Setting the anchor is a skill. It is a combination of knowledge, practice, and technology. Entire books have been written about anchoring. Petabytes of online discussion forums have been consumed by the topic. Hundreds of thousands of seadog-years have been spent in devoted conversations that still leave questions dissatisfyingly unanswered. In the end, anchoring remains an emotional topic with sailors, many of whom believe it is a dark art and treat it as such.
Carol and I learned to anchor together on our honeymoon in Greece. Until that point, we’d sailed for a couple of weeks in the San Juan Islands and used state park mooring buoys. Neither of us knew anything about med-mooring (i.e. docking stern to the quay); an exercise that involves dropping your anchor as you reverse into a space too narrow for the beam of your boat. After a couple of trial runs, we found a buoy to practice on in Katapola harbour. There we worked out a series of hand signals and agreed on who does what (see Aleta: Drag Queen). Independent observers have complimented us on our teamwork. Together we make sure Aleta is set.
Different nationalities approach anchoring differently. For the purpose of this study we concentrate on sailboat anchoring technique and exclude stink-pot jockeys (who are universally clueless about anchoring).
The British Set
- Drop in a sandy spot whenever possible.
- Ensure there’s enough room in every direction so you won’t hit anything if the wind shifts.
- Let out enough rode (chain or rope) so the scope (length) is at least 3X the depth of the water if it is calm. Let out 5X or more scope if the wind is likely to kick up.
- Back down (reverse the boat) until the anchor bites and your rearwards progress stops.
- Rev the motor in reverse to about 2/3 flank speed to simulate a strong breeze and check the hold.
- If you don’t move, you’re all set.
- Turn on an anchor alarm anyway. You just never know.
- Go below and make a nice cup of tea.
The German Set
- Invade other boaters’ personal space, but not dangerously.
- Follow the process outlined above.
- When set, pour a schnapps to celebrate.
- Optionally: defy the Teutonic heavy metal stereotype and play The Archie’s “Sugar, Sugar” through your loudhailer.
The Spanish Set
- Start by chartering the biggest boat you can find. The minimum is 50′ at the waterline.
- Ensure your anchor is half the size it should be.
- Arrive at your anchorage in near total darkness.
- Drop your anchor and chain anywhere you like. It doesn’t matter how much chain. If you end up too close to another boat, hasta mañana.
- Go below and open a nice Rioja.
The French Set
- Enter the anchorage as fast as the boat allows.
- Drive directly up to the stern of another boat and drop your anchor one metre off its transom.
- Reverse until you’re two metres off the bow of the boat behind you.
- Go below and open three bottles of Burgundy. The wine must breathe after all.
The Italian Set
- Enter the anchorage like a Frenchman.
- Locate your chosen anchoring spot and start releasing the chain as you drive forwards.
- Once you’ve released an indeterminate amount of rode, kill the engine and let nature take care of the rest.
- Open a case of Asti Spumanti and party with the 11 other people on board until 3am.
The Danish Set (as observed in the Azores)
- Ensure your dinghy anchor is attached to the bow of your 55’ heavy, full keeled boat.
- Anchor in 30’ of water with 35’ of chain rode.
- When the forecast calls for gusts of 30 knots, leave your boat and head to the bar.
- As your boat drags through the mooring field towards the breakwater, let your English/American neighbours board your boat and start the engine (with the keys you thoughtfully left in the ignition).
- Feign disbelief and deny such a thing has ever happened before when answering the question, ‘Dude! WTF?!”.
Notes: This analysis is based on observations made in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe. It may not represent the whole of any given nation’s anchoring abilities. We will continue updating this list as we gather more data.