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NOTE: This page is in the process of being rewritten.


Anchor Types

  • Danforth (shown) + Fortress - GREAT for Bay Area mud. Great for the mud in the deep water (15'+) areas of the Delta. Pretty directional and not ideal for heavily shifting winds. Fortress is lightweight aluminum, a very similar shape to Danforths, and generally a really good anchor.
  • Bruce / CQR - Okay at all types of bottom conditions, but not great at anything.
  • Rocna - New computer based designs, really good in almost all conditions, but $$.

Note - Third party knockoffs resembling popular anchors might have slight differences in terms of build quality and geometry that make them not nearly as effective as the name brands.

Holding power

The type of anchor, and it's size (usually denoted by it's weight) determines how big of a boat it can hold in place. For each anchor type you should be able to find charts indicating what size is appropriate, in how much wind, for a given boat weight or size.

As an example, for Danforth Standard anchors.

Weight : Max Holding Power : Boat size in 20knots of winds. 14lb : 920 : 31'
16lb : 1300 : 36'
25lb : 1600 : 40'
43lb : 2000 : 45'
70lb : 3000 : 55'
100lb : 3500 : 60'

These numbers assume a minimum of amount of of chain.


Anchor on bottom.jpg

Anchors work by lying flat on the bottom, and digging down into the sand or mud. "Scope" refers to the ratio between the line length and the depth. The more scope (up to a point) the better the anchor holds.

  • For beginners, 6:1 is our recommended minimum
  • For beginners, 10:1 is recommended better holding

If there's 10' between the anchor roller and the bottom, 6:1 scope would mean 60' of line/chain out.

Mark your line or chain in 10’ or 20’ increments. You should be able to know at a glance how much you have out.

Scope Table

According to Don Casey, this table shows anchor holding power as related to scope:

10:1 100%
7:1 91%
6:1 85%
5:1 77%
4:1 67%
3:1 53%
2:1 35%

Scope Details

Measure total depth from roller, or point where line crosses the deck, not just the water depth.

Remember tidal shift -- 6’ of depth at low tide, might be 11’ at high tide.

Disadvantage to more scope is more swing, and more likely for someone to cross your anchor line w/ their own anchor pulling them both us, so don’t just by default put out 300’.

Note this is approximate and it assumes a flat seabed. If the floor is sloped, then the calculations get more complex.

Example 1: If someone tries to use 50' of line in 25' of water, then the scope is 2:1 and the holding power of anchor will only be about 35% of it's max.

Example 2: If the same line is used in 10' of water, the scope will be 5:1 and the holding power should be more than twice as strong as it was in the first example.


Anchor with chain.jpg

Chain adds weight to the end of the line and helps the anchor stay set on the bottom.

It's recommend that all anchors have at least at minimum 10' of chain in addition to the line. A rule of thumb is that the chain size should have 1/2 the size of the line. e.g. If you have 1/2" rope for your anchor the attached chain should be 1/4".

If you're boat only has chain (no line) then there's very little stretch and there could be strong forces on whatever it's attached it. It's often a good idea to add some line running from cleats to the chain.

Howto: Drop an anchor

Howto: Pull up an anchor

Release by pulling straight up and down.

After 4 days of anchoring in last year, some of our anchors were stuck in the mud. Pulling up failed to free them, so we tied off the anchor line to a cleat on the houseboat and motored forward at full speed to break them loose.

This year, with a longer event and bigger anchors we are likely to have anchors which are really stuck in the mud. Trying to yank them out with a cleat and the force of a motor is likely to damage the boats.

Instead, here's what one reference recommended and I'm paraphrasing: Pull the line tight, and then let the motion of the waves to gradually work the anchor loose.

On the delta, we probably won't have the waves to help us work the anchors out. But a group of people pulling, with patience, should be able to slowly work an anchor out of the mud.

Anchoring one boat

Captains, make sure to acquire the proper chain, anchor line, and connectors before you leave the house! Before you take your boat from the pier, look at connections between chain and anchor, chain and line, and make sure the line is in good shape. 2) MEASURE WATER DEPTH AND LENGTH OF ANCHOR LINE. For Ephemerisle use a minimum 5:1 ratio of anchor line to depth. You can assume this means a minimum length of 125 feet of anchor line. 3) TIE THE LINE TO YOUR BOAT. Cleat it at 125 feet (or longer), and tie it again to an even stronger part of your houseboat

Check the tie off. Make sure the line is attached to the boat, and isn’t tangled on anything. 2) Check your position. Look in a direction perpendicular to the line made by your anchor line and boat. If you are drifting, your anchor hasn’t set properly. Start over! 3) Check your position AGAIN. And AGAIN. And AGAIN. Lots of things can cause you to come un-stuck from the bottom.

Backing up on an anchor

2) FEED OUT THE ANCHOR LINE. As you drive SLOWLY away from the cast anchor, feed the line out by hand, giving the occasional tug. 3) TUG AND HOLD. Tugging on the line, you should feel the anchor “set” into the mud.

Swings in the wind

Anchoring a raftup/island

Point into prevailing wind. Anchor every 2-3 boats. IMPORTANT: Make subjective judgments based on boat size and anchor sizes/types. A small anchor from a 27’ boat will do effectively nothing next to some 50’ boats. Put out a stern anchor every 3-4 boats. Especially in low wind, this will prevent the raftup from spinning and all of the anchors getting twisted.

Anchoring Near Others

Generally boats put down one anchor and drift with the wind and the current. If boats anchor closely near to other boats with each with one anchor and similar scope, they all shift together with the wind and current and avoid collision.

At Ephemerisle, it's been common for islands to put down multiple (3-4) anchors in opposite directions to fix themselves in place. This can lead to collisions even without anchors dragging, if one boat or island is fixed in place and another is shifting freely with the tides.

According to the law, anchoring is first come, first serve. If a boat is already anchored, boats who anchor after them have a legal responsibility not to crash into the boat already in place.

But there's also good manners and maintaining good relationships with your neighbors. If a large boat or a large group of boats (island) has a specific need to be in a particular place, and a smaller boat or island can reasonably relocate somewhere else, it's very nice to do so.

Local Conditions

There is a fairly strong current which runs NS and reverses on a regular basis in the Mandeville Channel. It's a serious hazard for swimmers. And boat with a single anchor down should be expected to swing all of the way north then south with the tides.

Strong winds, up to 20 knots, are common. And they usually come from the West. Your anchor or your largest anchor if you're putting out multiple should probably be put towards the West.

There have been extreme winds (40 knots). All boats should be prepared for the worst of conditions to prevent serious damage to boats or injuries to people.


It is apparently relatively common practice in the Delta to create a secure anchorage by tying off to a tree. A stern anchor would of course also be needed to keep the boat from being pushed into that tree. There are few suitable trees close to Mandeville Point. There are a number of pylons in the channel that cuts through Mandeville Point, and they are frequently used for at least a night or two, especially for boaters who arrive after sunset and are not able to raft up to boats that are already anchored. If you do this, bring citronella candles and bug spray and close your screens, because the closer you are to shore, the more you will be overwhelmed by insects.