How to Properly Set Your Anchor: The Right Way

anchoring boat properly

Anchoring your boat is an important task. You want to make sure that you set it up properly so that you don’t run into any problems while you’re out on the water. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of setting your anchor and show you how to do it the right way. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to securely fasten your boat in no time!

How Anchors Work

Anchors work by digging into the bottom of a body of water and holding the ship in place. The weight of the anchor and the chain that it is attached to keep the ship from moving. There are two main types of anchors: permanent anchors, which are used in fixed locations such as docks, and temporary anchors, which are used when a ship is underway.

Temporary anchors are typically much lighter than permanent anchors and can be easily removed when they are no longer needed. Whether permanent or temporary, all anchors serve the same basic purpose: to keep a ship from moving.

Correct Anchoring Is Important

There are a lot of anchoring issues that can end up causing big problems for your day out on the water. From forgetting to attach the line to dropping it from the stern, we are here to tell you how to properly set up your anchor and avoid any problems.

Arguably the most important to remember is never anchor from the stern (the “backside” of the boat). This can cause small boats to capsize or sink. The stern is also usually carrying more of the boat’s weight – fuel, motor, passengers, gear, and more can pull the stern under. It opens the boat to swamping from waves, as it will be sitting lower in the water.

Setting The Anchor

After you drop your anchor the first thing you should do is pull on the line to make sure the anchor is set. This ensures the anchor has dug into the ground and will keep your boat stable. If you want to test it completely, you can put the boat in reverse to make sure there’s no movement.

Reversing with a decent amount of power is the only way to know your anchor as surely set. If you plan on being away from the boat controls for a period of time, you should always double-check and be confident your boat is anchored properly and securely.

Anchor Scope

The scope is essentially the distance of rope between the dropped anchor and where the anchor is attached to your boat.

It’s best to think of your anchor as a tether at the bottom of the water, and your boat can move within that tethered range.

Being aware of your anchors’ scope will help you position your boat better and allow you to predict movements while the anchor is set.


Depending on the weather, your boat can become unanchored. When you drift far in one direction or are dealing with high surf – if the boat swings far enough you may detach.

  • If you have an automatic system that alerts you when your boat has swung too far or that the direction of the boat has changed radically, that is super helpful.
  • If you don’t have any automatic systems that alert you, always monitor the position of your boat and keep an eye on your position in the water. Use landmarks and any other visible marks to get a good idea of your original anchor location.

Bottom Of Water Conditions

It’s always important to consider what exactly is on the bottom of the water when anchoring. Different materials have their own properties that can change how you anchor your boat.

Remember that close to shorelines, the bottom of the water may change drastically as it transitions into deeper water. It can go from sandy/rocky beaches, to weedy and overgrown within 10-20 feet of distance.

If you notice you are mostly boating in bodies of water with similar conditions on the bottom, consider what type of anchor you are using. You could potentially benefit from a different shape.

Rock Bottoms

Plow-shaped anchors perform the best in rocky conditions. It allows the protruding parts to lock into rocks and provide a secure anchor for your boat.


Mud is easily disrupted and easily cropped off by anchors. To get a good lock, you need an anchor that can penetrate deep into the mud with lots of surface area.


Most anchors perform well in hard sand. Its properties allow for most shapes to take hold and provide a secure position for your boat.

Vegetation, Shale, & Clay

Unfortunately, vegetation and rocky/clay bottoms give trouble to all anchor types. Thick weeds may give a false impression that you are anchored and mislead you into thinking your vessel is secured.

In this type of environment, there is no easy solution and you may end up having to test every setup to ensure it has actually been set.

Anchoring Advice & Tips

  • No single anchor design is a “do-it-all”. Each shape comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, and the best anchor for you will depend entirely on where you like to go boating.
  • Carry two anchors, losing an anchor can and does happen.
  • Regularly inspect your anchoring system for any structural or functionality issues. Clear off debris that may have accumulated.

Need Boat Help? Contact Hagadone Marine!

Looking for some help or advice on your boating situation? Reach out to Hagadone Marine! Our trained and experienced staff are more than happy to help you out.

We hope this article has helped you learn a bit more, and we hope to see you in Coeur d’Alene!