Getting your boat to stay right where you want it is both a science and an art. If you’re faced with some difficult decisions because you think your boat may not be quite in the right position, you may need to take some advanced strategies.
Using some sort of two anchoring system is probably more common than you think, and it is useful depending on what size of boat you are using. Today, we are taking a look at a lot of different situations when double anchoring your boat will be helpful and giving you the best tips, tricks, and information so that you can keep your boat exactly where you want it on the water.
5 Ways to Double Anchor a Boat
There are many situations where only one anchor simply won’t cut it. Many times, this will be due to a storm or some kind of strong wind when your boat needs a bit more to stay right where it is.
Regardless of what size boat you have, your primary anchor should be big enough so that you feel comfortable being held in most conditions. If you don’t think that it is big enough, you should put your energy there before trying to get a second anchor – either upgrade or switch out the old anchor.
But when the winds start blowing, you may simply just need a 2nd anchor. This will help you to feel more confident, although the best game plan is always to find safe harbor and not be out in the water during rough seas or strong winds of any kind.
There are other situations to double anchor a boat though. You may be in a tight spot or you may be on top of ground that has a very poor ability to hold your boat with a muddy bottom. You could also be in strong currents, some kind of swell, near the side of a channel, or you really want to be in an exact spot to go fishing.
You should be able to find the way to double anchor your boat that fits you.
This is probably the most common method when using two anchors is to place them in a “v” shape. Unfortunately, a lot of people come to this method first when they are in heavy winds because it is so commonly seen, however it is not really the most effective method in that kind of environment.
If the wind shifts too strongly to one side, your boat will be hanging on only one of the anchors, which kind of defeats the purpose of what you are trying to do. You could also be taking a risk that your rodes become twisted which will be quite a mess once the wind does die down.
To set up your anchors in the V Configuration; you should simply motor as you normally would to windward, drop and set an anchor, and motor across to one side then upwind and take care of the second anchor the same way.
After that, you would be able to head back and balance the load of the two anchors. Obviously, you would want your anchors to be in that “V” formation, so that would mean an angle of approximately 45 degrees although it is also successful at “higher” angles, up to 90 degrees.
Unlike the “V” Configuration, tandem anchoring means that you would set two anchors in a series – one behind the other. The Navy has even done testing with this method and has shown that you can increase your holding power by as much as one third if you do this correctly.
If you wish to utilize tandem anchoring, the primary anchor needs to have some kind of hole at the crown so you can connect the secondary anchor. There are many that have these attachment points. Be careful not to use the hole for the trip line, because that can definitely cause you problems in the wind.
You should attach a length of chain rode to the anchor connection point, and to make getting your anchors easier later, you should also attach one side of a floating rope that will help you retrieve the anchors. Tandem anchors are quite interesting due to their unique design and their potential of added ability.
You should absolutely not deploy two anchors on two rodes in a series with a second anchor upwind in case the first one drags. If the primary anchor drags, the second one will be lined up with the ground that the first anchor disturbed.
If your main reason for setting up a double anchor system is that your anchor may drag, you need to simply replace the primary anchor – not try to improve on your systems.
Setting Opposing Anchors
If you are trying to keep your boat steady in one exact area, even with changing wind conditions, then you may want to set up opposing anchors.
This system is basically “two anchors from the bow”. It could be thought of as a variety of the V configuration; however with Bahamian mooring you set your two anchors at 180 degrees apart.
This is a method that will let your boat swing according to the changing winds, and can be extremely useful if you have a lot of tidal currents happening.
Although the boat may swing, it will have a tight swing radius and it is a great configuration if you have a tight anchorage. It’s also useful when you are close to boats on moorings, as long as their swing radius is also small.
Bow and stern configuration
This is one of the best double anchoring methods for maintaining the exact position of your boat. This method should minimize any kind of swing into the wind or changing currents, but it should also only be used when you really need to use it.
If you are at the edge of a small channel, or anchoring in waves at the edge of an ocean. It could even be used if you are worried about being near steep cliffs.
In some locations in Europe and occasional other marinas, you will see docking that involves anchoring. These locations will require stern or bow tie-ups and this is essentially a play on the bow and stern configuration method. Med mooring uses an anchor on one side of the boat and then ties the other side to something on the shore.
You’ll need to be able to find the slot that you are supposed to be mooring at and allow for variations of the wind. Then you would need to deploy your anchor and back into the slot while letting the rode out.
As you come in to the dock, you may have neighbors help bringing you ashore, but once the anchor is deployed be sure to be firm on the rode and use spring lines to keep the boat aligned properly.
What To Know When Anchoring With Precision
If you are trying to keep your boat in one precise spot, you need to display a lot of skill and having the right experience helps as well.
