Tangled anchor

Carry on like that and I’ll deck you

In the Age of Sail where no one had an engine to get out of trouble, sailors in an argument sometimes said You're athwart my hawse to the person they were arguing with.

This meant in modern language, "Carry on like that and I'll deck you!"

The "hawse" is the anchor chain in old language, though is now known as the rode

Getting anchors tangled is one of the most irritating and difficult jobs to sort out and it is no wonder sailors found it an excuse to lay the idiot out who tangled with them!

Better to stay in port than to become a statistic


Good anchoring discipline is that you should never anchor too close to another boat and if anchored when another comes in to anchor nearby you should tell them if they try to drop anchor too close to you.

It is your right to tell them to stay away if you think you will tangle.

You can't take the mickey though - while everyone likes to be in a secluded anchorage on their own, you can't put so much anchor rode down that people can't get within 50 metres of you!

In some cases the person upwind or current of you may drag their anchor. This happens to everyone at some point, and is a consequence of not putting enough rode down.

In a windy situation someone should be on deck all night anyway just to keep an eye on things in case you do drag.

If you or they do drag and you do get tangled it is better to be patient with them and not lay them out until everything is sorted - they are less likely to cooperate with you if that happens.

Make sure both vessels are stationary and any injuries or immediate risks to life are resolved such as holes below the waterline.

To stop further dragging the lower vessel (the one that didn't drag or was there first) should drop more chain.

The vessel that has dragged or crossed the rode should motor forward at least 10 metres ahead of your own vessel and then cross back to the side of their anchor.

They should take in their anchor and set it again as necessary with enough rode to hold this time.


For safety reasons some people lay two anchors.

The ideal in this situation is three anchors - two at the stern and one at the bow with 120 degrees angle between each.

That will hold you perfectly in even 100mph winds.

This can take an hour to sort out and requires your dinghy to lay things. It isn't recommended in busy anchorages as everyone else will swing to the winds and tides - never mind one boat tangling with you (as above) you may have three or more!

You may lay two anchors at the bow to ensure you don't drag in high winds.

Make sure these are at least 90 degrees to each other (45 degrees off each bow). When you swing with the wind or tide, the rodes may twist.

In this case, untie the rode that has been on top of the twist from its fixing in the anchor chain locker (yes, this involves letting all the chain out) and unwind the chain manually.

Remember to fix it to the boat again before putting the chain in the locker once the issue is resolved as it isn't unknown for people to drop anchor again and lose the lot over the side.


Always lay enough rode and chain not to drag.

As a final tip, try to avoid using two anchors.

If the Meltemi or Maistro is set to build from the NE, then try to find an anchorage that has land to the NE of you. This will reduce the impact of the wind on you.

While winds do reduce some if the land is down wind of you, it isn't wise to anchor with the land to the SW in a building gale from the NE.

Plan ahead - you should have 24 hours notice of any nasty weather and think about how to keep out of trouble and work this into your passage plan - if you need an anchorage in nasty weather, make sure the land isn't in your lee as if you drag you could end up on the rocks.