Spending the night at anchor is a great way to get away from the crowds and enjoy the solitude and self-sufficiency that anchoring can bring. It is important to choose the right anchorage, however – pick the wrong one and at best you’ll spend all night rolling your masts out, hardly a relaxing escape!
Check the forecast
Firstly, check that the anchorage will offer good protection from the weather in whatever wind direction is forecast for the time you’ll spend there. Some anchorages are only sheltered at low tide, when the surrounding rocks uncover, while others are open to sea breezes or prevailing winds.
There are a few ‘hurricane holes’, where you’re safe from any direction, but these are very rare – so make sure your anchorage is well sheltered from the forecast wind direction. And before you turn in for the night, it’s worth plotting an escape route out of the bay on your GPS just in case the wind should shift overnight.
Check with some locals or online to find out how busy or popular your potential anchorage is. Locals will also know about night-time wind effects such as Katabatic winds, which can surprise those unfamiliar with an afflicted anchorage.
Popular anchorages are usually a safe bet, but they might get very crowded in high summer. There’s often a better anchorage nearby that’s not in the pilot books!
Check the holding
Sand, shale and mud are the best holding for your anchor – and are marked on the chart with their respective abbreviations. Avoid kelp and rock unless you know the area well, as holding in these can be temperamental.
It’s all very well anchoring in a small bay, but make sure that you have enough swinging room should the wind shift. Don’t forget to take into account the length of your warp or chain. It might also be better to find an alternative should your chosen spot be overcrowded.
Check your chart in conjunction with a tidal height graph to ensure that you’ll have enough water to stay afloat in your chosen spot. Atmospheric effects can also have an effect on the tidal height, and before anchoring, it’s worth motoring around your chosen spot to check you’ll have enough depth wherever the boat may swing.
On the other hand, you don’t want too deep an anchorage as your warp or chain may not be enough – this is especially true in cruising grounds like Norway and Turkey, where the depth in the middle of a bay is in the 100s of metres. In these cases, you’ll find the locals moored at the shoreline – often with a line ashore and an anchor taken out to the shallower water at the edge of the bay.
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