Have you ever wondered how boaters anchor? Can we just anchor anywhere? How do we know where to go? What to do? And my favorite question “Do you just anchor in the middle of the ocean?” This last one is an interesting question. If you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s not like non-sailors are just sitting around talking about sailing.
What is an anchor pregame?
Well, it’s very much like a sports pregame. You’ve got opposing teams with opposing commentators talking about the upcoming game. Our anchor pregame is just that. It is everything Matt and I discuss prior to the game, in this case, anchoring.
In this article, we’ll let you in on what goes into selecting an anchor spot… for us. ‘For us’ infers not everybody anchors the same way. There are many ways to do the same thing. Some simply drop a hook any ol’place. That’s not us tho. Matt and I like to be careful to keep our luck value in the positive (What’s this? → here). So yeah. We fully embrace the task at hand with a strong anchor pregame where winning is everything.
If our sailing friends have a common practice to add, please do! Like I said, winning is everything. It’s win or go home.
Cue the music!
Unlike normal preshows, here the announcers get to choose the teams. Choosing the teams is mostly about where you want to go. We could be on our way to a pleasure stop or a quick overnighter on the way to someplace else. It doesn’t matter. The pregame is always the same.
We’ll make this a pleasure destination, a place we want to anchor for a while. Most of the time, Matt and I want to go to the same place, but for this scenario, we will pick opposing teams. It will be more of an informative example. Usually we just go to both places, lol.
OK, let the games begin!
Discussion of teams
This is where we highlight each team’s pro and cons. Essentially we will each point out why our choice is better while the other points out why their choice sucks and vice versa. Arguments are backed up with pictures, reviews, blogs, and personal word from friends. We will look at what is around each destination, if there is a store nearby, other points of interest, and public transportation.
In the end, the players are the most important part, am I right? The players actually ‘decide’ who wins. The most amazing destination means nothing if the players can’t get you there. And, they all will have to work together. The following is what we examine in each player.
Player 1 ~ Weather
Always the MVP. We look at weather all day long using a variety of apps and local forecasting. We hop around the apps but mostly use Predict Wind and Windy. There are so, so many. Web access to Predict Wind and Windy are linked out. We also hit local weather and google for other website-based weather such as meteo, which is great in the med. Asking the locals and other sailors in the area what they use is a must because some models are better in certain areas.
If wifi could be a problem to check in throughout the day, we screen record for animated weather reporting and take screenshots for static reports just so we can remember.
⇒ Wind. If it is too windy, we move to safety. Period. Perfect is anything under 15 knots. Over and it could get complicated. If it can’t be helped, then possible night watch.
⊕ changing direction at night ~ Wind changing direction in the middle of the night is problematic. It could uproot your anchor, then not reset itself. Not good. We are always looking for that ‘well protected’ (a term sailors use often) anchorage, one that has as much land protection that blocks the wind as possible.
⊕ swell direction ~ weather apps show swell. It is not always correct though. The true swell data comes from a weather buoy typically further away from the coast. Different weather models interpret this data to try to project the outcome for the in-between areas.
There are predominant swells to factor also. When weather swell lightens as it moves further away from its initial source, the swell that usually moves through an area will prevail. So swell direction is a bit of a mixed bag, but when looking at everything else, you can pretty much figure it out and then get behind a land mass.
⊕ swell height ~ anything over a foot (0.3 meters) is undesirable, lol. Not joking. Again, weather modeling helps. Find a land mass. It will protect you from the swell. It’s amazing, 60 feet (20 meters) away could have 6 feet (2 meters) of swell but behind a cliff or a big enough rock it can be flat. Crazy.
⊕ gusts ~ very important to look at gusts. Then add a couple knots jic. Pick anchorage accordingly. Anything over 20-25 knots can get complicated. Blocking wind with a land mass works mostly. Explain more in Land Contours.
⊕ no wind ~ strangely problematic. You wouldn’t think, would ya. No wind creates a bobble effect. Everyone in the anchorage is just bobbing about instead of taut on their anchor. This creates bumping boats. Woke up one morning snuggled up next to a neighbor boat with a naked captain having his coffee. Too close. Usually not a huge problem because everyone is moving so slow but rubbing does damage.
⇒ Lightning. Besides weather apps, there are lightning websites and apps. These are very cool. They show real time strikes so you are able to determine the direction of the storm and its intensity. They even have sound effects with a thunder clap. So cool. I’m glued to this when lightning is around… glued. For fun, click now ~ Lightning Maps
⇒ CAPE. This is a good indicator for variable weather. When the CAPE is high, the weather is more unstable. For my fellow googlers, an easy read on CAPE here → click me
⇒ Isobars. A good indication for wind. These are pressure contour lines essentially. The closer the lines, the more wind. Obviously there is more to it but… moving on.
⇒ Radar. We have radar on our chartplotter as well as weather/lightning apps.
⊕ precipitation ~ We are not afraid of getting wet. The problem is, as we mentioned in What does 60 knots of wind feel like, a rain cell can have its own wind configuration and intensity. Isobars and CAPE can give more indication of what to expect through rain. Sometimes it just rains and it’s beautiful…
⊕ clouds ~ every sailor loves a clear blue sky. The catch 22 is if you want the wind to sail you need weather. It’s terrible.
~Some app drama~
The red Windy app is the weather app we wanted. It is a very popular weather app recommended by a lot of our sailing friends. Legend has it, they are the original windy app. Now, idk, but I can see from the comments in various places, red windy is very salty that blue windy exists.
Player 2 ~ Land Contours
Wind travels around land. Mountains and steep cliffs near the coast can be great protection unless there is high katabatic wind (wind that accelerates as it drops over an edge, official meaning → here). Valleys leading to the coast can funnel wind. Islands close together can cause an venturi effect.
