Fortunately for each member of Team Rover, we are all aligned on preferring to be at anchor by far over moorings or slips. That’s a really good thing because the experience is considerably different for each of the three options. Slips and (in particular) moorings are more or less tie-up-and-forget-it affairs, whereas anchoring requires more diligence and skill in choosing the right spot and monitoring to be sure swing radiuses are appropriate and the boat is not dragging in stiff breezes. So far we’ve been anchored more than half or 3+ week trip and I have the following reflections to share about the experience so far:
- The Active Captain overlay in apps like Navionics KICKS ASS. I used Active Captain to choose all of my anchorages on the Annapolis to Bahamas cruise in 2016 and the info it contains is literally gold. Same on this trip – terrific information on everything from holding conditions to cell phone signals. If you’re planning a cruise and haven’t used it, we highly recommend it.
- Oh my oh my the wide range of anchoring skills we’ve observed. The low point by far was July 4th at Block Island. Multiple boats trying to anchor in 40 feet of water in stiff breezes with insufficient scope resulted in the harbor patrol acting like a fire brigade, racing from dragging boat to dragging boat and towing them to “emergency moorings.” By contrast further north we’ve seen the opposite end of the spectrum where experienced (and very young!) cruisers sailed up near us (but appropriately spaced!) under main alone, doused, set their anchor, put on the main cover, and broke out a cold one. There’s a full spectrum but on balance most of the cruisers we’ve seen have exhibited moderate to poor skills.
- For $4.50 per year, buy Anchor Pro for your iPad as an anchor alarm. Thanks Glenn for this recommendation! You’ll sleep well, especially as the Pro version keeps a graphical log of the boats movements. At each nightime pee, check the plot to be sure you haven’t dragged or swung to far, look around outside to be sure all is well, and drift peacefully back to sleep.
- We are delighted with the Rocna anchor. All of my prior anchoring experience was with the plow-type CQR that came with my Sabre. Once the anchor would set, it never failed me but it had a habit of landing on the sea floor upside down, whereupon it would completely fail to set. That scenario was particularly troublesome when anchoring single handed in breezy conditions. But it also had another tendency: to take some considerable distance to set and not to do so very definitively. Here’s a great video showing exactly why the anchor behaved that way. As depicted in the video, the Rocna is the complete opposite: it sets virtually instantly and definitely which gives us much more confidence that it’s holding. We’re delighted.
- The stemhead fittings on many of the boats I see feel like an afterthought when it comes to being set up for anchor gear and our Hylas 54 isn’t perfect either. I have two minor gripes. First, the anchor rollers are aligned with the windlass, which at one level makes perfect sense. However, there isn’t a way to run a snubber with a fair lead from the roller to the mooring cleats. Witness:The result of this: the snubber has a tendency to aggressively chafe back and forth over the roller in windy conditions.
- Gripe #2: both rollers are chain rollers with a center groove for the chain links. That grove badly aggravates the chafe problem. I emailed Hylas about the issue and they said there were no rollers offered with the boats for rope rode or snubber line, only the chain roller:
They could only suggest that I use sturdy chafe gear. Hmmm. Not a great answer. Here are my solutions to both problems. To make a fair lead, tie a small spare dockline to the snubber with a rolling hitch to make a mini bridle. With that change, the lead becomes fair and the snubber does considerably less chafing back and forth:
Note that the photo the second snubber to the left is a safety backup snubber only. I don’t trust snubber hooks and this one is well under sized.For the grove problem, in windy conditions I wrap a small line around the groove and tie it off. This has the effect of filling the grove and greatly reducing chafe:With these changes I’m much more satisfied with the performance of our anchor gear but I would have liked a more thoughtful design here from Hylas. The stemhead on my Sabre 42, by contrast, was brilliant. It had one anchor roller with a very clever fairlead underneath the roller for the snubber, and a second dedicated fairlead to boot. Great job Roger Hewson!
Still, these minor gripes aside in general the Hylas setup is far better than many production boats we see.
- Rover was built with the windlass and bow thruster sharing a single battery. In moderate conditions and shallow water, this setup is sufficient but we learned that when anchoring in deeper water and breezy conditions (like Block Island) the battery can get weak pretty quickly. We’ve learned to make it standard practice to start the generator before setting or weighing anchor in those conditions.
With these adjustments we continue to improve our Hylas anchoring skills and, as always, continue to have a ball when on the hook!