How to Anchor a Boat

For many cruisers, escaping to quiet coves that can only be reached by boat is a real treat. Lunch on the hook or a week away—it’s up to you. But once you get there, you’ll need to know how to anchor your boat safely and securely. Use these expert tips so you can relax and enjoy the experience.

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There are only four steps to anchoring well, but first here’s a quick overview of the necessary equipment and terms.

The right anchor for the job
It isn’t the weight of the anchor that secures your boat to the bottom; it’s the way it digs in. Different types of anchors work best with different bottom types (mud, sand, weeds, rock), though most are designed to handle a range of conditions. Check the manufacturer specs for the proper size to buy, and then measure your boat’s stowage space; owning a size larger than necessary might mean a better night’s sleep.

Line or chain?
“Rode” is what connects the anchor to your boat. Many boats use three-strand nylon line with a short piece of chain between line and anchor. Larger boats use all chain, which is more secure. It’s also hard to handle without a windlass, heavier to store, and harder to keep clean. And unless you want that chain jerking the boat around, you’ll want to add a short snub line as a shock absorber once the anchor is set.

How much scope?
“Scope” is the ratio of rode length to water depth, and as a general rule more is better for holding power; picture pulling on a rode that’s parallel to the bottom (digging the anchor into the mud) vs. pulling straight up, and you’ll realize how important scope is. The usual restriction on scope is the available swinging room in an anchorage; the more rode you pay out, the bigger the circle of water you’ll “own” when the wind shifts. 4:1 is considered a minimum for chain, but how much you really need (or can get away with) will depend on many factors.

Pick your location
Because you want to be able to let out enough scope to get that good night’s sleep, try not to anchor too close to other boats. It’s also considered rude to anchor directly upwind of anyone (though in crowded harbors, this may be unavoidable). And make sure the spot you choose has enough water depth for your boat, even at low tide. Don’t rush into anchoring; take your time and sniff out the best spot, especially if the harbor is new to you.

HOW TO ANCHOR

Before you toss your hook over the side, make sure the rode’s bitter end is firmly attached to the boat. And if you can’t easily hear what’s said on the bow from the cockpit and vice versa, figure out some basic hand signals that will indicate where the anchor is and what state it’s in (to port/starboard, on the bottom, halfway up/down, safely back on board).

1. Stop and drop
Once you’ve chosen your location, head into the wind and bring the boat to a complete stop. (Use the engine, or back your mainsail.) The goal is to drop the anchor when the boat has stopped moving forward, to keep the boat downwind of it.

Depending on whether the anchor is stored on deck or on a bow roller, you will either have to toss the anchor over the side or ease it down into the water. Either way, make sure the rode will pay out cleanly, and try not to bang up topsides.

How deep the water is will determine how much rode needs to be paid out before the anchor reaches the bottom. If you’re handling the rode by hand (rather than using a windlass), you can usually feel the anchor’s weight diminish once it touches bottom. (In clear water like the Caribbean, you’ll be able to see it.)

2. Pay out scope and back down
Once the anchor is on the bottom, back the boat down and pay out just enough rode to keep from putting any strain on the anchor. If you pay out scope but don’t back down, the rode might drop on top of the anchor and create a snag. If you back down without paying out scope, the anchor will just drag along the bottom without digging in.

Wait to take any strain on the rode until the angle is as horizontal as space and available rode allow. A traditional Danforth-type will set very happily with 7:1 scope (though this may not be realistic in many of today’s anchorages). Other anchor types will do fine with less scope, but none will object to more than necessary—especially when first settling in.

3. Snub and secureTo set the anchor, snub the anchor rode (on a bow cleat for
line, or by engaging the windlass stop for chain). The rode should go taut as the anchor digs into the bottom. Cleat off the line, or (for chain) set up a snub line to run from the cleat out through the bow chock. In either case, keep watching the anchor and rode; it’s not quite time for cocktails yet.

4. Dig it in
The next step is to dig the anchor into the bottom, so it’s really secure even if the wind shifts or tide and current pull the boat in a different direction. The goal is to create more of a strain than you are likely to get during the rest of your stay—so if the anchor is going to drag, it will do so while you’re paying attention.

Use your engine (or a backed mainsail) to back down against the anchor line. If the tension on the anchor line increases, the anchor is holding. If the anchor is dragging, you’ll probably feel the anchor bouncing across the bottom and the boat will continue to move aft. If it doesn’t catch quickly, haul it up and try again.

How hard you’ll want to dig it in depends on weather, how long you will be anchored (for lunch or for a week), how good the holding ground is, and how well-matched the anchor type is to the bottom.

Once you’re secure, make sure to stay aboard for at least a half hour to watch for changes. And it’s a good idea to set up a visual range (or use your GPS anchor alarm) to alert you if the boat moves more than the scope allows.

