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Safe at Sea: A picnic anchor?

By Staff | May 26, 2020

This morning while I was taking a beach walk, I came across a rather familiar scene: a beautiful large boat with twin engines with four folks attempting to anchor at Lighthouse Beach. Clearly, they had plans for a wonderful day on the beach and in the water.

What became obvious in a matter of minutes was that not one of these boaters knew how to anchor up for the day. As I walked by, their boat was broadside to the shore. Fortunately, there was a very light breeze or their boat would have been grounded onshore in just a minute or two.

When I walked away, they were still in a conundrum: How to secure their boat so it’s accessible to the beach and will not drift.

A few weeks ago, this column ran a series of articles on anchors, as well as a column on how to safely and securely anchor at sea. However, anchoring along the beach takes slightly different equipment and skill. Simply knowing how to anchor your boat – regardless the location – is equally as important as knowing how to dock your boat. This is particularly true of anchoring your boat at the beach.

Common mistake No. 1: Approaching the beach bow first – even for just a minute.

A recent article in The Ensign, the America’s Boating Club magazine, outlined the perfect technique.

First, choose your spot along the beach and then back down on the beach slowly. When you believe you are close enough, deploy the bow anchor, set it, and let out sufficient rode to put you in water deep enough for your lower unit or prop, but shallow enough so you can wade to the beach (as well as carry all the chairs, umbrellas, coolers, toys, et cetera). Thus, your boat’s ladder is facing the beach: a convenience and often a necessity!

Anchoring this way keeps the bow into the waves. Be aware, a current running parallel to the shore may cause your boat to drift sideways into the water, which may turn out to be over your head. This, of course, makes the final return to your boat frustrating, if not impossible for the sherpas carrying all the gear.

Solution? Use a picnic anchor.

This second smaller anchor should be on a 75-foot to 100-foot rope, attached to your boat’s stern. Carry the picnic anchor to the beach and set it in the sand. This will keep your bow headed into the waves and the stern in shallow water, thus bringing your day on the beach to a perfect ending.

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and the courses it offers, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.