Anchoring Styles & Mooring


Boats at anchor have a natural tendency to swing or move from side to side. Also, the wind may change or even reverse direction altogether producing a large diameter circle in which the boat moves. Whether you use one anchor off the bow, two anchors off the bow, or a bow and stern anchor some amount of swing will inevitably take place. However, between these different anchoring styles there will be large differences in the amount of swing produced. Let's take a look at some scenarios:


Boat swinging at anchor.

The greatest amount of swing is produced when we use just a single anchor. This may be a disadvantage of this style of anchoring but it does have its advantages. It's easy to do, there's little chance of wrapping the rode around the propeller shaft, and it's easy to undo. If a situation comes up, especially at night in foul conditions, there is a minimum of work and thought that goes into picking up the anchor and leaving.




Boat with two anchors off bow.


Here we have two anchors off the bow. Swing room is less than with a single anchor and holding power is increased. First deploy and set one anchor then, keeping that rode out of the way, motor over to the second spot, drop and set the second. The disadvantage? Often, the rodes will become entangled during the night as the boat swings around.




Boat showing a Bahamian moor.


This is a Bahamian moor; one anchor off the bow and one off the stern or both anchors can be off the bow. The boat stays in one spot with virtually no swing experienced. The advantage is in areas of strong, reversing tidal flows. The boat remains almost exactly in the same place no matter which way the tide is flowing. Always align the boat with the tide not across the tidal flow.

To set a Bahamian moor motor up current, drop anchor, allow current to bring you back and set the anchor on short scope; 4 or 5 to 1. Then play out more rode until you are twice as far back. Drop the second anchor off the stern and carefully power forward and set it, ending up in the middle.

The disadvantage in this system is the greater likelihood of wrapping the rode around the propeller when you are using line as part of the anchor rode.




Boat showing how to Med moor.

In the Med moor at left the boat drops anchor then backs up to the dock to tie off. This is convenient for boarding at the stern. The boat in the drawing backs to port because of prop walk. Almost all single engine boats have a natural tendency to back to port when the engine is in reverse. If you have trouble backing up to the dock you can take a stern line ashore with your dinghy, push the boat with the dinghy, or first drop someone off at the dock.


Boats rafting at anchor.


For a get-together on the water rafting at anchor is a possibility, just make sure to take precautions. The water must be almost flat with little possibility of waves. Damage to boats can easily occur if one boat's side moves up while the one next door moves down. Largest boat goes in the middle and sets a large anchor on increased scope. Use plenty of fenders between boats and full sets of dock lines. The masts must be staggered so they won't entangle each other if the boats start to roll.




Boat using kedge anchor to pull itself into deeper water.

Kedging off. Oops! We just ran hard aground. Not to worry, there are many alternatives depending on the circumstances. Here, we use our anchor to pull ourselves back into deeper water. This technique works quite well. First, try pulling the boat back the way she came in. After all, you have dug a trench in that direction so it should be easier. Alternatively, you can try to spin her around by using an anchor off the bow. You may think this is easier because you can use your electric windlass, right? Probably not because of the poor angle of pull.


One of the things that doesn't seem to work in the above situation is setting the kedge anchor and attaching it to the main halyard in hopes of pulling the boat over thus raising the keel. it doesn't work well because of the very short scope. With a 50' tall mast and 10' of water depth to get even a 5 to one scope you'd need 300' of rode out. If you have it go for it. You can easily pull the boat over thus decreasing its draft (depth of the keel below the waterline) by passing a line to another boat attached to your main halyard.


Picking up a mooring. There will be times when you want to moor instead of anchor. Moorings are common in many areas including the Caribbean. Moorings are convenient and quick compared to anchoring. Because they are much more secure than an anchor much shorter scope is used with them. Another advantage of the mooring is no damage will be done to any coral or wrecks by your anchor.

Boat picking up a mooring.

Picking up the mooring is a simple matter of slowly approaching it under power and stopping just in front of it. As with anchoring, approach from downwind. Don't worry if you miss it on your first or second try. Just go around and start again.




Close up of a typical mooring buoy.

At the mooring pick up the eye in the end of the pendant. With a mooring line already attached to one bow cleat, thread it through the eye and back to the other bow cleat. Or, use two mooring lines; each one goes from a bow cleat, through the eye of the pendant, and returns to be cleated to its original bow cleat. The advantage of doing it this way is two-fold; because the eye on the pendant will no longer be slipping along a single mooring line chafe will be negligible and no noise will be created for those sleeping in the forward cabin.

Leaving the mooring buoy is an easy matter of releasing the mooring line(s) at one end then pull them onto the boat and you're free to go! We usually sail off our mooring as it builds skill. You can do this by first raising your mainsail, cast off the mooring and, once underway, take out the headsail.

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