Haul it up
Hauling anchor isn’t as much fun as dropping it, partly because it means your quiet escape may be coming to an end. Use the engine/sails to crawl forward, collecting the slack in the rode as you go; that will be a lot easier than hauling the entire weight of the boat up to the anchor, hand over hand. And your windlass will last longer if you use the engine to move the boat forward, taking in the chain as it comes slack.

Hopefully the anchor will pop out easily, once the rode is straight up and down and you’re pulling it up away from the bottom. If not, you may have to continue moving slowly forward until it pops free. Make sure to collect every bit of slack in the rode so it doesn’t get under the boat.

You will probably either feel or see the anchor pop free; once it does, stop/slow the boat until you can get the anchor to the surface (or ideally, back on board). The goal is to prevent the anchor and rode from angling back under the hull, which might damage the keel, rudder, or prop.

Clean it off
If the anchor and rode come up coated in mud, you’ll know you found good holding ground. Mud is much easier to remove when still wet, so don’t procrastinate; fire up the washdown if you have one, or use the old mop-and-dip approach.

Knowing how to anchor your boat securely will earn you friends in an anchorage. It also makes one of cruising’s greatest pleasures possible: a good night’s sleep in a secluded cove. Good luck, and good cruising!

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Quantum Cruising Code 0: For All the Angles In Between

With no restrictions on design, the Quantum cruising Code 0 is created to be a very forgiving sail, perfect for light air on close angles upwind, at very broad angles in heavier breeze, and all the angles in between.

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The Quantum Code 0 for cruising monohaul sailboats is a full sail, shaped like an asymmetrical spinnaker, and furls easily on a top-down furling system. While the midgirth of the racing Code 0 is restricted to at least 75% of the foot length, the cruising version of the sail has no restrictions, giving the sailmaker a lot of leeway in design.

“You can make the midgirth anywhere from 55% to 75% of the foot length, allowing you to make them very deep and very flat,” says Quantum’s VP of Product Integration and sail designer Doug Stewart.

Many cruisers are intimidated by downwind sails, especially when sailing shorthanded or with inexperienced guests. The Code 0 is perfect for cruising boats because it is easily deployed on its furler and has a UV strip to protect it during a whole weekend or several days of use so that it doesn’t have to be taken down. “We find people will use this headsail more than any other on their boat,” says Stewart.

How and when to use the Code 0

The sail can be used at relatively tight angles in light air, and at very broad angles in heavier air. “It will take you through more wind angles than any other sail on the boat. Your kite is for downwind, your genoa is for upwind; the Code 0 is for all the angles in between,” Stewart says.

Rob Greven of the Netherlands-based Spirit Yachting first added a Code 0 to his sail inventory in 2009. “I was looking for a sail within my budget, easy in handling, good performance and reliable, and covering most of the wind angles.”

Now he says, he uses the sail on his Beneteau Oceanis 46 Spirit with clients and with his crew, on everything from short day trips to long-distance singlehanded racing—even the Rolex Fastnet race.

“We don’t carry a big genoa, so we use the Code 0 in light winds upwind—depending on the wind, up to around 40 degrees AWA. In the wind range of seven to eight knots, it’s possible to make seven to eight knots of boat speed. Even with our cruiser, it offers excellent performance.”

Greven says the versatility of the sail even extends to downwind running in stronger breeze between 18 to 24 knots at an angle of 160 to 170 degrees. “I’m able to sail light on the helm and with good control.”

He also carries a Quantum Vision Code 3 for downwind sailing with a full crew, but says the Code 0 is easier to use when sailing short- or singlehanded. “Since the sail is a little smaller and flatter than the V3, it’s a perfect sail for shorthanded sailing, even in stronger winds. It is better on the helm and easier to furl away,” says Greven.

Taking care of the sail

While the cruising Code 0 is designed with a protective UV cover, that cover is still very light. It will easily survive several days of use, but if you won’t be on the boat for a week or more, take the sail down, put it in its bag, and store it down below. Also, as with any sail furled on a torsional rope, if a storm blows through, there’s nothing to stop the sail from opening up. So if inclement weather is approaching, get the sail off the deck.

The sail sells itself

Greven would be the first to recommend the Code 0 to other cruisers, but says the sail sells itself.

“Last autumn, I sailed a singlehanded regatta, several days from one place to another. I almost only used the Code 0 in light winds and got a lot of positive response from other sailors.”

 

So while choosing a new sail for your inventory depends largely on what kind of sailing you want to optimize for, be sure to check out the Code 0. The versatility of the sail, combined with ease of use may very well prove to be the next best sail on your list.

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Quantum’s New Melges 24 Class Expert on Promoting the Fleet, Having Fun, and Bragging Rights

Chris Rast is a three-time Olympian and professional sailor based in Switzerland. Along with sailing fast boats and having as much fun as he can, Rast has a new role as Quantum’s Melges 24 Class Expert.

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Photo by Mick Knive Anderson

Chris Rast was born in the U.S. to American parents, but has lived in Switzerland since he was two years old. His first Olympic campaign in 1996 was in the 470, followed by two more Olympic appearances in the 49er, one sailing for Switzerland, and one for the U.S. For the past 10 years, he’s been sailing the Melges 24, and now takes on a new role as Quantum’s Melges 24 Class Expert.

