Friday, April 8, 2011

Anchoring Without Angst

Not "is it going to hold?" That would supply fodder for an entire blog. There are published test results, but on what bottom, what rode, set how, through what conditions, with what boat?

Rather, I'm talking about inter-family angst. Sailing should be peaceful.

Anchoring is straight forward for the solo sailor, when it's not crowded or blowing hard; stop, drop the hook, let the boat drift back with the wind, and power set when you get to it. If it is complicated, the solo sailor anchors further away. Planning, including alternatives, is the key. Generally very peaceful and always quiet.

The yelling and screaming, on the other hand, requires crew and poor communication. Something goes wrong and there's blame to be shifted. In extreme cases, marriages are strained; silly to stew over a moment's frustration, but that's the way it is.

My family's moved past this; even when the bottom is uncooperative or the space is tight, we keep it quiet.
  • We have a plan. While on the approach, we talk about where we are going to put the boat, the approach, and who's doing what.
  • Signals. Over the wind and engines little can be heard without yelling, and yelling always sounds like anger or panic, even when it is neither. Better to signal, since the messages are simple.

When first backing down, as the rode is laid out, I usually give a simple verbal instruction; astern at idle for 2-3 seconds only. Just enough to get the boat coasting backwards. After that I will use hand signals to direct power setting, if it is to be dune immediately; often in soft mud I will wait a few minutes to an hour before pulling hard.

Adapted from standard rigging signals, these are easier to see than the more popular hand-waving signals, which are often ambiguous if the signaler is turned, swaying, stooped over, and fooling with the anchor windlass. Our windlass controls are up front, so there is no need for raise or lower signals (our ahead and astern signals are used for hoist up and down when used with a crane). Often 2 signals are combined (ahead slow and port, neutral and port, astern and starboard, etc.).

 What's your plan?

PS. It's worth telling all aboard that a loud voice does not equate to anger or panic, only a need to be heard over the wind and engine.


  1. Very nice signals. We don't have a system yet, and I think I just found one! Do you have a higher resolution jpg of your signals? I'd like to print out a few copies. I don't have a marriage to break -- which means I have to work harder to keep my first mate happy!



  2. Sorry, that's the best image I have. I swiped an image from the net and added my own text. Google crane + signals and see what you can find.

    Even more important is discussing the plan before anchoring or docking, going slow, abandoning an approach if it is not working, and not sweating a little dock rash. Value a relationship over a shiny boat, every day.