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Confined Anchoring

"Hard starboard. Anchor’s let go! Mind your heads, main’s coming down. Ease the jib sheets, jib halyard off. Bring her head to wind!" Were the orders around the deck as my favorite East Coaster at the helm brought Sally to anchor in our traditional downwind anchoring maneuver under sail, called a “club haul’. “Well done, let’s harbor furl the main and rig our anchor riding reef. I can use a hand forward deck-flaking the jib”. Then, just as I was about to order the crew to 'splice the main brace' for a job well done, I heard an ever-familiar cry from the distance:

"Skipper - how much chain do you have out?”


"About 175 feet." I yelled back over to the Island Packet about 50 yards off our port bow.

"You don't have enough room to swing with that much chain out!" The novice skipper from Tempe, Arizona shouted back.


“I’ll keep a close watch as we settle back, it will be fine." I reassured him.


"You’re too close!” he bristled – “there is no way this safe..." he went on.


"Ok, let’s 'splice the main brace' and let this guy cool off while we wet our whistle. “Cheers! Great job, as always, anchoring under sail" I complimented the crew’s great teamwork getting to Emerald Bay on Catalina safely.


"Hey Krabby" piped in my favorite East Coaster, "What is the protocol for an anchorage like this? Why is the Tempe guy losing his cool? He is so far away that we can barely hear him."


"Great questions. Usually it's LIFO (last in, first out). In our situation, we have the burden to not foul him and to pick up and move if it looks like we will.


Novice boaters often lose it because they don't have the experience to see the perspective of the distance between their boat, other boats, and the shore. From the perspective of your boat everything looks too close - but if you were to move away in your tender, and change your perspective. All of a sudden you see that there is plenty of room when you are equidistant from both objects.


Additionally, in our situation – I suspect Mr. Tempe may not understand – that we are down wind and down current so we are not going to drag anchor into him; and with only 175' of chain out in 50' of water it’s doubtful we will close our distance of separation if we swing."


Sure, it’s a little tight here - but look at the rest of the boats, it’s tight for everyone. This is no surprise when you are cruising Catalina in the summer". I started my answer as I reached for my well-earned refreshment.


"Oh yeah? This is nothing compared to cruising on the Sound during the season" said the East Coaster.


“You are right, there are a lot more boats in a smaller place there. It would be a different scenario today if we had weather, but not this afternoon. Look, our chain is hanging straight down. There’s not much of a chance of an afternoon thunder squall here. There's a better chance of a rum squall," I said.


"Especially on this boat!" chimed in my Editor as she sipped her dark and stormy.


"Ok, but we don't even have 4:1 scope out - we could drag even if a little breeze came up" said the East Coaster.


"Yes, we will let a bit more chain out, as soon as we settle back against what we dumped on the bottom - otherwise we could make a pile that could foul our anchor before we settle back on it," I said as I took some bearings to gauge our position.


“I’ve anchored my fair share of racing buoys and small boats for race committee - but is there more involved in anchoring a heavy boat, like Sally?” asked my Editor, “It seems to be more art than science." she continued.


"Not exactly, the science is somewhat straight-forward physics, the East Coaster can explain that better than me with her engineering background, but there is the experience factor that comes into play. So you have to get out there and do it - and if you can learn from someone who has the experience, even better.”


“The physics of how the anchor and rode work are basic scientific principles,” explained the East Coaster, “but when the dynamics come into play, the seamanship I have learned over the years has made all the difference. It’s important to understand the basics. Catenary is the curve that is made from the sag of the rode (chain in our case). The angle of attachment of the anchor on the bottom is related to scope, or the length of rode to the water depth. The desire is to provide adequate scope with a properly sized chain, or combination of chain and line, in order to achieve a low angle of pull on the anchor. Experiencing it here in real-time and understanding what's happening is key - then you can anchor like our Skipper in tight quarters under full-sail with no problem" added the East Coaster between swallows of her rum and tonic.


Just then our conversation was interrupted by a loudspeaker aimed at us from our new friend from Tempe announcing that we were too close and he was going to move, because we ruined his spot.


"Too bad for him that he doesn't get it, I wonder if he'll ever learn," said the East Coaster.


“Remember our bet about cruising around Southern California from a couple months ago?" She continued, "This place is beautiful, but guys like that ruin it. I might be buying you one of those Buffalo Milk drinks but you might have some payback after our trip to the Sound."

“Ok, fair enough. But, there are novices everywhere and it's our duty as experienced sailors to share our knowledge - if they will let us."

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