When we departed on our Great Loop voyage in September 2019, we had never anchored overnight but other Loopers told us that some of their best boating experiences were quiet nights at anchor cooking out, watching the stars, and just relaxing.
As we traveled down the rivers toward Mobile, there were two evenings when there simply was no nearby marina. So, once alongside the Ohio River and again in a cove off of the Tenn-Tom Waterway, we anchored out with other boaters and truly enjoyed it.
Scope. We have learned that safe anchoring requires at least a 7-to-1 scope. That is, we should let out enough anchor chain to be seven times the sum of (1) the water depth plus (2) the height of our bow above the water. So, if our bow is 5 feet above the water and the water is 10 feet deep, we should let out 105 feet (15 x 7) of anchor chain to be safe.
Anchor #1. When we purchased R&R she was equipped with a Delta plow-style anchor. (See below for our replacement Anchor #1.)
This anchor is attached to 200 feet of 5/16 inch chain, connected to a Maxwell electric anchor windlass with an up/down switch at the helm and up/down foot pedals on the foredeck.
It is a solid setup, except that an all-chain anchor rode can be uncomfortable and can damage the windlass during bumpy nights at anchor – more about that later.
Marking Chain. In August 2019 while R&R was out of the water having some underwater parts replaced, I painted Anchor #1’s chain every 10 feet so we would know how much chain was out.
In July 2021 I re-marked R&R’s anchor chain, attaching multiple colored zip ties every 25 feet.
Anchor #2. As we prepared for the 1,000 mile delivery of R&R from Nashville, TN to Holland, MI, I asked our delivery captain Danny Meadows whether he recommended a second anchor. His response was a strong “yes” so we added a lightweight Danforth fluke-style anchor with 200 feet of anchor line to use as a spare, or as a stern anchor to prevent swinging while at anchor. One evening along the heavily flooded Mississippi River during delivery of R&R to Holland, MI, Danny and I needed both anchors and they saved us. That Danforth anchor is now mounted on our bow rail for the next time we need it.
Since our first couple of nights anchoring out were good experiences for Rhonda and me, we wanted to be sure R&R was well equipped to do it regularly.
Battery Monitor. Both mornings after we anchored out, R&R’s “house battery” was near-dead. Even after we replaced the house battery, R&R’s typical overnight power usage (if not connected to shore power) will drain the house battery. Fortunately, the house battery can be recharged with the generator and is separate from the engine starting batteries, so a dead house battery is not a show stopper.
During our two year Great Loop voyage we replaced R&R’s house battery twice due to heavy charge-discharge cycling. Our newest house battery is an AGM battery that is a bit more tolerant of deep discharge cycles.
We recently added a Victron 712 Smart battery monitor to get better information about daily power usage and the state of charge of our house battery. It even uses Bluetooth to send battery data to a Victron Iphone app! In a short time I am learning that our “house battery” capacity is on the low side. We may need to add more deep cycle batteries for all-night power.
The new Victron monitor will provide more information, enable us to limit power usage, and tell us when it is time to run the generator to recharge the house battery. It also may tell us we need to increase our house battery capacity, but that’s for later!
Anchor Bridle. Even though an all-chain anchor rode is a sound anchoring solution, the chain transfers all boat movement directly to the boat via the anchor windlass. That can make for loud, jerky nights at anchor and can damage the windlass. So what is the solution? An anchor snubber, or bridle. While in Key West last month, we bought a used Mantus anchor bridle from a dock neighbor who wanted a smaller version and was willing to part with his lightly used bridle for a reasonable price.
An anchor bridle transfers movement of the boat from the anchor chain to two stretchable lines with loops connected to port and starboard bow cleats, relieving the windlass and smoothing the ride.
The bridle connects to the anchor chain with a Mantus chain hook that locks onto the chain to prevent the hook from unlatching when the anchor chain is slack.
This project has taken some time. I started in May 2019 by marking the anchor chain in Holland, MI, replaced the house battery in November 2019 in Orange Beach, AL, added the Victron battery monitor and anchor bridle in February 2021 in the Florida Keys, and replaced anchor #1 with a Rocna anchor in July 2021. Having a reliable and safe ground tackle system is important. We intend to anchor out more as we head north on the Great Loop, and knowing we are safe “on the hook” makes the work worthwhile.
Replacement Anchor #1 (Rocna). As we re-entered Michigan and looked forward to more anchoring opportunities in northern Michigan, we decided to replace our main anchor with a heavier and more reliable Rocna. The new main anchor weighs 55 pounds (about 10 pounds heavier than the prior main anchor) and its “roll-bar” design helps it set and reset in many types of seabed. Many Loopers and other long-distance cruisers swear by Rocna anchors. We will try it out soon!