How to Anchor a Boat | Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

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How to anchor a boat

In preparation for your bareboat adventure, we've provided a step by step guide on how to anchor a boat while chartering the Whitsundays

Many people who charter with us ask if they need to know how to anchor a boat.

Before you take out your rented yacht, you are given a briefing and training session. You will be inducted into operating your vessel and one of our trainers will take you out on to the water for a test run. This will be your chance to check your anchoring knowledge, while the trainer is standing by to give you any tips.

We suggest it helps to have at least one person on your bareboat charter who has some basic boating experience.  However, they don’t need to be an expert or to have been on the water recently.

Anchoring a boat is a skill that can be learned or brushed up on before you take out your first charter.

There is a routine to the procedure if you follow these simple steps you will be confidently anchoring overnight in no time.

how to anchor boat Whitsundays

Simple steps for anchoring a boat

Find where to anchor your boat

The first step is to ensure you are anchoring in an appropriate spot. It always pays to do a bit of planning. Use the copy of 100 Magic Miles found on your vessel to help determine a safe anchorage area taking into account the weather, tides and winds.

When you choose a location to anchor for the night, you will want to face the direction of the wind and be within the lee of the land.

You’ll need to know the tidal variation between low and high tide to be certain that the anchorage has enough depth to accommodate the depth of your keel (boat bottom) at low tide and that you have enough scope (see below) out when the tide is highest.

When you’re chartering in the Whitsundays, there are some locations which restrict anchoring to protect the coral. These “anchorages” provide public moorings which bareboat charters are welcome to pick up. If the moorings are in use, it means you will need to find an alternative spot to anchor.

All of the recommended anchorages in the Whitsundays have appropriate bottoms for the anchor which comes with your yacht.

Prepare the boat to anchor

Drop the sails and ensure that your dinghy is either in its davits or tied off short alongside your vessel to avoid a prop-wrap. Motor at idle into the wind and approach your selected anchoring site.

Remember that your boat will not stay at the exact anchoring site, it will sit some distance downwind or down current from the anchor point.  Always ensure that you are not too close to reefs which might become an obstacle at low tide.

Once you have examined and confirmed your chosen anchoring site. Have one person steering the boat and one person up near the anchor.

Reverse your boat before you drop the anchor

Before calling for your anchor to be dropped, put your boat into reverse and commence idle astern (staying still and preparing to reverse).

Set the anchor

As soon as you start moving astern (reversing), call for the anchor to be dropped. Since you are already moving astern before you drop your anchor, it will lower to the seafloor. 

Set and immediately lay out the anchor chain nice and neatly across the seafloor without fouling the anchor itself (getting the anchor tangled)

Let out the chain with enough scope

Remain in reverse while continuing to let out sufficient chain for the depth of water you will be in.

You need to let your anchor out to a pre-determined length. Remember the two golden rules:
* Let out between four to five times as much chain as the water is deep. This is known as your scope. If you are in a tight spot you might not be able to let out this much scope, but the closer you can get to this ratio the better.
* If in doubt, let more out. Always allow extra chain in the event of high winds.

Lock-off the anchor

When the anchoring crew have observed the pre-determined length of the chain over the bow roller, (your anchor chain is marked off with cable ties every 10 metres), lock off your anchor winch or release the "down" button on the anchor winch deck switch or handset on your yacht.

Test you are safely anchored

Leave your engine/s in reverse until you feel the chain take up and you can confirm that even with your engines in reverse you are actually “holding station” ie. your anchor is set and holding your boat even though the engine is trying to pull you astern.

When you turn the engine off, take note to see if your boat surges forward. This indicates that the anchor is set.

Clip or shackle on your snubber or bridle, let the chain out again until the bridle or snubber takes all of the weight and the chain is loose to the anchor winch, give your engine a few more revs in reverse, just to “test and set” your anchor.

Take your bearings from prominent landmarks when you anchor so you can determine any changes in position.

Finally, shut your engines down and crack open your well-earned "sundowner"!

Resetting the anchor

Setting an anchor is simple when you know that the winds and currents are going to be coming from one direction. However, sometimes the conditions change, your boat will swing and there is a small risk that the anchor could become dislodged.

Set your anchor alarm so you will be alerted if your boat swings too far in the wrong direction and risks dislodging the anchor

Set the alarms on your depth sounder to go off with a minimum and maximum, alert to inform you if the water depth changes significantly, indicating that you are drifting either away from or towards the shore.

Moving off the anchor

When you're ready to move from your position, all you need to do is drive up to the anchor and pull it upwards. Because the anchor is designed to dig in with horizontal force, the fact you're above it should allow you to release it easily.

As with anything, it can be difficult to grasp until you have practised a few times. We will make sure one of your crew members is comfortable with how to anchor a boat before you set sail on your charter. Once you've done it, you'll realise how easy anchoring is.





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A sailor holds the winch controller handset and indicates length markers on the anchor chain of a yacht

Follow a few simple rules to anchor your charter vessel safely every time.