By Jim Dunn
Most good anchorages tend to be crowded, so you need to use proper technique and etiquette to keep the neighbors happy.
Generally, the first boat to anchor has seniority. This means that if you anchor near another boat and that boater thinks you are too close for the conditions, you should be polite and move farther away. In general, if you can stand on deck and have a conversation with your neighbor without shouting, you are probably too close. Move on! In addition, if your neighbor has two anchors set, you should do likewise.
Over the year, boaters learn techniques for anchoring in crowded conditions. First, you don’t have to anchor with the crowd if you can find other space nearby. I’ve never figured out why people herd up and gather together. Second, when you’re ready to drop anchor, approach the other boat from behind. Never start setting your hook directly in front of your new neighbor. Doing so will get their attention. If they have more than a 5-to-1 scope, they might be afraid you will foul their anchor or put your boat on top of it, making it impossible for them to retrieve it.
On our 40-foot sailboat, we approach our new neighbor from behind about two boat lengths or 100 feet before dropping the hook.
When anchoring in crowded conditions, also consider boats to port and starboard. Dong so will allow you to swing around at night without being on top of your neighbor, assuming you are using the same scope. When in doubt, call them on the VHF to find out.
Now, having said all the above…one evening we decided to anchor off the north side of St. Augustine’s Bridge of Lions. At about 1600, we pulled in behind a 40-foot powerboat. The area had a depth of about 18 feet mean low water and good holding on a sandy bottom. We set 125 feet of chain, backed down and started our sundowners. The tide would change at around 1900.
As we finished dinner, we looked out the companionway to see our neighbor standing on his bow peering into our companionway, looking concerned. We immediately went into the cockpit.
His boat was no more than 15 feet from our stern. He said he was OK with our position and was confident his boat would move because he set 50 feet of rode and had an oversized anchor. To be polite, we excused ourselves, started the diesel and moved!