How to Anchor a Boat Overnight


Anchoring a boat properly ensures the safety of the boat and anyone on board. You must consider a number of factors including water depth and tide, the anchoring bed, weather conditions, boats and hazards nearby and rules and regulations. Anchoring properly requires you understand the anchor length-to-depth ratio as well, which is called "scope."

  • Pull into the bay and position your boat's bow windward, i.e., into the wind. If the bay has a current stronger than the wind, point your bow upstream. If there are other boats in the bay, it is simple to see which direction the wind or current is moving. Every anchored boat will face in the same direction.

  • Anchor with a 5-to-1 scope ratio in calm weather or 7-to-1 in heavy weather. The scope ratio is the length of chain in relation to depth. For example, if the water is 20 feet deep, you need 100 feet of chain in calm weather and 140 feet in heavy weather.

  • Anchor away from any other boat by a distance equal to 20 feet, plus your chain length, plus the length of your boat, plus the length of your painter, which is the rope attaching your dinghy to your boat. Do the same in relation to rocks, the shore, shallow spots and other hazards.

  • Drop the anchor and allow the chain to feed to the proper scope ratio, and then put the boat in reverse. If the boat moves backwards, the anchor is dragging. Add more scope length, put the boat in reverse and check the set of the anchor. If the boat still drags the anchor, cycle in the anchor chain and reset the anchor. When the anchor sets, kill the engine and turn on your mast light.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure you are anchored in a permitted area. Avoid fines by anchoring away from reef and protected areas.

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