Anchoring small boats

First I checked the Forum Archive, then started looking around on the innerwebs I’m suddenly confused and a little scared of anchoring. Seems like there are multiple ways to sink your boat and DIE! Or, are the innerwebs stories kind of like Baywatch, where only lifeguards were safe to go into the ocean, everyone else had to be rescued?

Any of you salty types have advise on type of anchor for Dory, Skerry, Peeler Skiff kind of boats? And specific conditions to avoid?

I’d like to anchor my Dory overnight and sleep aboard. (Someone told me this was forbidden by Geneva Convention for prisoners of war but since I’m subjecting myself to it I shouldn’t be breaking international law.) Of course this would only take place in protected coves and shallows in Chesapeake Bay area. Primarily mud and firm mud bottom. At some point my boat will have a tent contraption too, which will increase windage.  


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RE: Anchoring small boats


Anchoring isn't all that difficult to master.  I highly recommend that all small boat owners venturing onto salt water get a copy of Chapman's Piloting and Seamanship and read it.  In my 50+ years on the water I've always depended on it's compiled wisdom.

I have a Peeler Skiff that I use on Narraganset Bay.  I carry a 9 lb Danforth with 6 feet of chain and 100 feet of 3/8 inch nylon.  I also have a stout cleat and 2 chocks on the bow to insure that the anchor rode lies fair and doesn't chafe.

If you don't want to invest in Chapmans, you can Google "anchors and anchoring" for advice and technique.  I definitely do not recommend anchoring overnight in exposed locations or when there is the potential for bad weather.

The boats that you mentioned can all be pulled up onto a sandy beach which can be more comfortable than bobbing around in a chop.  Just don't ignore the tide.

Cheers, Dick

RE: Anchoring small boats

   Dick, curious as to your opinion.  I am close to finishing my Peeler and will be using her in NJ and up around Marthas Vineyard on vacations.  Always had danforths in the past on larger boats and for a 12' Dyer Dhow.  I was thinking of going with a 10 pound mushroom to avoid the chain and all the clanging around on my bright work.  I will just be anchoring up in coves to relax for the most part.  Our bottom in my river is mostly sand and silt, Sandy Hook bay is mostly sand.  Rarely will I anchor to fish as I prefer to drift and chase bass and blues.  We do get some good current though, nothing like Narranganset.  So, I never used a mushroom before, a good friend that fishes my river and bay suggested it.  For holding and for saving my bright work.   Six of one - half a dozen?

RE: Anchoring small boats

   Eric, an anchor is an important piece of safety gear because if you, for whatever reason, can't get back to shore you at least want to stay put and prevent your boat fron drifting into a dangerous area or out to sea. You know Murphy's law, "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and at the worst possible time." Get a small 2 / 2.5 lb folding anchor and a line 4 times as long as the depth if the water where you boat. Always anchor from the bow.  

RE: Anchoring small boats

   There are lots of anchoring possabilities. For small boats one can use a simple weight if necessary but some type of anchor that grips the bottom is best because it prevent drifting. You want a long anchor line to prevent the anhor being disloged by tides or large waves. There should be plenty of information about computing lengths of anchor line, usually a multiple of the depth of the water.

There is also a device known as sea anchor which although is not a true anchor but chute that reduces a boats drift from wind but may also pull the boat with current.


RE: Anchoring small boats

Anchoring dynamics are different for compact and light boats like the Northeaster Dory. One thing that definitely doesn't work is to follow the anchor-selection charts, all of which seem to contemplate larger, heavier boats.  You end up with such a small and light anchor that the thing just skitters over the surface of the bottom rather than digging in.

My choice for Northeaster Dory-type camp-cruising boats is a "Bruce anchor":

That seems to suit most bottom types and in smaller sizes is more likely to dig in.  Small Danforths often just slide across the bottom, never setting. Also, Danforths have a lot of sharp edges that are brutal on the varnished interior of your boat.  

I think there's an absolute lower bounds for anchor weight of maybe 15 pounds.  Lighter than that, and they just don't weigh enough to dig into the bottom on their own!

Also, use as much chain as you can stand.  The weight of the chain helps convert the pull of the anchor rode into a horizontal moment, the better to set the anchor in the bottom, rather than pulling the anchor upwards towards the surface.  Something like eight feet of heavy chain won't be regretted, though even half that helps.  

