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Old 01-09-2015, 10:07   #16
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Most all the comments above are spot on but in my experience, the biggest danger is the one boat which has too much scope out, or at least, far more than you can judge. They are the ones who will clear out the other side of the anchorage when the wind shifts. I try to avoid overcrowded anchorages like the plague. There really isn't a foolproof way to deal with it. You just don't know where the other anchors are on the bottom.

Another problem is when you plonk down in an anchorage without any wind, or minimal wind. You have no clue at all what will happen if the wind or current comes up.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:29   #17
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Kidding aside, many of the anchorages in Southern California are very crowded on weekends and holidays. I always try to ask boats nearby how much scope they have out. I get some remarkable answers (some don't know, some say 2:1, some think 3 times the depth on their sounder which may be offset to depth below the keel).

If the anchorage is truly sheltered and the wind is very light I'll put up with boats anchored closer than they should be. I put out fenders all the way around and position my dinghy on the side of greatest concern.

On a few rare occasions I've talked to other boats and agreed on anchoring bow and stern. That can be good if everyone complies.

In this area anchorages are few and far between. Leaving an anchorage to look for a less crowded spot means 25 or 30 miles to the next spot which is likely to be just as crowded. Sometimes that is the only answer but it isn't a happy one.


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Old 01-09-2015, 10:36   #18
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Originally Posted by barnes021547 View Post
The conventional wisdom is to make sure your swing circle doesn’t intersect that of neighboring boats. Clearly that is impossible in many places, on many weekends, so many people are obviously ignoring the conventional wisdom.
Boats can anchor much closer than this with little risk.

It is far more common to have collisions with boats that are dragging rather than boats that simply anchored too close and have drifted into you.

So as a general rule worry about upwind boats that are poorly anchored rather than boats that are anchored too close.

Collisions with boats that are anchored too close are rare. If they do occur they are most common in light variable wind and in this case the damage is likely to be minor. Dragging boats typically hit with far more force.

There are three exceptions where collisions with boats anchored too close becomes a significant risk:
  • In light variable wind boats that drop their anchor very close to yours. It is worth always knowing where your anchor is located. This is not difficult with GPS. A boat can be positioned an adequate distance away when it has finished anchoring, but have their anchor very close to yours. This often results in the boats eventually coming together.
  • Boats that lay multiple anchors in an anchorage where others are using a single anchor. This needs a lot of room.
  • Very disparate scopes.
  • Boats that stern tie in your swing circle if there reasonable risk of the wind moving you in that direction. This is one of the more difficult situations. The unwritten, but generally accepted, rule of the "first boat has right of way" is often ignored by boats that stern tie.

    It is also worth considering the type of boat and rode. Disparate designs or rope verses chain will swing differently.

This is getting a little close:

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Old 01-09-2015, 10:49   #19
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Is it a good idea to tie a buoy to the anchor in crowded areas?
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:53   #20
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Is it a good idea to tie a buoy to the anchor in crowded areas?
In my opinion no. In a crowded anchorage, other boats will be over/swinging over your anchor at times.
You are restricting others ability to anchor, or your bouy is going to end up in their rudder or prop.
You might as well be one of those idiots that anchor bow and stern in a crowded anchorage with other boats swinging.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:54   #21
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Is it a good idea to tie a buoy to the anchor in crowded areas?
No, it restricts the area where people can anchor.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:55   #22
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
  • Boats that lay multiple anchors in an anchorage where others are using a single anchor. This needs a lot of room.
  • Very disparate scopes.

    It is also worth considering the type of boat and rode. Disparate designs or rope verses chain will swing differently.
As someone who resembles those remarks

I tend to like a lot of scope, makes me more comfortable at night. And we tend to use a rope rode most of the time (awaiting the flames). When we come into a crowded anchorage with lots of short-scope, all-chain boats around I tend to set down two anchors in a Bahamanian mooring configuration. I get to keep the 7:1 or 8:1 scope I like to have, but I can adjust the two rodes to give me a swing comparable to all the 3:1 or 4:1 boats in the anchorage.

More work for me, but it keeps up good relations and makes me comfortable knowing that wind and current shifts aren't going to cause me any problems. Sometimes takes some explaining when my single-anchor neighbors see me putting out the second hook, but once they see it in action they appreciate that I can keep my sails-around-the-anchorage multihull swinging in pretty much the same circle as everyone else.
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Old 01-09-2015, 11:01   #23
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Is it a good idea to tie a buoy to the anchor in crowded areas?
Definitely not a good idea. Dangerous. Especially at night when the dinks are returning to their boats after a good time ashore. I always make a mental note of where somebody has buoyed their anchor when I dink ashore. Unfortunately I often forget where that was when returning in the dark.
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Old 01-09-2015, 11:05   #24
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Install one of those rails that bumper cars have all'round your hull. If you're mechanically gifted, make a bumper rail like on a pinball machine to bump them away from your hull.
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Old 01-09-2015, 11:51   #25
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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I can keep my sails-around-the-anchorage multihull swinging in pretty much the same circle as everyone else.
That is the fundamental aim .

Unfortunately, multiple anchors are often used in effort to keep the boat stationary in the mistaken belief that any subsequent conflict must therefore be the fault of the boat that has moved.

