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How to Anchor a Boat

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Anchoring is done for two principal reasons:

  1. To stop for fishing, swimming, lunch or an overnight stay.
  2. To keep you from running aground in bad weather or as a result of engine failure.

Anchoring can be a simple task if you follow these guidelines:


  • Make sure you have the proper type of anchor, such as fluke (Danforth), plow or mushroom.
  • A 3- to 6-foot length of galvanized chain should be attached to the anchor. The chain will stand up to the abrasion of sand, rock or mud on the bottom better than a fiber line.
  • A suitable length of nylon anchor line should be attached to the end of the chain (this combination is called the "rode"). The nylon will stretch under heavy strain, cushioning the impact of the waves or wind on the boat and the anchor.
  • Select an area that offers maximum shelter from wind, current and boat traffic.
  • Determine depth of water and type of bottom (preferably sand or mud).
  • Calculate the amount of anchor line you will need. General rule: 5 to 7 times as much anchor line as the depth of water plus the distance from the water to where the anchor will attach to the bow. For example, if the water depth is 8 feet and it is 2 feet from the top of the water to your bow cleat, you would multiply 10 feet by 5 to 7 to get the amount of anchor line to put out (see diagram above).
  • Secure the anchor line to the bow cleat at the point you want it to stop.
  • Bring the bow of the vessel into the wind or current.
  • When you get to the spot you want to anchor, place the engine in neutral.
  • When the boat comes to a stop, slowly lower the anchor. Do not throw the anchor over, as it will tend to entangle the anchor.
  • When all the anchor line has been let out, back down on the anchor with the engine in idle reverse to help set the anchor.
  • When the anchor is firmly set, use reference points (landmarks) in relation to the boat to make sure you are not drifting. Check these points frequently.

Do not anchor by the Stern!

Anchoring a small boat by the stern has caused many to capsize and sink. The transom is usually squared off and has less freeboard than the bow. In a current, the force of the water can pull the stern under. The boat is also vulnerable to swamping by wave action. The weight of a motor, fuel tank or other gear in the stern increases the risk.

How to Anchor your Boat

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Choose an anchor that fits your boat and the boating conditions.


Good for most boats; gets its holding power by plowing into bottom sediment.

Fluke-Style (Danforth)

Similar to plow-style, but is more lightweight. Also good for most boats, it gets its holding power from pointed flukes digging into bottom sediment.


Gets its holding power by sinking into bottom sediment. Should not be used for boats larger than a small canoe, rowboat or inflatable boat, since it holding power is weak. Do not depend on a mushroom anchor to hold your boat in rough water or weather.

Anchor descriptions courtesy of