Dropping the hook in unfamiliar locations can throw up a number of problems. Pip Hare explains her wild anchoring technique

The further off the beaten track I have ventured, the more my definition of an ‘ideal’ anchorage has changed. Sometimes, to gain access to the shore or to find refuge from the weather, I’ve had to take whatever shelter nature has to offer and get creative with my own mooring techniques.

I once spent a week escaping the wrath of the Roaring Forties, strung up between the rocks in a caletta (small bay) on the Argentine coast. There was no room to swing and not enough runway to lay out a decent anchor, but it was the only available haven so we just adapted by securing multiple lines ashore. Here are some of the solutions I have used for wild anchoring.

Attaching to the shore

When the water is deep and the shore steeply shelving, it’s not always practical or possible to use anchors, so securing to land becomes the most viable alternative. The most common way to do this is by reversing towards the shore, dropping the bow anchor on the way so it’s pulling ‘uphill’ then running a couple of positioning lines ashore from the stern.

It’s not simple setting up these sorts of mooring systems and needs thought. If possible make a dinghy recce first, or set up land anchor points. It’s useful to have a variety of ways to fix to the shore. I used lengths of chain that could be secured around boulders, steel stakes hammered into soft ground (as used with canal boats), and webbing straps to wrap around trees.

Once anchored, one crew member will need to hold the boat in position against the anchor, while a dinghy takes positioning lines ashore; ideally use a floating line, paid out from a reel. If shore anchors have not already been put in place, quickly make off one line as a temporary mooring; if in an area with trees try a tensionless hitch.

This hitch uses friction alone and will work on any cylindrical object – simply wrap your rope around the tree trunk four or five times and leave. There’s no knot tying required so this can be done by any crew.

Narrow tidal channels

I try to avoid setting in-line bow and stern anchors as slack ground tackle can easily get caught under the boat. But, in narrow tidal channels with no room to swing, there may be no alternative. Anchors should be of equal size if possible; if one anchor is smaller or has inferior ground tackle, ensure you use extra scope to even out the holding capabilities.

Set your stern anchor first, dropping it from the stern then motoring forward to lay out the chain. You will need a double length rode when setting the anchor initially, so attach extra line if necessary. Motor into the tide to drop your bow anchor then fall back gently taking up on the stern as you go.

Using a stern bridle can help reduce the risk of the stern anchor snagging. Set up a length of line on one stern cleat, with a loop or snatch block in the end. Pass the anchor rope through the loop then make it off on the opposite cleat, trimming the first piece of line to spread the load across both cleats.

Attaching a fender to the bridle can help prevent line from drifting under the transom. When lying on the bow anchor, the current should carry the fender and slack anchor line away from the back of the boat.

The Bahamian moor

A variation on this wild anchoring method is the Bahamian moor, which combines the ‘V’ method of anchoring. Set your anchors fore and aft as previously described, but once in your final position take the stern anchor chain up to the bow.

To avoid chain rubbing on the topsides the stern anchor can be attached using a shackle or rolling hitch to the bow anchor chain, then lower the join into the water just under the bow.

If choosing this method ensure there is enough room for your boat to lie to wind at slack water and watch for anchor chains twisting around each other at the turn of the tide.

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Anchoring for swell

Anchoring when there is a beam-on swell can be totally miserable and even induce seasickness. The obvious solution to this problem is to find a more comfortable place to stop. However, where that is not possible, then try positioning the boat into the swell rather than the wind.

Anchor to the wind using plenty of chain and take time to ensure this primary anchor is well dug in. Set a smaller anchor using the dinghy from your windward quarter to position the boat bow into the swell. When using this set-up ensure your small anchor is free to drop quickly in the event of an emergency and always consider your escape route.

Escape routes

  • Whenever wild anchoring in tight spaces and with multiple anchors you need to consider the ‘what ifs’. Think about what would happen if conditions changed, and make an escape plan.
  • I always ensure secondary anchors are buoyed with a tripping line and attached to the boat using rope that can be quickly released or cut in an emergency. Secondary anchors are always smaller with less substantial ground tackle. This ensures that if the whole system is put under pressure it is the secondary anchor that will drag.
  • If other boats come into your anchorage make sure they know where your primary anchor is set, if you are not lying to the wind. This will avoid any positioning problems should a secondary anchor let go.
  • Above all, be prepared to drop it all and leave if conditions change rapidly; you can always return in the dinghy once conditions are safe.

First published in the April 2018 edition of Yachting World.