There’s something magical about chartering a boat and sailing the clear, turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean. There’s no finer way to get a break and relax than to sail from island to island. At some point during your Caribbean sailing experience, however, you’ll want to stop. Whether you want to fish, swim, snorkel or dive, have lunch or stay overnight, you’ll need to find an anchorage and either anchor or use a mooring ball. Anchoring a boat securely is among the most basic skills in boat handling. The key is preparation and slow maneuvering. If you miss the first time, don’t be embarrassed. There is not an experienced sailor afloat who has not encountered this problem. Just go around and start again. The important thing is to have it right! By anchoring poorly, not only are you endangering your boat, but also the other boats anchored nearby. By following these suggestions and techniques, you can feel confident that you’ll have safe, hassle-free anchoring.
Selecting the Anchorage
The first step in anchoring is to pick an anchorage. Try to arrive at your anchorage relatively early enough in the afternoon. This allows you enough light to avoid any shoals or other hazards like rock/coral heads, fish nets or boats, ferries, freighters, mooring balls, crab pots and cables. In addition, during peak season (December to April) many popular spots throughout the Caribbean become very crowded. By arriving early enough, you’ve extra time to go somewhere else before nightfall.
When choosing an anchorage, there are several things to consider. For instance, is the anchorage protected? A good anchorage offers protection from the current weather conditions and will also offer protection from the expected weather. Are there any local weather (wind) conditions or exposure to swells that could make the anchorage too rolly? How well is the entrance and anchorage area charted or marked?
How good is the holding? Charts should indicate the type of bottom. Generally speaking, most anchors will hold well in sandy bottoms. Rock, coral and shale prevent anchors from digging in. If possible, avoid grassy bottoms, where it’s very difficult to set the anchor. How crowded, noisy, dirty or smelly is it? Is the band from the beach bar going to keep you up until the wee hours of the morning or is the diesel smell of the inter-island ferry going to detract from your ideal scent of paradise? How pretty is the anchorage when you sit in the cockpit enjoying the dawn or dusk? How long a dinghy ride is it to shore and is there a decent place to dock the dinghy? What amenities are available on shore? What is the depth and tidal range? Enough depth is needed so that low water doesn’t present obstacles your boat might swing into and it’s also important when determining scope. Finally, is there enough room? No matter where your boat is anchored, the largest possible swing range should be considered. Read the rest of this entry »