Anchoring Etiquette/Anchoring Terms

We were in Marsh Harbor in the Abacos a couple of weeks ago and we set our anchor in a nice area well away from any other boats in about seven feet of water with excellent holding. We went to town and took care of a few chores. When we returned to our boat there was what appeared to be a new boat at anchor, right on our bow. Mary Rose and this boat were way too close for comfort and safety. We were close enough that I could hail the boat by voice and they instantly replied. I asked the captain how much rode he had out and he said it was about 120 feet. I asked him if he could shorten his rode to increase the distance between our boats. He indicated that he was not able to do that due to his boat sailing at anchor and his concern that it would dislodge his anchor. I then offered the suggestion that he may have anchored a bit too close and should change locations that would allow for his need of excessive scope. He replied that he had been at anchor for three days, he was here first and it is I that should move or increase my scope. I gave way to his squatter rights and let out more rode to increase the distance between our boats. While I was doing this the Admiral knew what action to take and immediately initiated the “your too close boat repellant”. What’s that you ask? Well it is Johnny Cash on high volume through the cockpit speakers. The first song is “Don’t take your guns to town”. The other boat simply closed up the companionway and ignored the repellant and retired for the evening. This repellant has worked successfully on many other occasions, but not this time. I could not understand how a responsible boat captain could act so unreasonable and unsafe in a crowded anchorage. At least this was my perception of the situation. How could this boat have been here for three days and no threat or even noticed when we anchored earlier in the day? The answer to this question was in the wind. The wind had clocked around and when our boats swung around on the anchor their boat swung in an arc about twice the distance of our swing. I was not sure if this boat captain was arrogant or clueless as to anchoring etiquette. So now you know the motivation for writing this blog on anchoring etiquette.
This is not going to be a discussion on “how to” anchor but rather some thoughts on anchoring etiquette. What do we need to consider when we anchor in crowded harbors and other tight quarters where there is limited space?
To prevent confusion in the use of terms, please refer to the Anchoring Terminology at the end of this post.
Please be a responsible captain when you anchor in a crowded harbor and consider your neighbors. If your boat requires excessive scope to give you peace of mind then anchor in an area that is less crowded and perhaps put a marker on your anchor so that other boats will be aware of your excessive scope. If your boat sails at anchor then use one of the many remedies to fix that problem. There is a reasonable expectation that all or at least most of the boats will set their anchor within an established guideline of scope. This range may be 5:1 and up to 10:1 for heavy weather. If we all follow these guidelines then there is no need to go from boat to boat and ask them about the length of their anchor rode. Frankly I am not comfortable asking sailors if theirs is longer than mine.

Anchoring Terminology

Anchor - A heavy object attached to a vessel by a cable or rope and cast overboard to keep the vessel in place either by its weight or by its flukes, which grip the bottom.

Anchor Rode - When in use, every anchor is attached to the vessel with a rode. The rode may be a piece of line, a piece of line spliced onto a length of chain, or all chain.

Changing the nip on the Anchor - If you use rope, periodically reverse the ends (“change the
nip”) to distribute the wear.
Ground Tackle - equipment, as anchors, chains, or windlasses, for mooring a vessel away from a pier or other fixed moorings.
Scope - In normal conditions, a safe minimum anchor scope ratio is 5 to 1 (warp or chain length to depth). In heavy weather 7 to 1 or 10 to 1. Depth is the depth of water at high tide, plus the height from water line to the bow roller. Scope is the actual amount of anchor line paid out when the boat is safely anchored. For example, if high water is 20ft deep and your bow roller is 5ft above the water, you need 125ft (i.e. 5 times 20 + 5ft) of scope to anchor.