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Marenauta Blog
the blog of the sea

Fouled anchor in the bay: How to solve the problem

– 7 November 2023 – Life on board

Life on board

Fouled anchor in the bay: How to solve the problem

Finding yourself anchored in a bay with your anchor fouled on another’s is one of the most frustrating and challenging situations for a cruising crew to resolve. It happens that during the anchoring maneuver or simply while at anchor, as other boats arrive, our anchor may get hooked onto the chain or rope of another vessel. There are various devices available in the market that prevent this kind of issue, but in any case, it can also be resolved without these devices with a bit of patience and some sailor’s tricks.


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Anchoring safety and respecting the others

A good anchoring rule is to never anchor too close to another boat; likewise, if you are already anchored and another vessel arrives to anchor nearby, you should signal them to move away if they try to drop their anchor too close to you. Remember, it’s your right to alert them to keep a distance if you think your anchors might tangle. However, even though everyone likes to have a secluded anchoring spot to themselves, you shouldn’t let out so much anchor chain that other boats can’t come within 50 meters of you. A compromise between anchoring safety and space management must be found, respecting other boaters as well.

In case your anchor gets tangled with another in strong wind, a crew member should remain on deck to keep an eye on the situation. If you or they get tangled, it’s best to be patient and cooperative, postponing any complaints until the situation is resolved. Make sure both boats are stable and any immediate risks to people or the hull are addressed, such as damages below the waterline. To prevent further dragging, the boat that didn’t drag or was there first should let out more chain. The boat that dragged or crossed the cable should then move forward at least 10 meters ahead of your boat and then back up from the side of their anchor.

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How to free a fouled anchor by yourself

To free a fouled anchor, you typically need just a rope and a boat hook. First, move away from your anchorage very slowly, trying to position the boat directly above the chain. Use the windlass to haul up the anchor as much as possible. As it rises, the person handling the anchor will feel vibrations; don’t worry, this means the other chain is sliding over ours. Then, take a rope and tie one end to a fairlead. On the other end, tie a bowline and lower it down to meet the chain under which our anchor is caught. With the boat hook, fish for the bowline, ensuring that our rope passes under the chain, creating a loop. Once the bowline is aboard, tighten the rope as much as possible and secure it to a fairlead.

Now, we can pay out a bit of chain and thereby free our anchor, securing it on the bow roller. To completely free ourselves, just untie one of the ends of the rope used to lift the chain, which will then fall to the bottom. Then, start the engine and move away.

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Anchoring with multiple anchors: not advisable in crowded bays

For safety reasons, some skippers deploy multiple anchors during a stop in a bay. Ideally, in this scenario, three anchors are used: two at the stern and one at the bow, with an angle of 120 degrees between each. This will keep you perfectly stable even in winds of 50 knots. Setting multiple anchors can take an hour of work and requires the use of your tender to properly lower the anchors.

Naturally, this maneuver is not recommended in crowded anchorages. This is because all the other boats will swing according to the winds and tides, and the risk of getting tangled with other anchors is very high.

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