There’s a big difference between tossing a “lunch hook” over the side for a quick dip and securely anchoring for an overnight stay. Whole books have been written on the subject, and it gets a complete chapter in Chapman Piloting & Seamanship, the venerable guide to small-boat handling. Here’s a quick rundown on some solid, basic anchoring ideas and tips.
1. Ease Up, Sneak Back
The proper technique for anchoring starts with easing the throttle so that the boat is basically standing still at the point where you want the anchor to drop. Let it go, sneak back under power, and slowly pay out the line.
2. Scope It Out
You’ll need to know about how much scope to use, since this will affect where the boat will lie once the hook is stuck. Experience and local knowledge of the bottom are the best teachers, but plan on about an 8-to-1 ratio of scope to water depth.
3. Head Up
At dead-slow speed, head the boat up into the wind or current, beyond the spot where you want the boat to lie, at a distance equal to your estimated scope. Come to a stop. In rough conditions, it can pay to drift back without dropping anchor first, so that you can see where the boat will end up when you do deploy the hook.
4. Set It
When enough rode is out to equal the desired scope, snub up on the cleat. Allow the stretch to come out of the line and see if you are holding. A shot of reverse gear can often help set the hook but, if done prematurely, can cause the anchor to skate across the bottom without catching.
5. On Watch
With the hook set, cleat it off securely and run the rode through chocks to ensure that navigation lights and other deck equipment don’t get “swept” by the rode as the boat swings on the line. Line up with two landmarks, or use your radar, GPS or depth sounder to monitor your position and ensure that you are not dragging the anchor.