Anchoring skills and the ability to make proper decisions regarding where or where not to anchor are important boater capabilities. When improperly anchored boats slip anchor and drift or run aground, significant environmental and property damage can occur. Boaters that know how to anchor are able to reduce or even avoid other causes of accidents.

It is important that a suitable anchor be carried on all recreational boats. If a boater chooses an unsuitable anchor, rough waters can cause the anchor to drag and the boat can drift. Operators who are asleep or passengers who are swimming nearby may become lost or disoriented if the boat drifts far.

Two common reasons for anchoring a boat are: 1) to prevent the boat from running aground when in bad weather or when the engine has failed; and 2) to remain stopped in the water for swimming, lunch, fishing or an overnight stay.

When selecting an appropriate anchoring location, the following should be taken into account:

  • An area that offers maximum protection from the wind, current and other boat traffic is ideal.
  • Pay close attention to the water depth and type of bottom. Sand and mud are ideal.

Anchoring Procedures

The following are guidelines for safe and proper anchoring of a vessel:

  • Ensure that the proper type of anchor is being used for your vessel. There are several types of anchors that could be utilized including:

Different types of anchors, Plow, Mushroom an Danforth



Danforth (commonly used on small recreational boats, as they are relatively light weight for the amount of holding power they provide, especially in comparison to other anchors. Best in hard sand or mud, where flukes can easily dig into the bottom)

Mushroom (used extensively for moorings, and can weigh several thousand pounds for this use. The shape works best in soft bottoms, where it can create a suction that can be difficult to break. Decent for very small boats to use as a lunch hook, but not practical for larger boats)

Plow (well suited for rocky bottoms, weeds and grass, but they are not recommended for soft bottoms. This anchor's high holding power makes it ideal for windy conditions on open water. Claw anchors have great holding power for their size)


  • Attach a 3-6 foot long galvanized chain to the anchor. The chain will resist damage from sand and rocks.
  • Create a combination called a “Rode” by attaching a length of nylon anchor line to the end of the chain with an anchor swivel.
  • Determine the amount of anchor line you will need to let out by calculating five to seven times as much line as the depth of the water and adding the distance from the surface of the water to the place where the anchor attaches to the bow.
  • Connect and secure the anchor line to the bow cleat, and bring the bow of the boat into the wind
  • Place the engine in neutral and when the boat comes to a stop, slowly lower the anchor until all of the anchor line has been let out. Do not throw the anchor overboard.
  • Back down on the anchor with the engine idling in reverse to firmly set the anchor on the bottom.

Once the anchor has been set, be sure to make note of nearby reference points or landmarks that you can monitor to ensure that your boat is not drifting.

Anchored boat

Dangers of Stern Anchoring

Boat operators should be aware that a watercraft must never be anchored from the stern. Because the transom is usually squared-off with less freeboard than the bow, anchoring from the stern can and has caused many boats to capsize and sink. Small boats are especially at risk.

The stern may also be carrying the weight of the motor, additional gear and the fuel tank. Strong currents may allow the force of the water to pull the stern under. Boats that are anchored at the stern are also susceptible to swamping from large waves.