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Old 18-09-2012, 00:04   #1
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Watch keeping at anchor

Hi all. Dumb question time.

I'm still trying to overcome life's practical obstacles to getting out on the water and I'm still trying learn bits and pieces as I go along.

One thing I have seen discussed before is the necessity to keep watch at all times. I can only assume that this isn't applicable when moored in a harbour or at some type of dock. My question is what is the rulling/regulations when at anchor outside of a recognised harbour, i.e. in a bay off the coast of some island or something similar. Are you still required to stand watch at all times?
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Old 18-09-2012, 00:12   #2
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

There's no requirement or regulations to that effect (unless you're a ship carrying dangerous cargo, perhaps), but occasionally it's prudent, if the anchorage is exposed and conditions are bad, to run a watch roster even at anchor.

The people on watch need to be able to ascertain from bearings or transits, day and night, whether the position has shifted in a direction which indicates the anchor dragging. Ideally they should also be capable of recognising the early symptoms of dragging: generally, the most convincing one is that the bow of the vessel, when already pulling hard on the chain, 'falls off', IOW the bow turns away from pointing directly into the wind without the vessel sailing off in that direction.
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Old 18-09-2012, 02:35   #3
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

If you are at anchor and showing the proper signals (anchor light at night; proper dayshape -- an anchor ball -- in the daytime), you are not required to keep a watch for other vessels underway. Obviously you must not be in a marked channel or otherwise interfering with navigation.

Andrew Troupe gives excellent advice above. I would add an obvious point -- set the anchor alarm on your chart plotter. This will alert you if you drift out of a preset radius. This is more effective if you have some room between your boat and hazards; it is less effective in a tight anchorage. But it's always better than nothing.

You also have to have some feeling about what the risks of dragging are. If you are in a big storm and/or anchoring in an uncertain bottom, then you have to be more aware than you have to be in benign weather when you are really sure of your holding. In some cases it makes sense to spend the night in the cockpit keeping an eye on everything and ready to take action if necessary. I have even spent the night in the cockpit with the engine running, when I was really worried.

One thing I always do lately is sleep with an IPad with INavX with anchor alarm set next to my bunk. This really helps me to get some sleep at anchor, because I can at any moment open one eye and confirm that we are still in position, then go back to sleep without every really waking up fully. Before, I used to get up every hour or two and stick my head out of a hatch to check transits -- hard to get back to sleep after that.

Another tip - unless you are in the most totally benign weather and in the most reliable holding, with near zero risk of dragging, leave your instruments on, your windlass armed (if it is electric), the anchor locker open, and the key in the ignition. This will save you precious seconds in case you do drag.
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Old 18-09-2012, 02:42   #4
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

Thanks for the replies. I was wondering how anyone is supposed to stay awake all night looking for trouble. I'm too old for allnighters.

Hopefully one day I'll be able to put all the advice I'm picking up into practice.
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Old 18-09-2012, 04:38   #5
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

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Originally Posted by Still Hopefull View Post
Thanks for the replies. I was wondering how anyone is supposed to stay awake all night looking for trouble. I'm too old for allnighters.

Hopefully one day I'll be able to put all the advice I'm picking up into practice.
Well, it happens sometimes. Of course you try to avoid it.

But I was sailing with my father in SW Florida a couple of years ago. We had planned to go into Pelican Bay and spend the night there, but a storm blew up with driving rain, and we felt that the entrance would not be safe. It was getting dark and the ICW and the passes are also not much fun in a storm, even less in a storm after dark. So we had not too much choice but to anchor out in front of Useppa Island -- which was a lee shore. As far as we could get from it, but it's shallow there and not that much room to anchor.

It was not really a big storm -- one of those typical Florida frontal rainstorms with 30 - 40 knots of wind -- but it blew all night. I felt pretty good about the holding -- my Dad has an excellent Spade anchor and is a real master of anchoring technique. But we were on a lee shore, so there was no way I was going to go below. I sat in the cockpit all night with the instruments on.

My Dad is much more relaxed than I am (in general) and simply had a cocktail and went to bed and slept like a baby. But no way could I sleep in a blow near a lee shore -- no way. Hence the all-nighter.

