Tips for anchoring overnight

We have already covered some of the basics to be considered when anchoring so we won’t cover them again here. However, when anchoring overnight or for a longer period of time there are several specific issues to be considered. They include;

  • Deploy your day shape (anchor ball) and turn on your anchor light (an all-round white light) which is usually rigged forward of the mast but can sometimes be at masthead.
  • Check the Weather Forecast.  A pleasant, sheltered anchorage can quickly become a dangerous and uncomfortable place with a lee shore if the wind shifts. 
  • Allow for tidal height variations. If you are in a tidal area remember that you will swing on the tide as it changes direction. Also, make sure you have enough water when the next low tide arrives and enough chain out to allow for increased depth at high water.
  • Leave your AIS on - if you have it - to illustrate you are anchored at a position.
  • Set an anchor alarm on your GPS/Chart Plotter as a last resort to warn you if your anchor drags.
  • Use sufficient chain and warp - and then let out some more.  The old adage “if in doubt, let some out” is a good rule of thumb when at anchor.
  • Consider rigging a tripping line on your anchor (especially if anchoring on mud or rock) and mark it with a small buoy.
  • Rig a snubbing line to take the ‘snatch’ out of the chain, especially in windier conditions.
  • Set an anchor watch.  Dependant on weather, the anchorage, ground tackle and your approach to risk, an anchor watch can mean many different things. The prudent skipper will always have someone on watch at any one time, checking transits, depth and GPS position.  If you are shorthanded you might decide to set intermittent wake up alarms for individual crew. Either way, if crew are going to deck they should be wearing a lifejacket and I’d like them clipped on, at night anyway. Best to have two crew on watch if crew are going to deck to avoid the unwitnessed MOB!
  • Continue maintaining your log including depth, wind speed and direction, position checks, cloud cover and precipitation.
  • Leave clear parameters and instructions for crew defining when they should wake you.


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