How To Anchor A Boat Correctly

For as much as you may love your time spent cruising around there on the ocean, there comes a time when everyone has to put down anchor and rest for a while. On the one hand, there’s something beautifully symbolic about that when thought of as a metaphor for life. On the other hand, if you’re new to the world of boating, that doesn’t change the fact that putting down anchor is probably a lot harder than you think. You don’t want to cast off your anchor and leave your boat, only to return a few hours or the next day to find that your anchoring job was less than stellar, and your boat has now drifted off to who knows where. Regardless of whether you're anchoring on a sandy or rocky bottom with your boat, there's a correct way to do things.

Thankfully, with the help of this guide, you can put your mind at ease and anchor your boat the right way.

Slow Your Ride

The first thing you’re going to want to do when it comes time to anchor your boat is to slow your ride – literally. You don’t want to toss your anchor overboard while you are still cruising around at high speed. Instead, you are going to want to take your time and ease up to the place where you want to drop anchor. Once you arrive at the spot, you’ll also want to make sure to slowly ease into the area and start unraveling your rope, chain, and other necessities.

Scope Out the Depth

Before you begin the anchoring process itself, however, you are going to want to make sure that the area you are approaching will work to drop anchor. That means taking a few different factors into consideration, none more important than the depth of the water. You don’t want to drop anchor in a place which turns out to be so shallow that you run your boat aground. On the other hand, you also don’t want to try to drop anchor in waters which are so deep than your anchor can’t securely rest and keep your boat in place.

Successfully scoping out an area requires both observation skills with your own two eyes as well as using any depth-gauging gadgets you may have on hand.

Ropes Versus Chains

Before we proceed any further, let’s take a moment to answer a question that boat aficionados might have already thought to ask. Should you be anchoring with a rope, a chain, or both?

The answer here is going to depend on the nature of your anchoring job as well as the boat itself. Obviously, if you have a boat which is so massive as to not be easily secured by a bit of rope, you’re going to want to opt for something stronger. Conversely, large chains can be quite heavy, and when it comes to staying afloat, weight can be a big factor. You don’t want to overload a small boat with a chain that’s excessively large and heavy.

You’ll also want to consider the nature of your anchoring job itself. Are you going to be anchoring for just an hour or two, or is this going to be for overnight or longer? In the case of the former, a quick, lightweight rope job may do, while in the latter case, you’ll probably want to chain it in place.

Align Your Boat and Drop Anchor

Once you have determined these different factors, it’s time to drop anchor. Take the time to properly align your boat with your “parking spot,” as it were, and drop anchor.


Retrieving your anchor incase you want to move your boat to another location or simply head home can be tricky, especially if the anchor is set on a rocky or muddy bottom. Instead of wearing yourself out by manually hauling it up, you could use an electric anchor winch, which will do all the heavy lifting and retrieving for you. If an electric model is too expensive or slightly overkill for you, a manual wind winch is always an option, but it does require a bit more effort.

A Word on Anchor Size

Sometimes, size does matter, and anchoring your boat is indeed one of those times. You are thus going to want to pay close attention to the size of both your boat and your anchor. As with the question of ropes versus chains, this is going to depend in part on the size of your boat. The larger it is, the larger the size of anchor you are going to want to consider. Typical anchor sizes for mid-range personal fishing boats can weigh anywhere from 12 to 25 pounds.

Anchoring Etiquette

Last but certainly not least, you’re going to want to spare a thought for your fellow mariners and take the time to practice good anchoring etiquette. You don’t want to be “that person” as you break the unwritten rules of the sea and prove yourself to be inexperienced, rude, or both. Some of the most important points of basic anchoring etiquette to follow include the following:

  • Follow the precedent of any boaters who have anchored before you.
  • If you are the first to a site, try to set a good precedent.
  • Don’t ask someone who has anchored ahead of you to move – they were here first. 
  • Don’t rush your anchoring process or leave before you are sure that your boat is securely anchored and won’t drift towards others’ boats. 

All of these tips can help you drop anchor the right way.

Last Updated on August 27, 2020 by Pete