Best in such cases to stay in port. We have no excuse -- the storm was forecast well ahead of time. We were being a bit careless, I guess -- a small gale, eh, no big deal right? But in the event the anchor didn't budge, even when the wind clocked around 180 degrees. The next day dawned lovely and sunny, and we continued with our cruise.
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Old 18-09-2012, 05:18   #6
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

In winds over 30 knots in a crowded anchorage, especially if there has been a wind shift, it is always prudent to do an anchor watch, or at least inspection. Yes, you can set your gps to alarm if you drag, but that will not alert you to other boats that may be dragging down on you. The onset of a squall is another time when a watch, or at least an inspection of the position of your and surrounding boats, is prudent. Fortuanately, the onset of a squall (or even a significant wind shift) is something which invariably awakens me, in any event.

Do you need to stay up all night? Unless winds were gale force or greater, I can't imagine why. It is typically enought just to get on deck and, in the case of a squall, wait for the worst to pass. Similarly, in the case of strong winds that have shifted since anchoring, you only need to ensure that you and the boats in your vicinity have not dragged due to the change in conditions.

Twice in the past I have had the misfortune of having other boats drag down on my boat, being actually struck by one several years ago in Georgian Bay when I had insufficient time to react. This past Friday evening in the Thousand Islands, a rather vicious squall hit that caused three other boats that were anchored around me to drag. Keep an air horn at the ready to attempt to alert other boats that have not posted a watch and are dragging, and be ready to start your engine in an effort to move out of the way.

Brad
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Old 18-09-2012, 05:39   #7
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

The more you perfect your anchoring technique (and equipment) and experience the better you will sleep.
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Old 18-09-2012, 06:02   #8
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

My boat came with a brand new Furuno 1623 16 mile radar, which hadn't even been taken out of the box, the dome was nicely mounted on a stern stanchion. From reading on CF, I thought it was going to be a rather useless power sucking toy and was thinking about selling the setup (which at times partially shades one of my beloved solar panels) but it is brain-dead simple to use (no manual necessary) and one of its neat features is a Watchman function, which can be variably programmed (scan interval, distance) to alert you when a new object (vessel, land) comes into the targeted area. Now, after finding my sailboat is a fog and low visibility squall magnet I wouldn't think about selling it. This bad boy can even warn you if pirates are sneaking up on you in a dinghy the size of an anchor ball while you try to sleep!
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Old 18-09-2012, 13:07   #9
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

Standing watch is not required for personal recreational boats. We rarely ever do except in really bad weather and want to watch long enough to make sure the anchor is holding.
The main thing is that you are not near a channel, high traffic area and the ground below is known for good holding power.
Make sure you have a good anchor light. I always feel better with two - the second being portable.
Keeping watch is just not practical for a couple.
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Old 18-09-2012, 13:32   #10
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

i will stand anchor watch if there is wind and chop, or just big wind. anchor light + secure feeling= good night of sleep....
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Old 18-09-2012, 14:54   #11
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

Most of the posts mirror my own experience. I have used a cheap Garmin GPS and better an iPad or equivalent to show my position track and alarm if I exceed the set radius.

In anything above 25 kts, I can't sleep anyway. I don't sit up on deck, but I do roll over and check the Garmin/iPad and occasionally get up to check cross bearings to see if we have dragged.

But after buying a heavy Rocna on all chain rode, I do tend to sleep better in a blow.

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Old 18-09-2012, 15:28   #12
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

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Originally Posted by Southern Star View Post
This past Friday evening in the Thousand Islands, a rather vicious squall hit that caused three other boats that were anchored around me to drag. Keep an air horn at the ready to attempt to alert other boats that have not posted a watch and are dragging, and be ready to start your engine in an effort to move out of the way.

Brad
That was a vicious mother--Oswego recorded 44 knots in the gusts, and got me to move into the Oswego canal for more protection.
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Old 18-09-2012, 15:40   #13
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

If you don't want to run your GPS / chartplotter all night, your depthsounder probably has a depth alarm you can use. Be sure to set it with the expected tides in mind, and you will want it to sound off if you get in either deep or shallow water. This isn't as good as a GPS alarm, but it's certainly better than nothing.
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Old 18-09-2012, 15:50   #14
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

If it's BAD weather, we watch ! on 4 hour shifts. If it's just blowing a bit theres the OLD way of useing a small grappnel anchor alongside, with a line thru a port to hooked to anything that will make noise to wake ya up !! just a thought
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Old 18-09-2012, 15:52   #15
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Re: Watch keeping at anchor

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Originally Posted by mrohr View Post
The more you perfect your anchoring technique (and equipment) and experience the better you will sleep.
And your anchoring system: anchor, shackles and chain/rode.
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