February 22, 2015

Take time to soak the anchor

HAVE YOU LET your anchor “soak” lately? I ask because it’s a very frustrating experience when you drop anchor in a spot that the chart shows to be good holding ground, and then, when you apply astern power from the engine, the anchor simply drags and skips over the surface and you have to start all over again.

It took me a while to learn that too much astern power, applied  too soon, is the problem. It’s a mistake to try to dig the anchor in immediately by pulling hell-for-leather in reverse. The anchor needs to “soak.” It’s not a word you hear mentioned a lot, but once you know it and use it, soaking will improve your anchoring success.

It works this way:  Take all way off your boat and lower the anchor overboard as she begins to gather sternway slowly. Pay out the rode and let the boat take up the slack.  When her head comes around to point into the wind, put the engine into astern gear and give her a quarter throttle, no more, for 10 or 15 seconds.

Do not give her an extended full-throttle blast of reverse immediately.  You must let the anchor soak first, that is,  let it nudge and wiggle and ease its way slowly into the bottom mud or sand with the aid of little jerks from the boat as she tugs at the rode.

After half an hour or so you can give her full throttle in reverse and really dig the anchor in if the wind hasn’t done so for you already.  The heavier the anchor, the quicker it soaks. There’s nothing like sheer weight to help it settle into the bottom and get down to where the resistance is greater. In fact, I can’t see how some of the lightweight anchors on the market manage to dig in at all. Once their flukes have penetrated the surface they’re fine, of course, but getting to that stage is a very iffy business.

Weight also helps when an anchor has to reset and soak itself in the middle of the night after the wind direction has changed 180 degrees.  Some anchors are better than others at this, of course, but if you want to sleep peacefully you’ll set out two anchors, so that neither will be dug out of the ground by a change of wind direction.

Today’s Thought
Have more strings to thy bow than one; it is safe riding at two anchors.
— John Lyly, Euphues

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