The further off the beaten track I have ventured, the more my definition of an ‘ideal’ anchorage has changed. Sometimes, to gain access to the shore or to find refuge from the weather, I’ve had to take whatever shelter nature has to offer and get creative with my own mooring techniques.
I once spent a week escaping the wrath of the Roaring Forties, strung up between the rocks in a caletta (small bay) on the Argentine coast. There was no room to swing and not enough runway to lay out a decent anchor, but it was the only available haven so we just adapted by securing multiple lines ashore. Here are some of the solutions I have used for wild anchoring.
Attaching to the shore
When the water is deep and the shore steeply shelving, it’s not always practical or possible to use anchors, so securing to land becomes the most viable alternative. The most common way to do this is by reversing towards the shore, dropping the bow anchor on the way so it’s pulling ‘uphill’ then running a couple of positioning lines ashore from the stern.
It’s not simple setting up these sorts of mooring systems and needs thought. If possible make a dinghy recce first, or set up land anchor points. It’s useful to have a variety of ways to fix to the shore. I used lengths of chain that could be secured around boulders, steel stakes hammered into soft ground (as used with canal boats), and webbing straps to wrap around trees.
Once anchored, one crew member will need to hold the boat in position against the anchor, while a dinghy takes positioning lines ashore; ideally use a floating line, paid out from a reel. If shore anchors have not already been put in place, quickly make off one line as a temporary mooring; if in an area with trees try a tensionless hitch.
This hitch uses friction alone and will work on any cylindrical object – simply wrap your rope around the tree trunk four or five times and leave. There’s no knot tying required so this can be done by any crew.
Narrow tidal channels
I try to avoid setting in-line bow and stern anchors as slack ground tackle can easily get caught under the boat. But, in narrow tidal channels with no room to swing, there may be no alternative. Anchors should be of equal size if possible; if one anchor is smaller or has inferior ground tackle, ensure you use extra scope to even out the holding capabilities.
Set your stern anchor first, dropping it from the stern then motoring forward to lay out the chain. You will need a double length rode when setting the anchor initially, so attach extra line if necessary. Motor into the tide to drop your bow anchor then fall back gently taking up on the stern as you go.
Using a stern bridle can help reduce the risk of the stern anchor snagging. Set up a length of line on one stern cleat, with a loop or snatch block in the end. Pass the anchor rope through the loop then make it off on the opposite cleat, trimming the first piece of line to spread the load across both cleats.