You have probably seen it dozens of times in movies. You find a spot, drop anchor, and boom, that’s it, time to enjoy sunbathing, snorkeling or what have you. But, anchoring your yacht any boat for that matter, is not quite that simple! In fact, the larger your vessel, the more complicated it becomes!

Knowing how to safely and securely anchor your vessel is a vital boating skill. Of course anchors and anchoring equipment will vary from boat to boat, however, here are the essentials of this very important task!

Anchor Basics

The first thing you need to know is where your anchor is located, and the basic components of the anchoring system. On most yachts or cruisers, the anchor will be stowed in an anchor well that is usually beneath the foredeck at the bow of the boat.

Larger vessels such as a motor yacht, will likely have what is called a Danforth or “plow” anchor, while smaller boats usually use the simpler, “mushroom” design. You need to be able to identify the anchor rode. The rode is the line that attaches the anchor to the boat. On any yacht of appreciable size, the anchor rode may be all chain. On most recreational craft, it is generally comprised of rope with a trace of chain. Together, the anchor, rode, and shackles make up the “ground tackle.”

Picking Where to Anchor

Chose a spot to drop anchor that is protected from the wind and waves by land or offshore reefs. The area should also be away from boat traffic. If you are anchoring in a spot where it is common for other boats to stop as well, be sure you leave enough space between your boat and others. An anchored boat is not a stationary object! Wind and current will cause boats to swing and sway when anchored.

Anchoring Your Vessel

You need to prepare your anchor before you lower it. You should know the depth you will be anchoring in before you move into position to drop anchor. This way you will know how much rode you’ll need to let out.

Don’t forget to add the distance from the bow of the boat and the top of the water to the depth, to determine how far your bow is from the seabed. Multiplying the total by 5 will tell you how much rode you’ll need for calm conditions during the day. If the weather is harsher, or you plan on anchoring overnight, multiply it by 7 to 10.  This is called determining the “scope ratio.”

Once you are in position, stop your boat and lower the anchor quickly, using the windlass, until you feel it reach the bottom. Put the boat’s engine in slow reverse.  Let out the anchor line while the boat backs away. Once it’s fully deployed, the boat should come to a halt, securely settling at anchor. Now “back down” by throttling up in reverse to make sure the anchor is set, and not dragging along the bottom. If the anchor line shows a V-shaped wake while backing down, the anchor is dragging. Let out more until it digs in.

Anchoring Maintenance Issues

The anchor windlass is the machine that lowers and raises your yacht’s anchor. A malfunctioning windlass is a common boat breakdown. Usually a windlass will stop working due to water getting into the electrical controls. Windlasses also break down when they are strained beyond their limits. This can happen when the anchor gets stuck, and you put too much strain on the windlass trying to free it up. That can break the seal under the winch, and allow water to seep into the motor. You, or the person responsible for the maintenance of your yacht, needs to be sure that the windlass is checked regularly for any signs of rust or corrosion on the motor or its controls. If you see rust, that means you have a leak somewhere. If it is not attended to, you can be facing a costly repair.

Protecting Your Anchor System and Everything Else

Like every system on your yacht, an anchor and windlass is something you just expect to work, and not pay too much attention to – until something goes wrong. You do not want to get stuck with an anchor that won’t deploy or retract properly when you are out cruising!

That is where having your yacht in our On Demand service program, or part of our Charter Fleet can help. In either scenario, your boat will be under a strict program of routine maintenance, and you can always be assured that all of her critical systems are functioning properly before you, “weigh anchor” and leave the marina!


Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at  (954) 900-9968.