Having said all that, we generally anchor with the protection of land. Knowing this is just something you need to be aware of. Local knowledge is very key here.
Player 3 ~ Depth Contours
Our chartplotter displays water depths. It will also state what the sea bed is… sand, mud, rock, etc. We also use apps such as Google Earth, Navily, and Siren Marine for their satellite imagery.
⇒ Depth. We look at the contours of the land under the water. Too deep, we can’t anchor. Too shallow, if the swell builds the boat could hit the bottom. Too steep of a rise, we can’t hook.
⇒ Sea bed. Using our satellite apps we can see that crystal clear blue water. Darker areas are possibly rocks and seaweed, etc. Such a great help. We don’t anchor in rocks. Reminds me of that time… anyhoo…
Player 4 ~ Reviews & Information
We use two information sources mostly but not exclusively. Navily, an anchor app. So great, a must. And, Imray pilot books. Also a must have. More on these during our halftime report.
« Benched but relevant »
Player 5 ~ Land Access
Yes, we can swim and have, but access to land with the dinghy is what makes life easiest. Words can’t describe the weird feeling of walking into the ocean to get home with groceries while people are sunbathing. It felt like reverse evolution or something. So eery.
Player 6 ~ Tide
Not an issue for us atm since the med has minimal tides.
Let’s check out those stats!
By looking at these stats, can you guess which one won?
Answer at the bottom
Half Time Report:
All through our sail, we look for anchorages along the way. There are always plans b, c, d, and e’s. Should things go awry, it is always good to know the lay of the land. Normally tho, if we are looking for ways out, it is probably due to the sea state or wind. On these occasions, halftime can get pretty lively. If we absolutely don’t need to press on, we don’t. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun.
I’d like to take the time in this halftime report to talk to you about our sponsors, Imray and Navily.
For real tho, these two publications help the most but unfortunately can never be the MVP. Nothing is more compelling than the weather. Can I get a hell yeah?! However, these two players are worth their weight in gold.
Imray Cruising Guides, Pilots, and Charts
The charts are great, we have a ton and use them. We have several stacked under clear plastic on our table for planning.
The books… now, the books are amazing. You will find how to approach day or night, obstructions and dangers, list of numbers and websites, protocols, and weather and currents. It’s really too much to list everything. If it is relevant to a sailor, it’s in there. We prefer the hard back but there are digital versions if you prefer.
On top of all that, there are actual photos of anchorages and marinas. This is really helpful. There is general information such a brief history and what to expect in the culture – food, customs, etc, seasonal characteristics. Just all around info on everything for that area. I mean, these books are all inclusive. Nothing is missing. We have one for every country in the med, no joke. So helpful, nothing but love.
Sooo here it goes… our first promotion!!!!
We couldn’t be happier than to support Imray.
Check out the limited time offer
Navily, download at the App Store/Google Play (or use this link for web access → click me, I’m free and amazing) is a super community generated anchor app that rates and describes anchorages each reviewer has personally used. So great, a must.
It’s free even. You can pay the $20 a year for some extra bits but definitely not needed. All you need is free. Absolutely no regrets on the upgrade tho, I would 100%. It gives you offline ability and filters. It’s great, trust me.
Each anchoree, yes I made that up, describes their personal experience regarding depths, problems and obstructions, sea bed, dinghy access, restaurants/grocery nearby, wifi, how busy, seasonal info and/or whatever. I mean, these people have been there, they know. What could be better, idk.
The only problem, sad to say, Navily is med based…. so far. Fingers crossed they’ll jump the pond. So, grab this app and support these guys. They are doing a great, great job.
Look for us, we contributed! You should too. <3
Well well. It looks like I have indeed won. I may have, well, possibly might of stacked the odds in my favor, just a little… shhhhh.
If for some reason, when we get to an anchorage we picked and we couldn’t land the hook or maybe it was too tight, or whatever reason, we have the backup plans already in place.
Even though anchoring is ‘the game’, we are not going to be discussing anchoring here. This is just the pregame. There are far too many types and ways to anchor. It is too much on an already a fair amount of info.
I will say this –
Be sure to test those anchors folks!!
A little sustained rev’d tug on the anchor digs you in and makes you and everyone else feel more confident.
A little something known as Marriage Savers:
I want to share with you what many sailors thought was never possible. You, in fact, are able to relay information to the person at the helm without turning to face them or gestures. This is mindblowing.
Have you ever been closing in on a buoy, struggling, leaning over, while screaming your head off to give the helm person instructions? It is so hard to hear from the helm if the person yelling isn’t facing you and this is a critical time. Looking away while so close to the buoy could cost you your only moment. Then the dreaded left, right, up, back or even worse, a re-approach, UGH! It’s real. Your solution is here!
It is like you are right next to each other, so efficient, so safe. Someone having a bad attitude? You can ‘discuss’ the issue quietly. It’s great. It doesn’t matter how easy you think something is going to be, talking about it, real-time coordinating is the BEST way.
Check out this affiliate link for the ones we have. We would definitely recommend these specifically. The headpiece wraps around your neck so they don’t fall off when leaning over.
If you are shopping, please use above affiliate link! Thank you!
Post game recap:
- Recap. Go over what was good and what could have been better. Congratulate each other on a job well done.
- Set up the black ball to let others know we are on anchor.
- Put sails away and sailing equipment, etc.
- Plug in those Senas. Got to have them ready all the time! Grab a beer on the way.
- Set the anchor alarm on the chartplotter.
- Take a better look around for access to land and whathaveya.
Wow, if you got all the way down here, you really have an inquiring mind. And I like it. I like it a lot. Hope all this gave you some perspective on what we consider in an anchorage. Just think, this is only the pregame! Hahaha Boatlife!
Thank you for reading!