How to Free a 'fouled' or stuck anchor

Before we talk about freeing a fouled anchor, it’s worth just briefly looking at how to avoid getting a stuck anchor in the first place!

There are some simple things worth considering. Namely;

  1. Never anchor in front of another vessel. In other words, Don’t lay your anchor across another. The result should be obvious.
  2. Don’t anchor in prohibited areas with submarine cables, wrecks, obstructions or where ground tackle is laid (i.e. moorings, etc).
  3. Don’t use a kedge anchor when others are not - and vice versa. By definition, a vessel will swing at anchor. If your vessel is kedged, you won’t swing, but everyone else that isn’t kedged, will.
  4. Make sure you lay the correct amount of chain for the depth (including tidal changes). This should be a minimum of 4 x the depth of water.
  5. Consider setting a tripping line (and bouy) to allow for the anchor to be tripped vertically if necessary. 


All this said, if you still get your anchor ‘stuck there are still things you can do. For example;

  1. Most anchors will come out if you drive forward on the chain until it is vertical to the sea bed and then slowly push the bow forward in an attempt to lift it out of the sea bed. Be careful not to wrap the chain on your keel!
  2. If you have a tripping line rigged, paddle over to it in a dinghy and try to lift it vertically into the tender. 
  3. Carry a diving mask, flippers and maybe a wetsuit and weight belt. Diving the chain can be challenging, but the end result will be that you can see the problem. Usually, once you can see what’s stuck, you have a solvable problem.
  4. If all else fails, mark the spot with your GPS. Attach a mark (such as a labelled fender) and leave the anchor for recovery later. Divers are available with SCUBA kit and they can usually locate and recover your anchor and chain quite quickly.


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