The Art of Finding a Good Anchorage

Cruise up to a beautiful, tranquil, secluded spot, and it might feel like the perfect place to spend the day, a few hours, or a night under stars.

But if you’ve never been there before, how do you know it’s really going to be a secure location to drop anchor?

FYI: There is adult content in this post!

Identify the Criteria

Choosing an anchorage because you want to lunch or go for a quick swim involves quite a different process to selecting an anchorage for snorkeling, diving or fishing.

Do you need to stock up on supplies and be close to a local town, access that region’s tourist traps or escape from everyone and everything for a while? Getting positioned in the right place for you depends on all these factors. If you’re sailing with others, their interests might also sway your decision. What you need should be pretty easy to figure out. Start with that J

Have Your Charts and Cruising Guides at the Ready

The charts and guides should be your first port of call once you’ve defined what you need to look for. Scan the region you’re cruising in and review where the standard anchoring symbols lie and what the guide recommends.

WARNING: some guides suck. Well, they don’t suck. They’re great, but they may be out of date, the anchorage may be sadly unsuitable for your vessel, etc. so it’s best not to rely on them. Also, there are likely numerous (if not dozens!) of potential anchorages that won’t be on there. As long as that potential anchorage isn’t marked as a restricted area, and meets basic criteria, you’re good to go (read on for more on that).

Get Protected

So what are these criteria I speak of? Here’s the first. Your anchorage wants to be sheltered from wind, waves and weather. Simple enough, right?

Check You Have Room to Swing

Second, do you have plenty of room to swing your boat with glee? Yes, just your boat! That’s all we need right now: to know that you’re not going to wake up in the middle of the night in some crowded bay rubbing up or banging against someone else’s vessel by accident. Or perhaps you do. Perhaps you were lonely and needed an excuse to talk to someone. I’ve been there!

The funny thing is that an anchorage can actually change while you’re there, with a shift in wind direction or a new weather system creating an issue. Very few anchorages actually block out the world from every direction, but keep a lil´ eye on the current weather forecast and you’re golden.

Scan the Bottom

Third, what’s going on down below (your boat) is very important. Muddy and sandy bottoms are the best (under your boat!).

You don’t have to grab your flippers and get down there personally, but that can be fun and practical in warm climates.

We don’t want your anchor to be a drag. Weedy areas, scoured bottoms (ouch) in places with a strong current and rocky regions are best avoided. Underwater cables could give you a nasty surprise, too. They’re best avoided, of course.

Be Ready With Plan B

My Plan B is often a nearby marina. Well, at least my Plan C. If I can’t find an ideal spot, I usually head there for the night and then explore the area the next day once I’m heavy on water and food supplies.

Everyone has their own preferences. You’ll also want to:

Get There Early

Get there early! Yes. Leave the “getting there late” for the bedroom. The early bird gets the worm, and the best anchorages, the quiet places, the prettiest places, and the most chilled out experience can all be had when you arrive before dark and bag the best anchorage available within miles. You could even test a few different anchorages in the area out to make sure you have a good hold on that below sea matter.

Find Your Depth

Too deep, and you’re in trouble. Too shallow, and your anchorage might be wholly unsatisfying. There’s a sweet spot that’s perfect for your boat. I fully recommend you find it. The tides will change, the guides may mark anchorages that are suitable for a draft of 6 feet, and your lady (boat) may find herself grounded at anchor.

Make sure you have enough anchor rode to achieve what you’d been planning. The proper scope should be achieved. If you don’t see that she’s happy first, no one’s going to be getting a good night’s sleep.

So, to Recap

Make sure you:

  • Do your best to please everyone onboard
  • Check your charts and guides
  • Can swing with glee
  • Stay protected
  • Have a muddy or a sandy bottom (where possible)
  • Don’t go too deep or shallow
  • And get there early (outside of the bedroom)

Have a great time at anchor!     I will be launching a new book in the coming weeks,…check out this link to follow the release:

Confession: Why and How I’m Writing My First Book, Part 1


From The Northeastern U.S. to South America – A Sailors Guide (Part 5/12)




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