It sounds like you have a much more sensible and enlightened approach.
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Old 01-09-2015, 12:11   #26
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Thanks. It would be downright unneighborly of me to come into an anchorage and lay out 8:1 scope with a lightweight rode and lightweight boat when all the lead mines are swinging to all chain at 3:1. The same if I came in and laid out two anchors (bow and stern or Bahamanian mooring style) that kept my boat in the same position while everyone else is free-swinging. So, I've found the best approach is to do what I find most comfortable, but mimic the behavior of the crowd as best I can so no one can really tell how odd a duck I really am

That's where the 'experience' referenced further up the thread comes in I guess. We really can all play together if we just pay a little attention. Most of my neighbors never even know I have down one more anchor than they do, until it comes time to pull them up.
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Old 01-09-2015, 13:15   #27
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

This is why I am so glad that most of us who cruise the Channel Islands always anchor bow and stern. We just don't have many conflicts, and we sleep better at night. I avoid anchorages where everyone is on one hook. However if you find yourself in one, and you have a fin keel and spade rudder, watch where you are swinging. I have seen boats that have been damaged by leaning on someone else's anchor line. If you insist on being able to swing, what's wrong with the Bahamian mooring? And for me, buoying the anchors helps everyone judge swing circles too. I am one of those (troublemakers) who actually appreciates knowing where other anchors are.
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Old 01-09-2015, 13:49   #28
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

Try to match the swing radius of the boats around you with your swing radius. I know there is no way to know this for all boats, but if you're anchoring in 15' of water, and have out 60' of chain, and so does everyone else, you're certainly less likely to hit someone that way. If you are in a harbor that has varying depths, and everyone has out 5:1 or 7:1 scope, it gets confusing since the rode lengths are necessarily different.

Finally, I think most sailors have a hard time coming up immediately behind the boat in front and dropping their anchors there. Inevitably, they want to drop their anchors in the open spot, and thus drift back on the boat behind them when they pay out rode. Or they drop their anchor on their neighbor's. You want your boat to end up in the "open spot", not your anchor...

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Old 01-09-2015, 14:08   #29
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

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Originally Posted by barnes021547 View Post
With Labor Day weekend coming up, many anchorages are going to be very crowded. Obviously if boats are anchored too closely together, there is a danger of collisions if the wind shifts or even fouling a neighbor’s anchor and then dragging.

The conventional wisdom is to make sure your swing circle doesn’t intersect that of neighboring boats. Clearly that is impossible in many places, on many weekends, so many people are obviously ignoring the conventional wisdom. Since they don’t get into trouble in most cases, people must be using some other way of guess-timating safe separation distances …. ?

So I would like to know how people determine how close is too close when they are anchoring? Rules of thumb?
The thing that most people are banking on in those conditions is the fact that if the rode is of chain, and conditions benign, the catenary in the chain is going to keep the boats on a short leash, which it often does until the wind or tide gets going. That's when the trouble starts. One way to observe your ground tackle and how it performs under varying conditions is to go over the side at various times in the day and see how far the chain has wandered over the bay. In easy conditions with a light boat, it surprised me how little the chain moves, hanging virtually straight down under the boat with little variation. But observation will give more confidence.


This may be somewhat but I think a great aid in these situations is a "kellet". A proprietory brand known as an "Anchor Buddy" is available. I made my own up out of lead collected from dead batteries and used the round end of a dive cylinder as a mould. Before the lead had set hard I inserted a "D" shape of stainless steel rod in it for a handle and another ring for attaching to the rode. I attach the thirty five pound hunk of lead to my chain road having set the anchor at the appropriate scope (which no doubt others will give advice on) and lower down my kellett on a separate line. When I feel it hit bottom I pull up on the line enough to ensure it is not resting on the bottom even at the bottom of the tide, thus there will always be tension pulling the boat up short (in average conditions) from its normal swinging arc. As you point out, the logistics of letting out the correct length rode is almost impossible given the sheer volumes of boats using the bays at certain times of the year, and you will no doubt have experienced as I have, the guy that comes in after you, anchors just off your stern and in the middle of the night when the inevitable bump happens- refuses to budge, with words like- " WELL, it's not going to do any damage to my" (steel) "boat!"

I always use it for overnighting, irrespective of how many others in the bay as it gives me peace of mind. It takes little time to deploy. One warning though is that it is a security aid. Nothing can replace having ground equipment of the right weight and design for your vessell as well as laying out the correct amount of rode for the size of boat, depth and tide/wind conditions. it should be used after you have done what is necessary for safe anchoring.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:27   #30
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Re: Safe Anchoring in Crowded Harbors

We resolved this problem many years ago by choosing alternate anchorages. Most cruisers look for an anchor icon in their charts/cruising guides and drop their hook among the crowd when there is a perfectly good anchorage a short distance away. Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean have unlimited anchorages in this category. If you study your charts bottom characteristics, potential swell, landmass protection, depth and prevailing winds you'll be surprised how many good spots are available as an alternate to the suggested anchorage. A good example is the anchorage off Chubb Cay in the Berrys/Bahamas which is shallow sand over coral and exposed to the South and West with a brutal roll and swell and legendary anchor dragging horror stories when a perfectly secure anchorage with good holding can be found behind Bird and Whale Cay. We have seen over fifty boats bashing and dragging in Chubb but rarely encountered another boat in Bird or Whale Cay. However, there was only one anchorage where we could not find a reliable alternative and that was in Venice, Florida where dodging half-derelict boats and terror stricken novices was the soup du jour. In this case, we dropped a short scope (4 to 1) and secured our fenders around the boat. We hung a lantern from the boom's end and kept our boat hook fully extended in the cockpit to fend off any potential drifters. Outside of that, there is really nothing else you can do to protect yourself and your boat. As a final remark, it has been our experience that the least considerate people in a crowded anchoring situation are usually those with half-derelict boats or worse who, we believe, are unconcerned about potential damage. And, usually when they are confronted will be the first to say "That's what you got insurance for, buddy . . . that's why you got insurance!" Good luck and good anchoring.
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