“Yikes!! That’s not how that’s supposed to work!” All we could do is watch helplessly from our cockpit as a big catamaran was aimlessly floating sideways towards a trawler anchored behind it. The wind had shifted 180 degrees, blown up to 25 kts. and the rain was coming down in buckets. The trawler’s crew was frantically trying to get up their anchor and move before being hit, but the cat’s crew was a bit slower to action. Finally, someone appeared at the cat’s helm, and powered forward minutes before a collision.
Before we dropped our hook here at Manjack Cay we’d checked the weather and assessed the anchorage to ensure that we’d be protected from the predicted wind and wave directions. We selected a location that maximized that protection recognizing the predicted wind shift. We’d also read the reviews of other cruisers on “Active Captain” which noted that “holding can be patchy in places and several boats report dragging”.
Anchoring a boat is not simply “dropping the hook”, as we casually refer to it. Rather, it takes a fair amount of planning, careful observation and total teamwork in the process. First, the technical details. We equipped Snowcat with a stout Rocna 33 (73lbs) anchor which basically looks like a plow with a roll bar on top attached to 100 ft of ⅜-inch chain and 75 ft of rope. The anchor is raised and lowered via an electric windlass equipped with a remote control operated by Karen on the bow.
I’m at the helm as we enter the anchorage from a downwind angle, talking through our wireless headsets to Karen on the bow. Her job is to read the water, assess the bottom conditions and give instructions on where to go (literally and figuratively sometimes!) and when to stop at that “perfect spot”. Once we’ve stopped she’ll begin lowering the anchor and we let the boat slowly drift backwards. She can keep track of how much chain she’s put out by counting the red paint marks (at 10 ft intervals). Our rule of thumb is that we’ll put out a minimum of 5 -7 times the depth of the water (more if challenging weather conditions are predicted).
Once the proper amount of chain is out, Karen will tell me to reverse thrust mildly to make sure the anchor has settled into the bottom. If the boat straightens out and the chain remains tight then anchor has set, and she’ll attach the bridle, a Y shaped rope device attached to both hulls to equalize the stress and take the pressure off the windlass, and then let out about 20 more feet of chain to transfer the load to the bridle. Once that’s completed we’ll again reverse thrust on both engines to almost 1500 rpm to make darn sure the anchor is set and will hold in high winds. If Snowcat doesn’t move, and we both agree, then we’re set, engines off and a cold beer or wine is in order right away!4
we just returned from the BVI's and 11 days on a 44 ft cat. Before then I wouldn't of had a clue of what you were talking about but now I know this as we had to anchor a few times. My cousin, the captain, went down on scuba to be sure all was secure. We had to do a secondary anchor 2 of the 3 times due to conditions. Great explanation.
Good sailing to you, Donna
You're a lucky woman Donna...the BVIs are a great place to sail! It's good that your captain took anchoring seriously. It can really ruin your trip if you run aground or hit another boat. If you ever charter a boat again I highly recommend the Abacos in the Bahamas. Check it out!
Great explanation on how you guys set the anchor. I appreciate the video. Puts it all into perspective.
Thanks Jim -the videos add a lot of time to a blog post, but it certainly gives you a glimpse into our world. Thanks for leaving a comment!
Love your explanation and demonstration guys! Also loving all your updates and pictures. Wishing you continued wonderful adventures and safe travels. J& C
Great hearing from you Jamey! We're having a great time, but also looking forward to getting back to Colorado at the end of May. See you soon!
Wow! That was a wonderful explanation of “dragging anchor”! Big time scary. I still follow you both faithfully. Please continue to be safe. And smart -
Which you obviously both are. Hugs - Mary
So good to hear from you Mary! I look forward to hearing about your next adventure. It was about one year ago that you and I sat next to each other on a plane and talked nonstop. My how times fly!