In this Q&A, we talk to Chris about his work to promote the fleet, how to have more fun in the Melges 24, and earning bragging rights.

Quantum: Melges 24 Class Expert is a pretty official-sounding title. What will this new role entail?

Chris Rast: My involvement with the Melges 24 goes about 10 years back when I started sailing with a fully professional Swiss team. I’ve always been in love with the boat. I think the boat is one of the greatest designs out there, for the performance factor and the fun factor. It’s a great team boat, and last year our team won the worlds.

We’re going to make a big push to promote the class, doing all sorts of promotional work, especially in Europe. I will be going to most of the Melges 24 events, along with my team and my wife Dani who is part of Swiss Performance Sailing, to host clinics and do other types of promotional work. Quantum is really trying to support the Melges 24 class, especially the Corinthian teams and people who are new to the class. They want to make it easy for people to get into the Melges 24 and do well.

 

Quantum: What are you most looking forward to with this new role?

CR: The class lives and dies not by the professionals or the top teams, but those teams that make up the middle of the rankings: The new teams that get into it, and the teams that like to go out and sail and to have fun, but need a little bit of help to get better. We really want to support the Corinthian teams, and the teams that need a little bit of advice to do well around the racecourse and have more fun. Because guess what—winning is more fun than losing. I really like helping teams and helping them get better. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.

 

Quantum: What are the steps you take when working with a new boat?

CR: It’s all about analyzing the dynamics of the team. Every team’s a little bit different; they have different strengths and weaknesses. We need to figure out where we can have a maximum impact—maybe for one team it’s how to set up a boat, for another team it might be technique or maneuvers, and for other teams it might be tactics and strategy. I try to figure out where the deficiencies are in a team, and come up with a plan to improve in those areas.

 

Quantum: In the Melges 24, with it being such a strict one-design class, is there a right way and a wrong way to do things?

CR: Yes, I would say so. Every crewmember adds to the mechanics of the boat. Sometimes they just have the wrong crewmembers in the wrong positions. Maybe one crewmember is stronger than the other, or another is better at multitasking and needs to be on the bow instead of the middle of the boat. It’s a lot about figuring out the mechanics of the team and letting everybody use their strengths.

 

Quantum: You’re a former Olympian in the 49er, what do you feel like that experience or your other early sailing experience gave you coming into the Melges 24?

CR: You know it really is a bit of a natural fit because the 49er is an asymmetrical boat, so that really helped me with the downwind sailing on the Melges 24. On the other hand, with upwind sailing it was more my 470 background that helped me. So that combined, it was a very easy fit to sail Melges 24s.

 

Quantum: How did you get into coaching?

CR: I started off with the junior coaching and moved into Olympic class coaching. I was the Olympic coach for the Swiss team in 2000 for the games in Sydney. We missed out on the spot in the 49er; we were second in the trials. But since there was a limited amount of coaching credentials, they chose me as their coach. I had a ton of experience sailing in Sydney and I spoke English, I knew the area, and the sailors trusted me and respected me. That’s how I got into higher level coaching. But my primary goal is still to sail and have fun and help people, and when I can I do a little bit of coaching.

 

Quantum: The Melges 24 is such a strict one-design fleet and it’s been around for 20-some years. Why should people come into the class now?

CR: Since its inception, the Melges 24 has been such a fun boat to sail in regards to its performance. It goes well upwind, and downwind it’s a hoot. The last day at Key West Race Week, we had big wind and huge waves, and we were just ripping around, ploughing through waves and planning.

If you are looking for a class where you get to sail not only against other Corinthian teams, but also against fully professional teams, people like Jimmy Spithill, Vince Brun, Morgan Larson, Terry Hutchinson—you want to get on the same starting line as Terry Hutchinson? Get yourself a Melges 24 and you can go against the world’s best. That’s a very cool thing. You can go out with your friends, do well, beat guys like Terry Hutchinson, or myself, be proud of it, and brag about it at the bar.

 

Quantum: How can a team get your help?

CR: Anybody can reach me via email to ask questions. They can go onto the Quantum website for my contact and we’re working on getting something up on the Melges website too. If you have questions just shoot me an email and I’ll answer as best as possible.

 

Quantum: What’s your next stop?

Apart from Melges 24 sailing, I also do a full Melges 20 campaign in Europe, on a boat called Section 16, owned by Richard Davis. The season starts at the Monaco Winter Series in February, which will be cold probably, but we’ll warm up at the fire in the casino in the evening.

 

Look for Chris Rast at Melges 24 events around the world, and in instructional videos that will be posted on the Quantum website. If you have a question for Chris about the Melges 24, click here.

 

Chris-Rast-Bio-PhotoChris Rast
Quantum Melges 24 Class Expert
crast@quantumsails.com
US: +1 616 312 3860
Swiss: +41 78 641 3606

 

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