RE: Anchoring small boats

The type of anchor that you choose is more important than the weight.  The wrong anchor for the bottom conditions won't hold well even if it is oversized.  For the soft bottom in the Chesapeake in that size boat, I would seriously look at the 4.4# Claw.  If you want a little more security, add some chain or buy a small mushroom to use as a kellet when the wind picks up.  Go with a 1/4" three strand for anchor rode.  It is plenty strong enough but will stretch a little lessoning shock loads on the anchor.  If that won't hold you, you don't want to be on the water in that small of a boat. 

Stay away from the cheapo fluked anchors that some of the box stores sell.  They work like cheapo anchors from a box store.

Using the anchor alarm feature on a GPS is always a good idea.

I have to chuckle, because some of the recommendations above are for heavier ground tackle than I have on my heavy, high windage trailersailor.  My primary is an 11# Claw with 8' chain and a 3/8".  I have sailed/cruised this boat in the Chesapeake and Florida for 15 years and have never had the anchor drag, even in 50+ kt gusts. 

Just one man's opinion.  Your mileage may vary.



RE: Anchoring small boats

A ship at harbor is safe, but it's not what ships are for!” – Not sure who said that but I quote it a lot.

 I can tell you that I may never have crossed an ocean as a man had I not made a single handed crossing from Frog Mortar Creek to Fairlee Creek in my father’s Bateau when I was twelve. Making the tight entrance, setting anchor and choking down a can of beans before falling asleep under the cover of the canvas sail was an accomplishment that lead me to many nautical adventures after.

I concur with the advice of the Bruce anchor. I grew up using Navy/Kedge anchors that have weight and hold a small boat very well. They  have soft edges to protect your finish although I always stowed mine in basket or or well. I have recently been impressed with the Bulwagga anchors on sand or muddy bottoms although they are not nautical to look at and can do some damage to any topsides.

My rule of thumb as taught to me is half your vessels length for chain on vessels under one ton displacement. A full vessel length for one to five tons. A length and a half for five to to twenty five tons and all chain for anything larger. You should be fine for overnighting in most any conditions on the Bay with eight foot of chain and any of the anchors suggested (except the mushroom). Another rule of thumb is 5:1 rode for fair weather, 7:1 for moderate weather and 10:1 for heavy weather. The chain is the one of the most important factors for any anchor to hold well.

Remember to hoist an anchor light at night in protected coves and a light with radar reflector in open water.

Happy sailing,





RE: Anchoring small boats

Great advice folks, thanks. Bruce on a chain looks like the ticket.
So for particulars, there’s no motor on this boat…
Does one back down under oars to set the anchor?
There’s a solid chunk of wood carved to fit the shape under the breasthook and epoxied in place. Seems anything violent enough to tear this out would basically mean I’m well and truly hosed right?
When weighing, hand over hand till the rode is perpendicular, cleat off and row forward to tip it out?

Many thanks.

RE: Anchoring small boats

<<<Does one back down under oars to set the anchor?>>>  You could but with the weight of the Bruce and chain this should not be necessary. Any significant wind or current will set your hook enough to hold.

<<<There’s a solid chunk of wood carved to fit the shape under the breasthook and epoxied in place. Seems anything violent enough to tear this out would basically mean I’m well and truly hosed right?>>>  I would say that is more than enough to sleep well at night while anchored. The displacement of your vessel will determine the force on the anchor line. A light vessel will not exert much force on your stem. Think of it as reeling in a plastic bobber on your fishing line as opposed to reeling in a log. . . There will be a lot more force on the line with the log due to the displacement of the log

<<<When weighing, hand over hand till the rode is perpendicular, cleat off and row forward to tip it out?>>> My strong recommendation is to never hand over hand a weighted object into the water. Loose coil or lay your rode and drop or  toss the anchor keeping clear the line while your feet are planted firmly on deck. Do not move your feet until the anchor has touched bottom. Splice or braid small colored line or ribbons of Dacron in 5 foot intervals to tell how much rod is out. When the anchor  is perpendicular you will know the depth by how many markers are out. You can then measure enough line through hand to case over the ratio of rode you need per the depth.