However, it can be awesome for fisherman or explorers who need to be just a few feet away from a wreck, a reef, or some other kind of “structure” like a rock pile where all of the fish love to live.
This can usually be the difference between having a lot to eat or simply coming home with nothing at all. Some of the best fishermen out there will also set and reset themselves many times until they are exactly where they want to be for fishing.
This isn’t horseshoes – there is no “close enough”. Today we’re going to be going over a lot of easy tricks to use so that you can get into the perfect position with your boat anchored exactly where you want it.
Using The Right Anchor
There are a lot of fishermen out there, especially those that have smaller boats who like to use a grappling anchor. This is an anchor that has multiples tines that make it strong enough to hold the boat in place, but can still be moved around by the boat’s level of power if something gets stuck. It’s a nice match between the level of power that is needed as well as the functionality that they get.
The most popular kind of these anchors are aluminum ones because they don’t rust and they don’t do any kind of damage to your deck. They’re more expensive than some homemade models, but many fishermen find them to be well worth the money.
Having the proper equipment as far as your chain, shackles, and line will make using your anchor easy. Remember, these need to be adjusted for how big your boat is.
A lot of fishermen tend to think that any line will work anytime and it can get them into trouble – usually with the end outcome being a lost anchor, which isn’t great for many reasons. The chain is important to set the anchor in tough conditions.
Breakaway System For Your Anchor
Most commercial anchors have an eye on the crown so that you can attach the shackle and chain to it, that’s no surprise. The chain should then be secured to the shaft with wire or tie-ups.
That helps your anchor be used normally, just as any boat would, by pulling on the shaft. When the anchor gets stuck though, the wire is going to break and the anchor can be pulled out by its crown.
You should also think about getting a buoy or a marker to the end of your line in case you need to leave in an emergency so that you can retrieve it if necessary.
Many fishermen who anchor in deep water where the currents are fairly strong want to use a strong plow anchor.
These are fairly large and heavy. While it holds the boats quite well, it needs to be set up with a breakaway system that allows it to do its job correctly. For this, you’ll need a sort of metal hose clamp.
Find Your Location
Usually, it won’t take too long to look to the bottom to find where you’re looking to anchor. This could be a rock pile, a wreck, or a simple geographical area that has a lot of fish nearby.
Again, you can use a buoy to mark exactly where you want to be and how you want the boat positioned. At this point, you’re going to have to think about the wind and the currents to make sure that you are going to be positioned effectively with what you have seen so far.
While some people think this will be fairly easy, it is much more difficult in practice, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience anchoring up this way.
A lot of people will mess this up because the wind and current are not necessarily moving the same direction or the same speed. If you want to make this easier on yourself, you should be trying to do this when the conditions are relatively calm and you can estimate things a bit easier.
After all of this hard work, you want to drop the anchor upwind (and/or upcurrent) of your target so that you can drift back towards where you want to be and your anchor catches a hold of something on the bottom. You’ll continue to let out more line as you glide back towards your buoy from earlier.
You can use a double anchor system to make this happen as well. Using the methods above, you can figure out which one would be most appropriate for your boat and use these to add a little bit of reliability into the system so that you can take one line in, or maybe the other line in, and your boat should not swing as much as before depending on the system that you use.
The Drifting Method
If you are in an area where there is a soft bottom and the wind is low, you’ll be able to drop anchor upwind and slowly drift until your anchor catches in the rock. That’s a great way to target yourself especially for beginners who may need a bit more help with these methods.
If you are interested in the fishing method aspect of all of this, feel free to try to “drift” around and float in 3 or 4 foot increments so that you can find the best part of the structure where fish might be biting. Essentially, don’t be afraid to experiment just because you got your boat in one spot to start with.
Now, if the wind is blowing heavily and the boat is having problems staying in one place, you may want to try to use a second anchor method (or something rigged up like a cinder block).
This is very important especially if you have found a spot where fish are biting, but now your boat is starting to float all around and you feel like you are losing some control. Obviously, the drifting method works best in areas of water that are more shallow than super deep ones.
If the water is quite deep, it’s going to be harder to control your exact movements and pinpoint where you want to be due to the variable nature of the conditions and the length of the distance to where your anchor is.
Moving Side to Side
If you are trying to move sideways across the structure, you should use a grappling anchor that is deployed to the side of your boat. Once the anchor is at the bottom of the water, you should be able to pull yourself to a new section of the area without having to reset your whole system.
This is another type of anchor and movement set that works best in water that is at least somewhat shallow.
You can also mess around with your anchor line a bit with a cleat so that you move to one side and would allow you to access a different area of the structure. This can work in water of almost any depth.
