Complete guide to anchoring
Spending the night in the safety of a marina is not always possible. So, what do you need to know about anchoring safely so you and your crew can get a sound night’s sleep?
Each year countless new marinas, piers and buoy fields pop up across the Adriatic for sailors to spend the night at, which makes it perfect if you prefer not to anchor in the seabed. In Greece, however, you won’t have so much luck — there are fewer harbours and piers, and the most picturesque bays are designed purely for anchoring. So if you don’t want to miss out on the best spots, you’ll have no choice but to anchor. Therefore, we bring you our comprehensive guide to anchoring techniques, addressing the most frequently asked questions and problems faced.
Types of anchor
Charter boats usually have one main and one spare anchor. For recreational sailing boats, it is recommended that it carries at least two anchors. The larger main one is located on a mount at the bow and in 99 % of cases this is the anchor you will be using. Weighing around 10–30 kilograms, you’ll be able to lift it with your hands if necessary. The spare anchor is usually a smaller folding anchor that can be found in the cockpit locker. However, there are countless types of anchor out there and often multiple names for one type.
The best known anchors are:
- Fisherman or Admiralty anchor
- CQR or Plough anchor
The anchor is either attached to the end of a chain or rope (the rode). On most of our rental boats, the main anchor is on a chain.
How to choose an anchorage
Although every bay has its own beauty, not every bay is suitable for anchoring. So, what should you consider when choosing a bay to anchor overnight?
For the chain, it is recommended to cast a length 3–5 times the depth plus the bow height. As the chain length on charter boats is around 50–70 metres, it follows that you’d have no chance of a properly anchoring at a depth of 30 metres. Anchoring at a depth you are unable to dive to or where the visibility is poor is also not recommended. And there aren’t many who can dive 30 metres on a single breath. Therefore, this makes the ideal depth for anchoring around 3–10 metres.
Consider that a boat at anchor rotates around a certain point in a radius determined by the length of the chain. Therefore, the narrower the bay, the more likely you are to get dangerously close to the shore. Therefore choose bays that tend to be wider and where moving around will not put you at risk of colliding with the shore or running aground.
What type of seabed is best for anchoring? That’s the million-dollar question. It is largely agreed that an anchor holds best on a bed consisting of mud and clay, or clay and sand, the worst being rock or very soft mud. It is also an issue when dense seagrass or algae cover the bed, as the anchor can it pick up and not hold as it should.
Expected wind direction
Choosing a bay to anchor overnight should primarily be done with expected wind direction in mind. The bay should be as sheltered as possible. If conditions don’t allow this, the wind should at least be travelling out of the bay. A place where the wind blows towards the bay, i.e. driving the boat ashore, is a real hell for sailors. Avoid bays like this and don’t attempt to anchor there. If the wind were to pick up and with force, you could literally get trapped here, unable to anchor or fight your way out against the wind.
Number of boats
Sometimes we simply arrive late and the bay is already full. If this is the case, don’t squeeze in between other boats at all costs — you’ll be on edge all night as will the captains of the surrounding boats. Physical theory rightly states that all boats should be turning in the same direction at anchor, meaning a collision between boats at anchor shouldn’t occur. In practice, however, each boat has a different shaped hull, a different weight, and the anchor doesn’t always hold securely. A collision in a bay is not exactly the experience you want to take home from your holiday. So always keep a good distance from nearby boats when anchoring.
Have a plan B
After the tenth attempt, your anchor still might not be holding. The crew will be getting fed up, you’ll be tired and night will be closing in. So don’t underestimate preparation and always have a plan B in mind in case anchoring at your chosen spot doesn’t work out. That’s why we also recommend not anchoring just before sunset as you might end up hunting for a suitable spot in the dark.
Planning on sailing in Greece? Check out our article on how to moor stern-to. This method is frequently required at local town piers, but also comes in handy when away from civilization.
Where is anchoring forbidden?
Anchoring is prohibited wherever there is a no anchoring sign — a crossed-out anchor (the anchor can also be upside down). Commonly, these are places where the state wishes to protect the fauna or flora on the seabed, often national parks or other natural sites. And it is usually forbidden to anchor near a major underwater cable or other power lines. Information about where anchoring is prohibited can be found either directly on the shore where the sign is located, or in the pilot or charts for the area.