RE: Anchoring small boats

  Ooops, weighning anchor not setting anchor. . . I saw hand over hand and had visions of you going down as whale bait. . . Yes for weighing anchor you could do it as you described or attach a "weigh line" to the forward arm of the Bruce. Many will have a shackle or hole for this. A small line attached there with a bouy or marker will make it easy to draw the flukes off the bottom. Although I sincerly believe that would not be necessary given the displacement of your vessel drawing the anchor to any depth. The marker also alerts others to where your pivot point is and will give you a good estimate for the ratio of rode you have out.



RE: Anchoring small boats

   Excelent JP, thanks

RE: Anchoring small boats

Eric and Surfer Bill,

I've used Danforth's on my Pacific Seacraft Flicka (2 Danforths in gales and one hurricane) and on every other boat I've owned over my 68 years,.  No anchor type is perfect for all bottoms and I have no bad things to say about the Bruce.  However, pound for pound, and on many different types of bottom, a well-made Danforth type is hard to beat (I do agree that Danforths of less than 9 lbs are toys).  I've never dragged one (after making sure it was set properly in the first place).  The 9-pounder I'm using on the Peeler Skiff is one I used for years on an Amesbury Skiff I built in the early 1980s---a boat about the same length and displacement as the Peeler.  It has never failed me.

The reason I use 3/8 inch nylon is that it's easier to handle and harder to tangle than 1/4 inch and has plenty of stretch.  Also, I can be less concerned about unseen chafe or wear.  1/4 inch is certainly strong enough.

On my Peeler, I mounted some brackets near the bow to hang the Danforth, so the sharp points that make it easy to set don't mar the interior finish.

I wouldn't recommend a small mushroom anchor to anyone.  A mushroom anchor that's heavy enough to be safe is too heavy to carry on a boat.  A small mushroom anchor is fine while fishing on a pond but, IMHO, has no place in salt water (heavy, buried mushroom mooring anchors are an entirely different story).



RE: Anchoring small boats

   Sold!  Just ordered a nice Bruce for my Peeler!  Thanks for all the input!  And Eric good luck with your adventures with your Dory!  Dick, the Flicka is one of my favorite boats!  you have excellent taste!  A Flicka, Amesbury skiff and a Peeler!  Rocky - great advice and  beautiful boat!

RE: Anchoring small boats

I've been doing this boating stuff since the 50s.   It comes natrual to me. 


I'm thinking two things. 

1. If you are asking quesitons this basic you need to work on the other  basics too. Get into Chapmans. Take a safe boating course from the Coast Guard Auxillary or Power Squadron.

2. Maybe I missed it in the discussion, but the most common error people make on anchoring is scope. Basically they don't let out enough anchor rode.............line.........  Anchor with 4 to 1 or more and most any designed hook with chain  will work. Anchor less and they will all drag.  Just go to any fireworks display and watch the driffting draging boats.

.3. The second error is instead of easing the anchor rig, ie lowering it,  they throw a ball of chain and anchor over the side and expect everything to sort itself out.   


Don't be a drag............. 

RE: Anchoring small boats

I know you already placed your order, but here are my 2 cents.  I had a Pearson 30 I sailed out of Annapolis before I moved out here to St. Louis.  We spent many nights anchored out.  I had three danforths (one aluminum fotress brand as primary and two galvanized as backup).  I really liked the Fortress.  It held very well, was light enough I could easily handle it and the edges were relatively nice to my gelcoat.  A big plus is it can be broken down and stored in a padded bag if you do not want to hang it off the bow.  Danforths in general are pretty compact.

I used at least a 6:1 scope and had a 6' rhode.  I preferred a 9:1 scope for overnight.  Not that it is a huge deal in boats of the size we are dicussing here, but part of the depth calculation should include the height of your cleat above the water which you will tie your anchor off to.

Backing down under oars is a good idea.  If the anchor takes a bit to set you will find out before the tide or wind shifts.  I had many instances where it took longer than I would have liked to set the anchor.

Your idea of sleeping at anchor is better than on shore.  Way less bugs on the water.

RE: Anchoring small boats

   Some of the gps units have an achor drag alarm you specify how far the boat can move,considering how much anchor line you have out and you if you exceed that it will alert you



RE: Anchoring small boats

   ny suggestions for repair?  My thought was to run a saw down the seams to remove material, [url=]70-640[/url] iron the boards up against the form, staple, reglue.  Will this work?  I assume I'll have to release the strips from the inner stem, reglue as well?

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