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March 17, 2014

How To: Safer Anchoring

A bow rail and anchor pulpit provide added
 safety and easier anchoring.

At some point, every boater comes across a situation that calls for tossing out an anchor, and if you don’t have the right tools or have purposely neglected being properly prepared for anchoring, you’ve made your job much more difficult. Many folks think it’s cool to have a boat with no bow rail or pulpit, but they are putting form over function and risking serious injury to whomever has to go forward and deal with anchoring or just tying up the boat. I’m surprised builders are not mandated to install at least a minimal bow rail for safety or classification ratings.

Sending crew forward to tie up or anchor the boat isn’t always done in calm conditions, especially when catching bait or anchoring on a wreck. The bow is usually rising, falling and pitching with the seas. With a bow rail, pulpit and windlass, at least you have some tools to steady yourself while you deploy the ground tackle. Without a bow rail, you have nothing to steady yourself; you are totally exposed and at great risk of going overboard or being injured. I’ve seen deckhands slip and fall on the foredeck while still in the harbor, out on the bait patch and while walking forward to get to the anchor. I’ve even seen a couple go overboard because they had no bow rail to grab.

I once worked as a deckhand on a boat that didn’t have a pulpit, windlass or bow rail — and we were fishing the Mud Hole off New Jersey with a 15- to 18-knot northeasterly breeze and rolling sea. We had to anchor off the transom, and when we wanted to make a move, I had to get a ball on the line to pull the anchor. Well, we quickly found out that our ring and ball were too small to raise the 55-pound anchor. Once the anchor was up, trying to lift it over the transom without hitting the boat in the heaving seas was even harder. By the next weekend, I had found a larger, reinforced, back-banded ring and an A5-size ball to lift and float that anchor. It solved the lifting problem, but it was still hard to get it into the boat.

We now have a great system and try to always keep safety first when operating on the foredeck. We also have a skiff on the bow that we need to launch and load — without a bow rail, the difficulty of that job increases exponentially.

We took a great deal of time and did loads of research to make sure our ground tackle was right. That meant gear that makes deploying the anchor easy and safe every time without fail. It’s a heavy-lifting job, and there’s no room for error. Much has been written about anchor types and their holding power. On the 72-foot Brier Patch, we anchor out a lot when catching bait, fishing a wreck or reef, or just hanging on the hook for the night at a good anchorage. We use an 80-pound Bruce-style anchor with 100 feet of chain and 500 feet of rode. On the 63-foot Saranita, we deploy a 60-pound Bruce with 50 feet of chain and 500 feet of rode.