Anchor nights are always among the highlights of a charter cruise as they provide unforgettable, very intense impressions. These include the direct experience of nature, the view into the starry sky, the nightly movements of the yacht and the new day dawning with an impressive sunrise over the horizon.
Always provided, of course, that the skipper has found a good, safe ancorage and the anchor holds safely even in shifting winds. The night on the "hook" needs practice, every anchor manoeuvre is different depending on the actual conditions. The only valid maxim is that every anchoring manoeuver should be done with the greatest care, taking into account as many variables as possible.
"Correct" anchoring begins with careful studying of the nautical chart. It shows the depth contour, gives information about the ground texture and - in combination with the prevailing weather - provides a first preliminary decision about the suitability of an anchorage. If you then approach the targeted anchorage, it is necessary to check the data collected from "paper". Is there enough space, is the ground sand, mud, scree or vegetation? What does my supposedly safe place look like when the wind tips over at night - like in the Mediterranean, where it often blows no longer onshore but perhaps with gusts of wind coming from the shore? Do I have enough room to swoon or should a land connection be established to stabilize the position?
Check the swinging berth
Check whether the entire swinging berth has enough depth. To do this, drive down the approximate arc with a look at the depth sounder. Once the skipper has staked out the "surroundings", the anchor man guides him to a spot that can be recognized as an extensive sandy bottom at best. The ship stops and only when the ship lost way comes the command "Drop anchor!". The anchor man should know the speed of his capstan, because it may take some time before the anchor has reached the bottom.
The start into the season has been difficult for marinas and charter companies at the Baltic Sea. In the meantime, operations have resumed. The weather is getting better and better – so business is picking up again.
Put the anchor down, followed by the chain... that's it!? Certainly not, at the bottom a pile of chain towers on the anchor, which has no ability to react to the ship's movement. Even for a quick "bathing stop" this manoeuvre is unsuitable, because the supposedly stationary yacht will drift with the lightest breeze, the chain pulls off the "pile" and only then does the anchor get the opportunity to dig itself in.
First retract, then veer more chain
Make it better! A crew member on the foreship at the winch, on large yachts - for better communication - a connecting position between them. On the command "Drop anchor!", the anchor is quickly lowered when the yacht is at a standstill, the approximate chain length to be used for this is known from the echo sounder. Slowly, the helmsman moves the boat backwards in the direction in which will come to be moored, the "anchor man" joins in - better even, the ship automatically pulls the required chain out of the box. After about 2 lengths of ship the chain is tightened to dig the anchor in. Apply power to the boat in reverse gear. Slowly at first, then with half the engine power for about 10 to 15 seconds. Check your position by means of a simple land bearing to verify that the anchor holds fast.
How much chain?
Then sufficient cable is let out. The still often taught rule of "triple water depth" is absurd. Modern lightweight anchors develop enormous holding forces - due to their construction and less because of their weight - but they require flat tension angles. This means five times the water depth when you use only chain! If this is not possible due to the circumstances, an additional anchor weight should be used to hold the chain at the bottom. Charter yachts are generally equipped with powerful, electrically driven anchor winches, but the power of these "helpers" is often overestimated.
Tripping the anchor
Hardly any winch reaches the maximum load specified by the manufacturer, so that the charter sailor is well advised to work with the capstan extremely gently. This means: If the tripping speed decreases significantly - stop to check the cause. If the wind pressure on the ship is too strong, the winch will not be able to pull anchor and ship - reduce the load by driving towards the anchor. If the anchor is caught on the ground, is under haws, nets or stones - do not try to break out with the winch. In the best case the fuse blows, but in the worst case the winch can tear out of its foundation.
Do not built towers of chain
Make sure that the chain falls neatly into the box and does not form "towers". If the chain gets blocked under the chain grab, nothing will work anymore! Find out about the location of the anchor winch fuse during handover. And one point goes without saying: No anchor manoeuvre without running engine! Standard winches draw between 130 and 180 amps! This means that the engine must "work" more than just in idle position (ask for the correct rpm during handover).
1. Use an anchor buoy when the anchorage is heavily frequented. Marking your own anchor can prevent inevitable "anchor rope tangles"
2. In foul anchorages - ropes, stones, old fishing nets, etc. - use a trip line.
3. To recover a fouled anchor will only work using a trip line. If the anchor cannot be tripped in a normal manoeuvre, you can shorten in the cable and "run over" the anchor slowly. By reversing the load, it usually breaks out easily. If the winch - and its mounting - is too weak for such a manoeuvre, it helps to bring the entire crew to the bow tip, to belay the chain. The counterweight of the crew in the aft then levers the anchor from the ground.
4. Two anchors prevent the annoying "drift", which allows the ship to "sail" port and starboard with up to two knots and take away the bathing ladder, which is already within reach, every time. The anchors should be positioned in a "V" which allows almost equal tension on both.