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Old 04-05-2015, 07:45   #1
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Single-handed question on anchoring

Quick question.
How are you managing anchoring while single-handed?

Most all of the windlass controls on boats I charter are at the bow and this brings a challenge, mostly when up-anchor. As well, I feel that I need to be at the bow to manage the all-too-frequent tangles and windlass jambs which happen when retrieving anchor rode. Anchor down is much easier, but anchor up seems to be a challenge, especially when the wind picks up and their are shoals off my stern.

How do you single-handers manage this effectively?
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:58   #2
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

When I'm single-handing and anchoring I'm generally more concerned, as you mention, about retrieving the anchor than deploying it, and as a result always think ahead with respect to the forecast and where I drop the hook. If I know that I'm going to have a lee shore and there is no way around that, I anchor further out. It's even worse if you have a muddy bottom and don't want to fill your locker with mud...you don't have the luxury of rinsing off the last 20' feet, circumstances depending.

There is no silver bullet. You just take care of everything so that when the anchor breaks free you're in a position to work quickly to get it aboard and get back to the helm.
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:29   #3
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

I have anchored several times solo and it can be a challange in tight areas. One thing i do that works well is to bring up very slow with the windless, keeping tention on the chain to avoid the dreaded chain block at the windless. I have also stopped in mid travel to check the chain locker and push the chain/rode to the side to also help eliminate bunching. I will then stop just before i think the anchor is off the bottom this should leave the boat kind of centered away from nearest obstical and the chain at its shortest length to come up while the boat is still not drifting.
Unless your in really deep water you should be able to bring the anchor up without too much drifting back, if really windy I have also put in gear with just enough rpm to creep me forward ever so slow, basically just enough to keep me from going a-stern.
on a couple of occasions I have had to leave the anchor at the water line and pull a few feet out of harms way to give me a few extra moments to secure the anchor the last few feet.

This has worked fairly well for me, I don't think there is any real text book procedure other than I would say ensure your engine is started.
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:51   #4
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

As a sailing instructor, I have coached clients in solutions to this problem. A couple of ideas that seem to work:
Use a buoy on your anchor.
Motor towards the buoy.
When close, shift to neutral and scurry forward.
Retrieve as much rode as possible on the windlass. No strain on windlass is critical.
Repeat until anchor aboard.
It ain't easy!

If using a cordage rode, it is simple: Bring the rode aft to the cockpit, near the engine controls.

Fair winds and favorable anchorages.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:02   #5
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

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Originally Posted by nicholson31 View Post
I will then stop just before i think the anchor is off the bottom this should leave the boat kind of centered away from nearest obstical and the chain at its shortest length to come up while the boat is still not drifting.
Unless your in really deep water you should be able to bring the anchor up without too much drifting back, if really windy I have also put in gear with just enough rpm to creep me forward ever so slow, basically just enough to keep me from going a-stern.
on a couple of occasions I have had to leave the anchor at the water line and pull a few feet out of harms way to give me a few extra moments to secure the anchor the last few feet.
Very good. Unless it is truly really, really windy you're not going anywhere until the chain is vertical and the anchor is starting to break out.

Indeed, there was a thread here recently about upping anchor when it's really windy. Many suggestions were to WAIT and only up anchor when it was calm.

There have been many times when I've delayed pulling up the hook until it was too late and the wind picked up. Even 10 knots is a bear.

In calm conditions, a vertical rode will still keep you in one spot: right over your anchor. You can spend all morning at the bow.

Good luck.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:13   #6
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pirate Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

It varies greatly depending on the size and type of boat.. the retreival gear.. muscle or electric windlass and ultimately how fast one can move..
Up to 35ft I prefer to sail up hauling in by hand as I go.. if she's bigger then the electric windlass comes into play.. the trick is judging when to break her free.. you want to be falling off on the right tack when she frees.. not heading towards the coral heads the other side.
As with all things.. practice in safe waters before you go for the real thing.. it looks much easier than it is when you watch an old hand playing with his hook.. and as someone said earlier.. have the engine ticking over.. if you have one...
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:14   #7
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

Great replies and thanks.


in 15 knts +- of wind, will any of you use auto pilot while in forward gear as you are at the bow weighing in the anchor?
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:20   #8
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

I would handle anchor retrieval three different ways, depending on conditions.

If the wind was light, I would go forward and bring the chain in with the windlass, pausing every 15-20 feet or so to let the weight of the chain that was still out pull the boat forward.

If the wind was a little heavier, it really helps to have an autopilot. I'd point the boat toward the anchor, put it in forward at idle speed, set the auto pilot, and go forward. At idle, I found that the boat would move forward at about the same speed that the windlass could retrieve the chain. This works if the anchorage isn't too crowded.

If in very heavy wind, or a crowded anchorage, I'd be in the cockpit steering and controlling the throttle. I had a toggle switch for controlling the windlass installed on the steering pedestal, so I could bring the anchor in as I moved the boat forward. Once the anchor was out of the water, I'd swing away from any surrounding boats, and then go forward to wash it off and secure it.

