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Old 27-07-2021, 19:45   #1
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Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

I started cruising in 2016 and pretty much cut my teeth using Active Captain to plan my routes / anchorages. Growing up in the digital age I think I've gotten a bit spoiled, because I'm hesitant to anchor anywhere outside of the pins. Can I really anchor just about anywhere?

That being said, what are some things to look for when planning an anchoring spot by only looking at chart? Some things that come off the top of my mind:

Type of bottom
Protection from swell / wind
Bottom contour
Restricted areas (pipelines, etc.)

What do you look for in a good anchorage?
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Old 27-07-2021, 20:18   #2
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

Good list. I'll add entrance/access, land contours, proximity to desirable locations.

On the "avoid" list is anything with lots of anchor markers in something like Active Captain[emoji6].

I'm being a bit a smart @ss here, but the problem with relying on crowd sourced guides is you are following the crowd. Whenever possible I prefer to anchor away from crowds.
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Old 27-07-2021, 22:14   #3
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

At least in my area the NOAA charts are still pretty accurate, in terms of everything on your list. Your list is correct. If I see "rky" on the chart, I avoid that area or at least I don't anchor unless I can see the bottom, or if I am suspicious of rocks, I'll add a trip line. (I see folks anchor in the rocks here with new generation anchors and they seem to be able to get them up, but I have jammed a CQR once and it required I dive down to attach a trip line. I'd prefer not do that again.)
It really helps to get local knowledge when you can, no need to be shy about it. Ask around when you pull into a new anchorage. Cruising guides for an area are really helpful often too, but in areas where there is a lot of change I'd be asking locals first.
You might consider getting an old fashioned lead line too, with the recess in the bottom to put a dollop of, well, paraffin, but I think butter or cream cheese work better, to get a sample of the bottom when you want to know what's down there. I actually pulled mine out last trip, but then I could see the anchor fall on sand and it set well, so I was satisfied.

I personally look for protection from swells over wind. I'm ok with wind; some places here can be windy, but protected from swell, which is fine with me. I look for sand over every other kind of bottom, of course. I look for (relatively) flat bottom topography. (If you anchor on a steep slope of sand for example, unless you are sure you will always be pulling upslope, you may drag.)
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Old 28-07-2021, 04:41   #4
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

All good suggestions - when we started sailing in our current area we didn't know any better and didn't know anybody who could tell us where to anchor, so we used this approach and started exploring.

Now I'm surprised from time to time when it appears that I've discovered new anchorages - none of the old timers use them because they aren't on the list of "places people go."

Like Mike says, this will get you to the less crowded places.
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Old 28-07-2021, 06:23   #5
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

We don't use Active Captain much because of the coverage in our cruising areas, but there is still plenty of information available on the popular anchorages.

However, modern anchoring gear has improved enormously and much of the information, even the crowd sourced data, relates to the "good old days" of anchor technology. With modern anchoring gear many of the locations listed as "poor holding" or "suitable for a temporary anchorage only" tend to be our favourite spots. This opens up a tremendous number of anchorages. If it is a particularly beautiful location there may be other boats anchored, but they will typically disappear to seek safer ground before nightfall.

You do need to careful. Modern anchors do not offer any advantage in rock, but in other substrates such as hard sand and weed modern anchors are safer where older models such as the venerable CQR or plow anchor designs struggle. In addition, uptake of powerful electric anchor windlasses has enabled cruising yachts with even a small crew to handle large anchors (improving holding, including holding at short scopes and most poor substrates) and lots of chain, opening up deeper locations for even smaller cruising boats.
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Old 28-07-2021, 07:00   #6
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

I just look at the chart only. Not guides. I find a spot protected from the expected weather (swells especially and wind) and also make sure it’s protected from boaters not paying attention and wakes.

I particularly like to put rocks and land between me and the vessel traffic to be sure no one can come flying in at night and not see me. I hide behind natural features.

I also check to see where I can land a dinghy if we are going ashore.

