Anchoring - Sailors for the Sea


Learn proper anchoring techniques to prevent damage to important ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrass and shellfish beds. 

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Determining the best places to anchor and cruise can be challenging without the proper navigational resources. Electronic charts are digital versions of the traditional government-issued paper charts (many boaters still carry these as back ups). For boats smaller than 40-50’ it’s recommended to use a waterproof chartplotter. You’ll have to select the brand of chart that fits your chartplotter (e.g. Garmin units operate Garmin’s BlueChart g2 products). If you’re using your personal computer or smart phone, there are many apps that utilize NOAA’s electronic charts, where you can download the region that you will be boating around.

No matter what type of digital chart you decide to use, be sure to regularly update the program, as safety hazards including sunken vessels, shifting shoals, buoy changes, etc. are continuously added. This will help prevent potential groundings and other accidents.

grounding, boat grounding, anchoring

Before you head out on a cruise, research the harbors where you plan on staying. If available, try to use existing mooring buoys before dropping the anchor. Check out Dockwa, an app that makes finding and reserving a mooring buoy or dock space easy.

If you plan to anchor, use your charts to assess bottom conditions and avoid areas that are home to sensitive or slow-growing species, such as shellfish beds, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Poor anchoring techniques can disturb or damage animals and plants on the seafloor. 

Anchoring tips:

  • Anchor in water deep enough to avoid grounding your vessel with tide change.
  • If possible, anchor in sand or mud and avoid sensitive ecosystems.
  • If anchoring ashore, carefully place the anchor to minimize coastal damage. Avoid sand dunes and don’t tie your rope to a tree. Both ecosystems protect inland areas from the destructive forces of wind and waves.
  • If you revisit the same site frequently, try to anchor in the same position.

anchoring, coral reefs

Retrieving anchor tips:

  • Motor slowly toward the anchor and retrieve when the line is vertical.
  • If the anchor is stuck, try to free it by hand, or disconnect it and mark the site with a buoy for a diver to retrieve later.
  • Do not force the anchor free by motoring forward.

Did you know?

  • There are two types of digital charts: raster and vector. Raster charts are essentially a digital picture of a paper chart, obtained through detailed scanning. Vector charts are stored as a database and drawn on the plotter screen by the software. 

Watch Now

Learn more about how to prevent coral reef damage from anchoring and other Green Boating topics in our video series.