There are many factors to consider when planning to anchor overnight…How much rode should I let out? What is the tide doing? How about the wind? Is that boat too close to me? Am I even allowed to anchor here? These, among others, are very important concerns when planning to spend the night at anchor aboard your sailboat.
First; decide where you want to anchor. There are only a few “designated anchorages” here, while sailing in San Diego Bay, suitable for us weekend (or weekday) warriors. Suggested spots include La Playa Cove, Glorietta Bay, and up to Mission Bay. See our Boaters Guide page for more information and what permits (if any) you may need.
When you arrive to the spot, try and scope out a nice open space (this may be tough on a summer weekend). Keep in mind that wherever you drop the hook, you are going to end up much further downwind depending on the depth of the anchorage. By the way, how deep is it here? You should always know this fact and the easiest, most reliable way is to look at the chart. The depth sounder is a great source of information but the instruments can vary from boat to boat (some may measure from the waterline, some from the keel). If the chart says that the mean low water sounding is 18′, and the high tide is 6′, plan for the max depth of 24′. Okay, we’re planning to anchor in approximately 25′ of water- this means at a minimum 5:1 ratio for calm conditions, we will be letting out 125′ of rode.
Prepare to drop the anchor! The key here is to make sure that the boat is at a complete stop (or even moving slightly astern) and into the wind before lowering the anchor. When instructed by the helmsman, the bow person will lower the anchor. The trick here is not too fast as you don’t want chain piling on top of the anchor but also not too slow (you want the anchor to hit the bottom before drifting out of place). As the boat drifts downwind the bow person will continue to let out rode until the desired length is laid out on the bottom (the helmsmen may need to give the boat slight reverse on the throttle). When the correct amount of rode is payed out, the bow person can tie off to the cleat or secure a snubber if the boat is equipped with one. Are we done? No, not quite yet, especially if you plan to stay overnight…
The next step is to set the anchor. With the boat settled in (pointing towards the anchor upwind) the helmsman should now back the boat in reverse. The idea is to literally “dig” the anchor down into the mud and stretch out the chain. As you back down in reverse you can expect to see the boat moving aft compared to a landmark perpendicular to your boat, this is because you are stretching the chain and line until the anchor digs into the mud. Once the boat comes to a stop you will stay on the throttle for a few more moments until you’re certain the anchor has set and is holding the boat. If you are not dragging at 1/2- 3/4 throttle, your chances of dragging later on are minimal.
Look around- do we have enough swing room? Expect to swing 360 degrees as the wind shifts and current changes effect your position. Is that boat too close? If there is concern, simply pick-up and try again. If you’re close enough, ask your neighbor how much rode they have out. If your numbers are somewhat similar, you can expect to swing in harmony as the wind shifts.
The key to anchoring is to always have a plan. Think out the process beforehand and always have an exit strategy. These steps are only the basics so Practice! Practice! Practice! Of course, we encourage you to get additional sailing instruction if you are unsure of your skills.