Anchoring is one of the joys of cruising, offering you fresh air, privacy, and a sense of self-sufficiency so planning it well adds greatly to your confidence and pleasure as you travel on your boat.
Which are the best practices for determining if an anchorage is a good?
Chose what you want
When choosing an anchorage, you have to clarify the reason why you want to anchor in a place. For instance, do you just want to anchor for lunch and a swim in a quiet place?
Check Nautical Charts and Cruising Guides
You have to check if the place of your choice is not marked as a restricted area and offer protection from wind, waves and weather; has a bottom that will provide good holding, has sufficient depth, and offers enough swinging room for your boat. Evaluate if there is protection from wind, waves and weather An anchorage procedure always involves the assessment of current and expected weather conditions at the place where you intend to anchor. Indeed, the consequence of a "bad" weather conditions impact on the choice of the anchor point.
Find the right depth
Even if a harbor looks well protected, if there is too little or too much depth for your boat to anchor safely it's not worth considering. A homogeneous depth that varies from 5 to 10 meters is the preferable condition. You also have to consider tidal ranges if applicable. You may find sufficient water to anchor in when you first arrive but if the tide drops will you still be afloat or grounded at anchor? Best to check the tide charts in advance.
The instrument for measuring the depth is the depth sounder, although this indicates the vertical distance and not an overview of developments in the seabed. That's why you need to navigate within the area where you want to anchor and take notice of the changes. Thanks to the electronic charting tools is now possible to identify the morphological characteristics of the seabed.
Otherwise you can use the “batiscopio” (the mirror of professional fisherman) that empirically allows us to look at the bottom from the boat. And it is useful to control the anchor position.
Finally, do not forget that mask and fins may be worthy substitutes that should always be present on board.
Check the bottom
Even the shape of the bottom (mud, rocks, sand, seaweed) is important to prevent possible dangers. Specially in bad weather conditions. You want to sleep through the night and not worry about your anchor dragging. Sand and mud offer the best holding properties for your anchor. Be careful of weedy areas which can cause your anchor to foul and drag, scoured bottoms where there is strong current and not much for your hook to grab into, rocky spots or areas marked “foul” where your anchor might get hung up, and areas where underwater cables are shown on the chart. In tropical areas you can often see the bottom to find a good sandy patch.
Arriving at an anchorage in good time reduces your stress throughout the day since you know you'll have options no matter what. Early arrival allows you time to relax, watch the anchor and feel confident that it is holding, move to a new place if it isn't, plan the next few days, cook, write, swim or do some exploring.