Letting the anchor out was never an issue when single-handing, especially with the toggle switch in the cockpit ready to use if needed.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:20   #9
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

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Originally Posted by KeepInTune View Post
Great replies and thanks.


in 15 knts +- of wind, will any of you use auto pilot while in forward gear as you are at the bow weighing in the anchor?
Never. With that much wind, you need to goose the engine to get way over the rode, then haul it in when slack.

Being at the bow with no idea where the boat is going is dangerous.

Thinking that the ap will steer straight in those conditions is also dangerous (thinking). How do you STOP?

Think it through. Also read a singlehander's book about anchoring. Richard Henderson's is agreat.
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Old 04-05-2015, 10:50   #10
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

I use the autopilot with the engine at idle to power up the rode while I work the windlass. Has worked in winds to 25 mph. Have a wireless remote for the windlass but haven't wired it in. If it works, would make retrieving the anchor from the cockpit easy. Yes, I have an electric windlass.
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:17   #11
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

Windlass? What's a windlass?
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:59   #12
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

I’ve been hauling anchor as a single hander on my Caliber 40 for over 20-years at many hundreds of anchorages. Careful analysis of dangers and exit courses is essential. A well thought out plan that is kept firmly in mind is critical. As with all aspects of single handing – slow, methodical, and safe is absolutely necessary.

Some observations:

- plan for your departure before dropping anchor. Are there obstructions near by, is there a clear path to deep water, will there be a problem if the wind reverses, will changing currents be a problem, will other boats anchor near you and make it difficult to safely haul anchor and leave? You may find yourself pulling anchor in unanticipated conditions so plan for those conditions.

- have a chain stopper or easy to use chain hook/line/cleat for quickly and securely snubbing the chain while retrieving it

- an anchor buoy helps you know where the anchor is but is also prone to tangling with the anchor chain if you are in an area of reversing winds and/or currents. I have had several such occurrences that require many hours to untangle the anchor buoy line and the chain.

- remote control or a long control cable to windlass is very helpful

- an anchor locker with chain fall that allows retrieved chain to stack but not castle is very useful (My boat does not fit this requirement. I need to knock over the castle every 50-feet or so and it is a real PITA)

The exact anchor retrieval technique depends on the situation but usually involves something like:

- make sure engine is warm and running well

- ensure you know the depths of water and locations of obstructions in a full circle at least mile around boat

- ensure you know the path to clear water

- ensure everything on bow needed for anchor retrieval is in place, clear of obstructions, ready of immediate use

- test engine & transmission in forward and reverse before starting anchor retrieval

- plan for procedure to be used when anchor breaks free. Will you be able to stay on bow and keep hoisting anchor or will the bow blow off, due to current or wind, and head the boat into danger?

- engage forward and let boat gain some momentum moving forward over the chain (this is where the anchor buoy is useful). On my boat I want it moving fast enough that it will continue forward (this depends on local wind and current) for at least 15-seconds after putting throttle to neutral

- put transmission in neutral

- run forward to bow (or step up to side deck with remote control) and retrieve chain while boat continues to move forward. If you time it right and control the windlass speed correctly you can keep the boat slowly moving forward while the windlass retrieves the chain with little strain.

- if the wind and or current stops the boat while pulling chain you need to decide if the strain on the windlass is more than appropriate. If so, then use the chain stopper or chain hook to secure the chain and return to the cockpit to put engine in forward and start procedure over again

- once anchor is off the bottom employ the PRE-PLANNED technique for retrieving the anchor

- if in calm conditions, no current, little wind, OR the boat is safely clear of all obstacles then keep pulling the anchor and secure it on deck

- if the boat is headed toward danger (other boats, rocks, shallow water, breaking waves) then pull anchor far enough off the bottom that it will not engage the bottom or obstructions while you motor to safety. Firmly secure the chain so it will not lower as you motor to safety.

- once well clear of all danger either stop the boat (calm settled conditions) and secure the anchor and clear the foredeck. Or, engage the autopilot and slowly motor to clear water while you clear up all anchor related equipment on the bow
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Old 04-05-2015, 15:31   #13
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

Since I'm now in the category of Ancient Mariner (age, not experience), I'm trying to figure out how to weigh my 35# Delta anchor with 40' of chain without suffering a heart attack. There's no room to mount a windlass above the chain locker, and no room below the deck for a motor. Maybe some sort of vertical shaft windlass on the foredeck and let the rode pile up on deck, to be stowed a couple of beers later. I just can't figure out how to keep the chain on the gypsy. Any ideas?
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Old 04-05-2015, 15:47   #14
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

Bill, have you tried two long snubber a with chain hooks? Hook one onto your chain and lead it back to a primary winch by your cockpit. Haul in as far as you can. Leaving the chain on the side deck attach the other long snubber with hook to the chain as far forward as you can and bring that snubber back to the opposite primary winch and haul in. Repeat with the first snubber, etc. You will bring all the chain in and it will then be laid along both side decks. Now of course you need to stow it safely before getting underway.


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Old 04-05-2015, 15:51   #15
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Re: Single-handed question on anchoring

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Windlass? What's a windlass?
Think you would find out pretty quick if you have a 70lb Anchor and 400 feet of half inch chain
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