Securing a small boat between pilings in a wrong-sized slip is a common challenge. The dock line angles from the dolphins (outlying pilings) are too narrow for a beam wind, allowing the boat to dance around, increasing forces, chafe, and even making it difficult to stand in the cockpit. During a recent winter near-gale we measured dockline forces on several smaller boats that reached four times higher than the static wind load. If the recommended size dockline was used, the rope would be operating beyond its working load limit in real storms and could fail. Increasing the line diameter would result in more jerking and chafe.
Again we speak heresy! Practical Sailor has published at least four articles explaining why stretchy nylon bridles and snubbers are vital. But if the rode is nylon instead of chain, this no longer applies. The rode provides all the impact absorption we need, perhaps more than we need. By analogy, a bridle should function like an anti-sway bar on an automobile, keeping the boat centered.
Even when your anchor is well designed and ideally matched to your boat, there are four common factors that can cause an anchor to drag: poor bottom, short scope, insufficient shock absorption, and yawing. Each of these reduces the holding capacity of the anchor, and they are additive. That is to say that any one of them can ruin your day, solving only one or two of them does not ensure good holding, and the more problems you solve, the better youll sleep.
I really appreciated the article Anchoring in Crowded Harbors (see Practical Sailor, June 2019). The difficult and critical part is always estimating distances, and the guides you gave (two-to-three mast heights, using fractions of a nautical mile, etc.) can be difficult to do accurately in a crowded harbor with the sun setting, with some of that information available only at the helm, and multiple boats moving to anchor. As a bow hunter, I am…
A big rollbar-style anchor on a bow roller is now synonymous with cruising. They are efficient in many types of bottoms and reliably rotate or reset when the wind and tide change. Unfortunately, they are shaped awkward and are difficult to stow anywhere other than a bow roller. Lacking this, many smaller boats, both sail and power, are forced to store the anchor in either a shallow bow locker, a snag-prone railing bracket, or in a lazarette.
We often get questions about anchoring rights. While it is commonly understood that the first boat arriving in an anchorage has privileges, many see this as a matter of etiquette, but it is also a legal issue. The below citations are from the case Juniata 124 F. 861 US Admiralty Court, E.D. Virginia, 1903. Other rulings we reviewed generally agree.]
Over the years Practical Sailor has conducted dozens of anchor tests, and like many publications, weve repeated the common guidance that cruising sailors should buy an anchor that is at least one size larger than what the maker recommends for your size vessel.
One of all-chain rodes most popular features among cruising sailors has little to do with anchoring-and everything to do with stowing. With a well-designed bow roller, windlass, hawse hole, and chain locker, your rode and anchor will deploy and stow belowdecks faster and with far less effort than nylon rode requires. But for a smaller boat without a windlass or deep chain locker, an all-chain rode is often impractical. Even cruising sailors who are perfectly equipped for all-chain anchoring often find that their nylon secondary anchor better is suited for some anchoring situations.