Anchoring Tips: Part 2

Realising you’re fouled on the bottom when you attempt to weigh anchor is not a great feeling. Thankfully, there are a few things that can help you avoid getting stuck and a few things to try if you do find yourself firmly attached to Aotearoa.

Preventing a stuck anchor

The route of least resistance here, of course, is to try and prevent getting your anchor stuck from the outset. Ensure the size of your anchor (1.5kg per metre of boat as a starting point) and the size/ length of the chain is appropriate for your vessel’s size. Going too big with your ground tackle makes retrieving your gear difficult (and hard to dislodge if it does become stuck).

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If you’re regularly anchoring in rocky areas, think about using a grapnel anchor which is less likely to foul than other anchor styles. If you can, the easiest way of preventing a stuck anchor is to set the pick on a sand or mud bottom. Watch your sounder closely when picking your spot and remember that the anchor will end up setting some distance from where it’s initially dropped.

Looking at the coastal geology can also be useful; based on my own sticky anchor experiences, coastlines with large boulders tend to host some decent anchor-swallowing cracks! Some boaties use a cable tie to set up a breakaway anchoring system. By attaching the end of the chain to the crown (bottom) of the anchor with a shackle and then securing the chain to the shank (top) of the anchor with a cable tie, the anchor will function normally. But should it foul, motoring beyond the anchor placement will break the zip tie and, in theory, the change of direction should pull your anchor flukes free.

A DIY breakaway anchoring system – by attaching the end of the chain to the crown (bottom) of the anchor with a shackle and then securing the chain to the shank (top) of the anchor with a cable tie, the anchor will function normally. But should it foul, motoring beyond the anchor placement will break the zip tie and, in theory, the change of direction should pull your anchor flukes free.

Are you actually stuck?

So, you’re ready to weigh anchor and set off after a relaxing day, only to find that your anchor won’t budge. The first port of call is to check that your retrieval gear is functioning correctly. If you’re lucky enough to have a capstan or drum winch controlled from the helm (such as the Vetus-Maxwell Tasman 8 on our Fishing News Extreme 745 Gameking), always turn the engine on before operating it because they can draw a lot of power from your battery.

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If your windlass isn’t deploying or retrieving the anchor rode, a common issue is the clutch adjustment. Most windlasses have a clutch adjustment, and if it becomes loose the motor can run, but the shaft won’t make contact with the chainwheel to deploy or retrieve the chain. In all electrical anchor systems, there should be a circuit breaker that is designed to trip if the circuit is overloaded to prevent electrical fires. So, it’s important to know where this is on your boat and check this if your anchor isn’t coming up!

Retrieving a stuck anchor

Once you’re sure you’re stuck, position the boat’s bow directly above the anchor. Cleat the anchor line at the bow and gently idle your boat directly into the wind or current. This force will pull the anchor in the opposite direction from which you originally set it and might be enough to free the anchor.

Motoring forward while the boat is connected to a stretchy anchor line at the bow can be dangerous, so if you have a rope anchor line, it is often safer to cleat off at the stern before trying anything more than idle rpm. If the anchor still won’t move, you can try pulling it with engine power from different angles. An anchor retrieval ring and buoy can be worth a crack to dislodge stuck anchors.

Simply attach the buoy/ring assembly to your anchor rope and allow it to slide down the rope to the water. Next, being careful not to foul the anchor rope on your prop, power your boat in a semi-circle around where your anchor is holding and then power forward in a straight line against the wind and current.

As you do this, water resistance will cause the buoy to travel along the anchor rope to a point where it might begin to raise the anchor. Knowing when to cut and run Sometimes you can try everything, but your anchor simply won’t budge. In this case, either cut it short with a sharp knife so that other boaters don’t foul their props in the rode, or you can buoy the line if you intend to come back later. If it’s not too deep, you should be able to find a diver willing to help in exchange for a few refreshments!

January 2022 - Nick Jones
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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