually, the reason is that they do not plan on stopping anywhere other than a dock or a spot where they can beach their boat. Are you one of these boaters? If so, you may want to rethink your strategy. In the event of a loss of power, anchoring could be the very thing that you need to do in order to prevent a disaster.

Of course, when we think about using an anchor, the plan is usually to go to a quiet cove somewhere to drop the hook and spend some time relaxing or swimming. However, having a proper anchor and rode aboard is actually a safety issue. Should your vessel become disabled or should you have an emergency where you cannot pilot your boat, being able to drop anchor is the best way to avoid getting you, your passengers and your vessel into danger. Without one, you are left to drift in whatever direction the wind and/or current takes you.

The first thing you need to know about anchoring is the type and size anchor you need for your boat. Clearly, larger boats need larger anchors but the anchor type can differ depending on the waters you are in. For example, fluke anchors work really well in mud and sand but a plow anchor would be better for areas with weeds and grass. Make sure you get an anchor rated for your boat’s size and the areas in which you are boating.

Just having an anchor aboard is not enough. It is also imperative that you know how to use it. This may seem a bit strange but many people believe that all you have to do is drop the anchor and it will magically hold the boat in place. This is not necessarily true. The holding power of an anchor has little to do with its weight and an anchor needs to do more than just sit on the bottom. In reality, the anchor is designed to dig into the bottom. There are several models available, but one thing they all have in common is that they are designed to either grab or sink into the bottom hence holding the boat in place.

The rode is also very important. You definitely need to have more rode than the depth of the water. This concept is referred to as scope. For example, if you are anchoring your boat on a windy day, it is recommended that you use a scope of 7 to 1. This means if the depth of the water is 15 feet, you need to have 105 feet (7×15) of rode extended to securely hold your vessel in place. The scope places the rode at an angle thus allowing the anchor to serve its purpose of digging into the bottom. Many boats either have an all-chain rode or 7 to 10 feet of chain between the anchor and the nylon rope. Using chain as part of the rode typically increases the anchor’s holding power because it helps keep the anchor at the proper angle to sink into the bottom.

When anchoring, it is good practice to “back it down.” Allow the anchor to get to the bottom with some slack and then reverse the boat until the anchor grabs. This process helps “set” the anchor to ensure it is holding. Once it is set, you can let out the remaining scope and you will be good to go. To pull your anchor back in, move the boat forward as you pull the rode in. Once you are directly above the anchor, you will be able to pull the rode straight up to release the anchor’s hold.

As they say, practice makes perfect. Don’t forget to get out there and work on your anchoring skills. Hopefully, you will never need it for an emergency, but if you do, you will be glad you have it.