Although it may seem painful, it is important to be able to move your boat in slight increments and the anchor process isn’t a lot of fun, but it can lead to a lot of success. Some boat owners are scared of using their anchor system because they don’t have much experience with it, and this is something that wi
ll help make you a more capable boat owner overall if you get handy with maneuvering with only your anchor as control.
If you’re in a fairly small boat, you can find yourself in a dangerous situation if the wind kicks up. At times, it may be dangerous to move forward to haul the anchor if the conditions get too poor.
If that happens, you may be best off to simply cut the anchor line. Make sure that you have a buoy with you so that you can keep the line marked in order to return.
You can also use things like GPS tools so that you know where you would need to go. Once things calm down, you would be able to return and get your gear back. You also want to have a knife available that will cut the line – this is a huge safety concern if you don’t have it onboard.
General Anchor Tips
While using a double anchor system can be quite complicated, we have found that sometimes boat owners also struggle with some of the basics when performing anchoring of any kind.
It’s okay to learn because not everyone has tons of real-world experience to lean back on. These are some of the best tips that can help you learn how to anchor your boat safely no matter what kind of conditions you find yourself in.
- Use Your Engine To Help You
Some people think that anchoring their boat is when everything has to stop and the anchor takes pure precedence over everything else.
Actually, you want to ease the throttle so that the boat is basically at a standstill when you are at the point you want your anchor to hit the bottom. Once you let the anchor drop, slowly let the line extend so that you have smooth sailing at all times.
- Scope Out
When anchoring, you need to know how much scope to use. This helps you figure out where your boat is actually going to be when the hook is stuck. This can take some practice, the best navigators know simply from experience and knowing the area they are in quite well.
However, you can use a 1/8 ratio to measure water depth to how much scope you need. This isn’t always the requirement because you may only need a 4-1 ratio where as more extreme situations could require 12-1. There are also some gadgets that can help you figure out all of these ratios that you need the right way.
- Go Against the Current
If you are moving slow, you should head the boat towards the wind or the current past the spot where you actually want to end up, about as far as your estimated scope will be.
This is where you want to stop. If things are somewhat rough, you may want to do a test run first to see where you’ll actually go before you drop the anchor. That kind of troubleshooting that happens before things get anchored can be quite helpful in heavy conditions.
- Use Enough Rode
You don’t want to simply rely on reverse gear to try to set the anchor hook because you may end up simply having it skate across the bottom of the sea.
- Make Sure Your Anchor Holds
Once your hook it set, you should cleat if off and run the rode so that nothing is going to be affected as the boat swings.
You should figure out where you are and use either landmarks or GPS to make sure that your position is actually secure and you don’t just have a false sense of security. If you’re dragging your anchor without knowing it, that can put you in a bad position quite fast.
- – Anticipate the Bottom
While you should know what to expect, unexpected occurrences do happen when you are on a boat. Usually, you’re going to find sand, mud, or some sort of grass on the bottom.
Most anchors don’t have too much of a problems with these, but if there’s an issue with the consistency of the bottom or you have a rocky area, you should try to anticipate what will give you and your boat trouble.
- Have the Proper Size Anchor
Your boat anchor definitely needs to be fitted correctly for your boat. Some people unfortunately do not think this far ahead.
If you can go slightly larger as opposed to slightly smaller, that is usually a good idea to help keep your boat from moving when you come across conditions that are not ideal.
- Using Rope or Chain
You can use a nylon rode if you have a light anchor, but chains are also popular to use as well.
The chain will help you when you are trying to set the anchor and keep it set in any kind of conditions. This also helps keep your whole system more stable in the case of having a rocky bottom.
- Respect Other Boaters
Okay, so this is the Golden Rule and it really shouldn’t need to be said. If you are the first boat in an anchorage, you have the first dibs.
However, if you aren’t – you need to choose how you navigate and where you go carefully so that you have enough swinging room to stay clear of others.
Anchoring etiquette is a big deal. Keep in mind the size of your boat as well as what kind of potential arc your boat has. If you have a large cabin or you are in a sailboat, keep in mind how fast your boat can swing as well. Basically, don’t be rude – be thoughtful.
- – Check and Re-Check
Make sure that you are always checking your reference points so that you aren’t moving unexpectedly.
If you have the ability to set an alert for your boat’s behavior, definitely take the opportunity to do so. Some of the worst mistakes can happen when you think that everything is already taken care of.
We hope that you learned a lot about double anchoring your boat and keeping things exactly the way you want them.
Whether you are out for fun or you are out to do some major fishing, anchoring your boat is an important responsibility and will help keep you right where you want to be!