Naturally, all underwater hazards are considered too, as well as depth. I like me a shallow anchorage so I don’t have to deal with hauling too much chain. Ha ha

Simple as that.
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Old 28-07-2021, 07:09   #7
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

One little tip when cruising steep rocky shorelines as in much of Turkey, for example: I look for obvious canyons or valleys indicating drainage of rain water. On even the rockiest of shorelines, you're likely to find some usable substrate where there is even occasional runoff.
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Old 28-07-2021, 07:24   #8
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

Gunkholing in the Chesapeake, I mostly anchor where others have marked in Active Captain, which is partly from some anxiety that I end up anchoring in a restricted area despite having carefully reviewed the charts. Still, I did anchor twice recently in "new, unmarked" areas. One worked out well. One was horrible and I had to leave. I added an Active Captain note there.

My favorite anchorage is marked in Active Captain, and has reviews with titles like "Great anchorage, but don't tell anyone!" The seclusion and privacy are its greatest features.
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Old 28-07-2021, 08:30   #9
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

Unity your list is a good one. But as almost every other responder has said it's regional advice. "In Turkey we often..." "Gunkholing in the Chesapeake...", etc.

If I was cruising to an area I'd never been to before I'd probably stay between the pins and go exploring with the dinghy. If I'd been there before, I'd probably get a little more experimental because I know the bottom and I've observed the new spot at low tide.

Here in the Pacific Northwest one of our biggest deterrents is shelf rocks. Once on our way up the Inside Passage we anchored and then stern tied to land. At low tide we were almost in a cradle of rock just feet below the water and by sheer dumb luck we had chosen the one right spot.

So if it's your home grounds get a little daring, if not, err on the side of caution and wait out a full tidal change.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts...
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Old 28-07-2021, 09:37   #10
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

BEWARE THE ANCHOR ICON!!! Many years ago I anchored in the Tobago Keys in a beautiful and empty spot. As the afternoon wore on bare-boat after bare-boat came in and anchored very near me. They all left in the morning but the next afternoon the same thing happened. I was surrounded by bare-boats while the rest of the vast anchorage remained empty. When it happen on the third afternoon, I approached one of the bare-boat skippers and asked him why he had anchored where he did. He showed me the chart provided by the charter company which featured a large anchor icon exactly where I had dropped my hook. I moved a quarter of a mile away the next morning and spent the next few nights in peaceful solitude watching the bare-boats anchor as close as possible to their designated anchor spot.
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Old 28-07-2021, 10:36   #11
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

I'd like to add one slightly different slant to the conversation.

Just because you can anchor somewhere, doesn't mean you should anchor somewhere.

Here in the Caribbean, coral has been devastated by bleaching and over zealous cruisers anchoring. So it's not enough to find your patch of sand to set the hook. You must think about where the scope drags when the load is not on the boat. You may have good holding, but wipe out a patch of coral that is struggling to survive. Likewise the turtles need the grass, so try not to rip up too much grass, just because your modern anchor can set in it.

The designated, widely known anchorages are generally ripped up already. please think about these points before setting in a new spot
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Old 28-07-2021, 15:19   #12
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
........... Whenever possible I prefer to anchor away from crowds.
I like this uncrowded choice also; however, I notice that there is a tendency to cluster. We often took short cruising days with an early anchorage with much space. Sometimes we would wake the next morning with half a dozen boats close to us and the rest of the area empty. It's as if the next boat coming into the bay sees one boat anchored and thinks, "that must be the best place,- we'll anchor next to them." .... then a third and the fifth!
Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 28-07-2021, 15:40   #13
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

I don’t use active captain. I continually expand my comfortable anchoring area. I try to anchor where others wonder how the heck I got in there. The dingy is key to scoping an Anchorage.
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Old 29-07-2021, 06:49   #14
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

For many the lure of sailing is finding out what is over the horizon, aka exploring. Tools, Good binocs, reasonable charts, smarts, curiosity. compass, sextant.

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Old 29-07-2021, 07:04   #15
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Re: Anchoring away from the "anchor" icons

I use AC, but more for marina reviews and such. I determine my own anchor spots.
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anchor, anchoring

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