Tips for Anchoring in a Current
Note: This is a must-read before Thunder!
above, a Marinette tied to a Californian. The
Californian has a well-trained and experienced
skipper using the correct equipment to successfully
anchor in a current and hold position for both
We all know the safe boating stuff.
Well, maybe. Due to the fast currents and the rust
that has accumulated on our boating skills, I put together
a small list of things to keep in mind for anchoring
in a current, or "Thunder Anchoring" as the
case seems to be every April.
Tips to establish your anchorage:
- Leave a lot of distance between
you and others.
- Anticipate that you will drift
in a turn. That is, if the river is moving at 4 mph
and you're approaching your spot with the current
to your back, the boat will keep moving 4 mph relative
to the surroundings as you pivot the boat and put
the current at your side. You could easily travel
several hundred feet while maneuvering.
- Anticipate that you will drift while
the anchor sets. You will be several hundred feet
downstream of where you initially place the anchor.
- Pay out a lot of scope. A 7:1 ratio
in 40' water means at least 280' of rode, plus another
7 feet of rode for each foot above the water.
- Don't skimp on anchor size. Don't
use mushroom anchors, as they will drag.
- Consider using at least 10-15' of
chain at the anchor. It will help it to dig-in and
- Be careful letting out the anchor
line while in gear. Excess line can travel with the
current and find it's way to the props.
- After anchoring pick that landmark
out and keep an eye on it to indicate possible drifting.
- Don't shut engines down as soon
as the anchor hooks. Make sure you are securely at
anchor and not drifting before shutting down.
- Be very careful around other anchor
Tips while you are at anchor
- If you're getting close to a neighbor
turn your wheel. There may be enough current flowing
past the rudders to get some distance between the
- Keep an eye on the boats up river
from you throughout the day and evening. If any of
them break loose, you can better prepared for the
hit. If things start to go bad, consider using your
engines to maneuver before contact is made.
- Keep extra fenders available to
place between the boats coming together. Don't use
- If another boater keeps making passes
by repeated anchoring attempts and in turn endangers
your anchorage (like passing over and close to your
anchor line), make contact with law enforcement.
They will give them a hand and find them a safer
area to practice.
- Keep in mind we all screw up once
in a while. Hold your cool and help out as much as
Tips for retrieving your anchor:
- If you have an electric windlass,
use the engine(s) to move closer to the anchor. Only
use the windlass to retrieve the anchor. Pulling
your boat with the windlass will be very expensive
in the long run.
- Have a knife within reach just in
case you find yourself tangled and unable to retrieve
- Consider having a spare anchor and
rode available (in case of the above).
-Contributed by a Guest Writer
||Left, a Danforth Anchor.
The design makes it easy to set, and is also
easy to trip for retreival.
Editor's Note: After previous Thunder Over Louisville experiences, here is some additional information I'd like to emphasize:
1) The correct equipment is absolutely
necessary! I would recommend a Danforth-style anchor
(above) with an appropriate amount of chain at the
beginning. The chain will help keep the anchor parallel
to the bottom of the river and keep the anchor dug-in.
I saw countless smaller boats drift by trying to set
with either a mushroom anchor or no weight at the front.
2) Use enough anchor line (rode)!
If you are in 45' of water, a 50' line will certainly
not be enough. With current, even a 100' line is asking
for trouble. Again, we watched countless smaller boats
drifting. I know they were frustrated after trying
for an hour to get set or drifting near other boats
and having to start over.
Above, a boater went right over my
line, dragging his anchor. I have no idea why my
line wasn't snagged! I lost count of how many boats
drove right over my anchor line right off the bow.
3) Very important! Plan your anchorage
carefully. I watched on guy (yellow pontoon, below)
try to drop his anchor right off my bow. The faces
have been blurred to protect his identity. You have
to ask where he thought he'd wind up? Let's think about
this: a cruiser is sitting there with over 200' of
line payed out, and the anchor line disappears under
water about 15' off the bow. Another 15' upriver, the
line is barely underwater and can be easily snagged.
Draw a line upriver from that boat, and you get a picture
of where their anchor is set. Consider this a danger
area, where any attempt to anchor will certainly cause
trouble. If you don't drift, you still run the risk
of getting tangled. If you drift, why put yourself
right infront of another boat? Sound simple enough,
but it happens.
Stategy: Stay away from other anchor
lines--they are invisible underwater but will still
cause you trouble. Pull up next to (but not right up
against) a boat already set, then drop your anchor.
As you plan your spot, anticipate that you will drift
back as you get established. When the anchor hits bottom,
slowly let out more scope. Next, reverse your engines
to set the anchor. If you aren't moving, you should
be there. Pay out even
more scope, then secure the line. Check your relative
bearings to other objects, then keep an eye on them
to make sure you're not moving.
Above, another boater not thinking
about where he was anchoring. Believe it or not, this
guy dropped anchor only 100' off my bow. Besides fouling
my anchor line, where did he think he was going to
This guy reversed and
his anchor came up my line right up to the bow pulpit,
where I could retrieve it. I was then able to walk
it back to the stern to sell it back to him (just
Amazingly, it wasn't
30 seconds later when the same crew dropped his
anchor infront of the aluminum fishing boat behind
me and did the exact same thing!!! I can't emphasize
enough that you need to think about the current and
where it will take you.
This is a perfect example
of a new boater who would benefit from proper equipment
and a safe boating course. Then, he will be able
to help his buddies with their new boats, and the
world should be a safer place.
Lastly, my hand-held
GPS. I set the anchor alarm to a 100' radius to alert
me of drift, and the GPS unit draws a red track to
show "breadcrumbs" of where the boat has been. Sometimes
the drift is sideways due to wind changes.
the picture that the strong current kept the boat
within a 40'x40' area, even after 5 hours on the
anchor and winds off the stern of up to 15 mph.
If you can visualize, the anchor would have been
set about where I put the yellow dot on the picture
of the GPS unit.
Founder, Port KY
Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.
As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.
Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.