Anchoring a boat, whether for a few hours or overnight*, is as much art as science. There’s a knack to doing it right, and every captain has to try it a few times, in differing conditions, to learn how to do it correctly.
Here’s a primer on anchoring.
Know the depth.
This is probably the most important fact to determine before anchoring. Consult the chart, use the fish finder … whatever it takes, you need an accurate assessment of how much water is below your boat.
Know the bottom conditions.
Is the bottom sandy? Rocky? Covered in fallen limbs? Covered in weeds or other plant material? You need to know these things to know how well your anchor will set and hold.
When you drop the hook, you begin playing out the anchor rope as the boat backs down. The recommended scope, or length of anchor rope, is 7:1. That is, you should use seven feet of rope to every one foot of water depth. Once you’ve let out that amount of scope, tie off the rope to a bow cleat. Never use a stern cleat to anchor.
You can then apply a bit of reverse power to set the anchor in the bottom strata.
Check for drag.
Always take a few minutes after setting the anchor to make sure the boat is not dragging the anchor along the bottom. Use onshore landmarks or your GPS, a chart plotter or a fish finder to check the position of the boat. If necessary, retrieve the scope and try again. Keep an eye on the boat position from time to time: if the wind comes up or tides and waves get heavier, the boat can sometimes pull loose and drag the anchor.
When it’s time to leave, motor slowly towards the drop point while reeling in the scope line. When directly over the anchor it should pull free. If it doesn’t, try cleating off the line and letting the up-and-down wave action of the bow help pull the anchor loose from the bottom.
Always rinse the anchor of all mud and weeds before stowing away in the anchor locker. You’ll want a nice clean anchor ready to go the next time you need it!
*Please note: it is illegal to anchor and sleep overnight on Lake Winnipesaukee unless you are tethered to land.