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The Anchor

The anchor and chain are an important safety device and should be ready to deploy at any time.  Knowing where the controls and the breakers are located is important because when you need to anchor in a hurry, you can't be running around looking for the control or activating the switch.

Keep the control handy or connected when under way, and it is not a bad idea to turn on the windlass power when under way.  Then, if you have drive failure or wrap a line in the prop in a seaway or near a lee shore, you can deploy the hook quickly.  Failing that, the anchor can be dropped manually, but care must be taken handling the chain to prevent personal injury.


Itís a common temptation to tie up to a dock because youíre nervous about spending the night at anchor, but itís a temptation well worth resisting. If you are conscientious and careful, anchoring can give your an experience of the coast and intimacy that raucous and crowded docks just canít match.

These tips should help, as will paying attention to the charts and getting local advice.  Make sure you choose your anchorage well.

A good anchorage should offer:

  • Sufficient depth ó Check the Tide and Current Tables and make an exploratory cruise around the anchorage watching the depth sounder and with a bow watch posted if in doubt.  The dinghy can come in handy for this, too.

  • Shelter from the wind and waves ó Listen to the weather; whatís sheltered now may not be in the morning.

  • Cassiopeia has a heavy, new generation primary anchor that is quick setting and handles reversing currents better than many anchors and a Fortress secondary that works well in soft bottoms 

  • Look for good holding ground avoid rocks and weeds.  The bottom type is sometimes shown on the charts, but often not.  One way to tell is to listen to the anchor chain as you set the anchor.  Rumbling and jerky motion indicates rock.  The anchor should set almost instantly in mud or sand.  Weeds may be visible.

  • Swing room ó Try to fit in with the boats that are already there, and look for rocks or other natural features that you may swing into.   Consider a stern tie if space is constrained.

  • If you arrive at slack water on a day with little wind, boats already anchored may be drifting around and scattered at all angles.  The real position of their anchors may be impossible to guess. 

  • Anchor as best you can and keep a watch.  Once the current or wind straightens the neighbouring boats out, re-anchoring may be necessary.

  • Consult the tide and current tables.  The direction of the current will change over night.  Plan on it.  The wind may also shift.

  • Sufficient scope ó Use a minimum of 3:1 for a temporary stay and 5:1 or more for overnight in accordance with the situation and keeping in mind what the neighbours are using.  Using a different scope from the neighbours could foul other boats or result in collisions if the tide or winds turn.  

    Remember to include the charted depth, the maximum expected tide and the bow height when calculating the scope.

    Don't confuse feet and metres.  It is easy to do.  Chain is in feet and depth in Canada is usually in metres.

    Remember: the reading on the depth sounder is under the keel.  Add about 3 metres to that number to estimate the depth from the anchor roller.

    Example: Depth sounder reads 5 metres.  Actual drop from anchor roller to bottom is about 8 metres.

    165 feet of chain is sufficient to anchor overnight in only about 7 metres of water with 5:1 scope at low tide if a two-metre tide is expected overnight.

    5:1 scope x (7m depth +2m tide +1m freeboard) x 3.1 feet/metre
    = 155 feet of chain

    Lunch stops at 3:1 scope can be in up to 15 metres depth although a rising tide will shorten the scope over a few hours.

  • When youíre setting the anchor, pay out the chain slowly while you back up so that the chain does not just pile up and foul the anchor.

  • Back down slowly as you pay out the rode.  Anchors may skip along and not get a chance to set if pulled too quickly over the bottom.

  • When setting the Rocna, be aware that it is very grabby and may set very suddenly, giving a jolt.  Back down from it slowly and carefully.

  • Once the anchor is set, and brings the boat to a stop, test your holding. Make sure the chain is taut, then give a good steady pull at part throttle in reverse and watch trees or rocks on the shore relative to one another.

  • If the chain is taut and the scenery and other boats appear to move while you are pulling, then the anchor is dragging and it is you and the boat that are moving.  Try again, increase scope if necessary, weigh anchor and try anchoring again elsewhere on the bottom -- or go elsewhere.

  • If you have an anchor alarm on a handheld GPS or your phone, set it appropriately.  The c80 has an anchor alarm, but the unit does draw current from the boat's battery.

Setting a Stern Line

In many anchorages, swing room is limited not just by other boats but by natural features. In these places itís wise to set a stern line.  Reversing currents may make this a wise decision as well.  The Fortress is known to work well with a straight pull, but may not reset well in reversing currents.  The Rocna has a reputation for resetting itself well, but consider the bottom.  Resetting in mud or sand may be immediate, but on rock this is less certain.

  • You have 400 feet of stern line that can make a self-retrieving tie of of less than 200 feet or a longer non-self-retrieving tie .  Longer ties are sometimes necessary, but less desirable for a number of reasons, including greater movement and swing.

  • Position the boat exactly where you want to come to rest.

  • Motor forward as far as necessary to lay out the scope you decided on.

  • Bring the boat to a stop and lower the anchor.  Back away slowly.

  • Set and test the anchor as above

  • Tie the stern line to a cleat and take the other end ashore in the dinghy.

