Collision at Anchor By Jack Klang

Courtesy Photo from Jack Klang
North of Lake Huron and south of Ontario, Canada lies a cruiser’s dream – the North Channel, a stretch of granite out islands, beautiful passage ways, and private bays. On a visit there with my wife, we found a small cove with a narrow entrance surrounded by granite rock formations and perforated with pine trees and wild blue berry bushes. Determining an adequate depth and enough swing room for our 30-foot cruiser and the one other boat already anchored at the far end of the cove, we dropped anchor at our end of heaven on earth. 
That night a thunderous noise and violent collision woke us with a start. We scrambled up the companionway to find a huge sailboat hard against our side. The hatch of the other boat rumbled open enough for a head to pop out and mumble, “You okay?” Before we could respond, the head disappeared. At daylight we checked our boat for damage (our stainless steel rub rail had saved us). A few minutes later, the big boat quietly motored out of the cove and disappeared.
Although we had allowed adequate swing room to give clearance to the only other boat anchored in the cove, the late arriving skipper did not. The size of his boat (estimated at more than 45 feet) and his excessive anchor rope facilitated a swing arc covering more than half of the available area (whereas we anchored on a three-to-one short scope). If the late-night arrival had followed proper anchoring etiquette, we could have avoided the unfortunate, and potentially damaging, situation.
Anchoring etiquette says that the first boat to anchor has the right to choose their anchoring location. All future arrivals are obliged to choose their location so it does not impair the previous arrival. If the locations seem close, it is proper to dinghy over to the other boat and ask if they are comfortable with your location. If you decided to stay, hanging a few fenders can add peace of mind, and extra protection, in case of a collision. If you’re unsure about or uncomfortable with the situation, the courteous thing to do is find a new location.
If a collision does happen, whether because of miscalculated distance or ignorance of proper anchoring protocol, etiquette says to check both parties for injuries or damages. Offer assistance if needed, and stand by until help arrives.
Following proper anchoring etiquette will ensure a safe and worry-free stay for you and your fellow cruisers. 
About the Author
Jack Klang is a Cruising Consultant for Quantum Sail Design Group. He has shared his vast experience with thousands of sailors through his seminars, a syndicated newspaper column, magazine articles, and television and movie appearances. He is the author of “Cruising with Quantum,” a series of how-to articles covering all aspects of sailboat cruising, as well as an instructional video. Jack is recognized as one of the country’s five best sailing speakers, appearing at boat shows across the country. For the past five decades, Jack has sailed the Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. He earned his first Coast Guard captain’s license at age eighteen and has logged over 30,000 miles under sail as a cruiser, ASA instructor, charter captain and delivery skipper. Contact Jack at captjack1(at)charter(dot)net.
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