  • If within 200 feet of the boat, pass one end of the stern line around a tree, through a ring, etc.  and take the line back to the boat tighten it until the boat is in position.  Otherwise, just tie the line and coil the surplus.

  •  Avoid anything that might snag or chafe the line as the boat changes position.

  •  Adjust the anchor rode and/or stern line as necessary to get the boat in the right position.

  • Let out a little slack to reduce tension on the stern line and anchor rode

  • Cleat the line and coil the surplus.

  • This way you can release one end and retrieve the line without having to go back ashore.

  • For the sake of courtesy, please attach a cloth, float or white fender on the line while going ashore so that other boaters can see it.

The Windlass

Retrieving the anchor in calm or mild conditions is quite simple.  Regardless of what some say, as long as the chain hangs vertical, there is no need to power forward with the engine.  As the chain is pulled in, it will eventually angle out from the bow ten or twenty degrees. 

Up until that point, there should be no strain on the windlass and the weight of the chain will pull the boat forward.  Sometimes the chain is just in a pile on the bottom.  However, when the angle increases to twenty degrees (a foot forward from the straight up and down hanging position), the load on the winch increases, so stop winching and wait.  In calm water, the weight of the chain will pull the boat steadily forward until the chain is again vertical at which time the winching can resume. 

Continue with this until either the anchor appears just below the boat or until the chain goes taught.

If the anchor appears with no problems, slow down and make sure it is properly aligned before winching it the final distance onto the roller.

If there is wind or current, this may not work and then it is necessary to power the boat over the chain to keep it vertical while winching. 

Never, never strain on a taught chain.  The winch will not stand for that. It is designed to quickly lift up the chain and anchor, but not pull against any serious resistance.

If the chain goes taught when vertical, then the anchor is caught on the bottom and further attempts to winch will quickly burn out the windlass and possibly embed the anchor worse than it is.

To attempt to recover the anchor, put on a strong snubber to protect the winch and try motoring back and forth, then let out some chain and try motoring away at various angles around the anchor to dislodge it.  Be sure to protect the windlass from shocks and excessive force while doing all this.  It makes no sense to destroy the windlass and/or its mounts and then have to abandon the ground tackle anyhow.  The anchor can be recovered by a diver for moderate cost, but a damaged windlass will cost big money.

Sliding a short loop of chain attached to a stout rope down the rode onto the shank can work to lift the anchor by its back end, but that requires a.) a short piece of chain and b.) a lot of patience and luck.  Usually, a diver is the best answer.

If nothing works, let out all the chain and attach a buoy such as a fender or two to act a as a marker float, then untie the chain from the boat.  Test to make sure the floats will support the chain before letting go by tying a light line to the buoys to hold while testing.  In deeper water, there is more chain weight to support.

Call the Cooper office for advice and find a diver to retrieve the ground tackle.   A call on the radio might find someone nearby with tanks and gear willing to dive.  The anchor and chain are worth around $2,000.  The windlass, about the same.


Mooring balls are available in many popular anchorages and offer a secure and reliable way to anchor in crowded bays.  Many balls are private and marked as such, but many are public and available to anyone for a small fee -- much less than a marina -- during the summer busy season, and often free in the fall, winter and spring off-season.

Mooring balls are attached to large, permanent anchors by chain and all the boater has to do is find one, motor up to it, and pick up the ring, then thread two mooring lines through in opposite directions to form a bridle and tie off the ends to cleats.

There is no need to worry about dragging or swing radius as there is when anchoring.  Water depth in mooring fields is always sufficient, even at low tide, eliminating the fear of guessing wrong. Mooring  balls in parks are inspected and serviced regularly in our region, and failures are extremely  uncommon.

The only difficult part to mooring on a ball, other than finding a one not in use on a busy weekend is picking up the ring.  The job can be quite trying if the ring will not lift or the wind and current are strong.

Cassiopeia has a device to make the job easier.  Read the instructions and practice a bit ahead of time, then catching a ball will be something to look forward to, not dread.

Click each instruction page to enlarge


If that gadget does not work for you, take a long dock line and cleat one end on a bow cleat.  Pass the line under and over the lifelines as needed and hold the bitter end, making a large loop.  Throw the loop over the ball, let it sink, then pull in the bitter end to bring the buoy close enough that you can either lift it or thread your two bridle lines through the bale.  Pull carefully.  If the line slips off the ball, try flipping an extra turn around the ball.  Cleat the bitter end if you are drifting while you do this.  Once properly moored, simply release the bitter end and pull your dock line back aboard.

If you have to lift a ball to thread it, be careful not to scratch the boat with the barnacles that are on many balls.


Marinas are a popular overnight destination.  Tying to a dock provides security and allows the crew to come and go freely without having to negotiate to use the dinghy. 

A vast selection of marinas, with phone and web details can be found in the marina guide.  There are several copies on the boat.

Be sure to phone ahead to reserve.  They will ask the boat type and length.  You can take your chances and just show up, but you may be turned away.  If you are, offer to anchor nearby, listen on the radio and wait.  They do get cancellations and if you are right there, you'll get preference.

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While the information provided here is believed to be correct at time of publication, errors are possible
and things may change, so readers should verify details before making important decisions.

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