Anchor Buoys


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Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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Relatively new to sailing, when I bought my second boat - a serious cruiser - it came with an anchor buoy - a round float and about 40ft of rope. I decided to use it from time to time - thinking that it would be neat to know where the anchor is, it might prevent people anchoring in exactly the same spot and if I fouled the anchor, it gives me a tripping line to retrieve the anchor with. I have never been religious in using it however - probably less than 20% of the time...

Recently on various websites I 've been reading about people being fed up with boats that deploy anchor buoys. I 'm not exactly sure of the reasons why - maybe someone here can enlighten me.

HOWEVER: I 've been off on a trip the last couple of weeks, travelling in tandem with friends on another boat. We came to anchor in Port Jefferson on Long Island, NY and anchored sensibly close together for sociability - not so close as to represent a threat. In the afternoon, a squall passed through and I watched with horror as my friend 's boat sailed around her anchor, with our anchor buoy passing between the stern of their boat and their dingy. Any closer and the buoy could have been collected by their rudder - and simply tripped our anchor as they continued to sail around theirs.

We remained lucky - but as soon as the squall passed, we upped anchor and removed the offending buoy.

Safe to say, I don 't think I 'll be using the anchor buoy again anytime soon - unless alone in a fouled anchorage perhaps...

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
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Hi Bill,

Anchor buoys and trip lines remain controversial. Some people say they take up too much space in an anchorage. It may depend on the size of the anchorage and how close boats need to be to one another, what the potential is for someone to drop anchor on top of yours especially if you have a lot of rode out, and how likely the anchor is to foul in the given bottom. In a place like Port Jeff where there is oodles of room and a soft bottom, you are less likely to need one.

Most people complain about trip lines in tight anchorages. They like to have their swing radius overlap significantly to allow more scope which they cannot do if you have an anchor buoy out. We like to prevent people from overlapping that much if possible since every boat swings a bit differently. We don 't like to play bumper boats in the night if there is a wind or current shift.

Your example is one that must be seriously considered. Any time you add gear you add potential complications. Our friends sailing in the Caribbean had their trip line pulled up and their boat set adrift in the middle of the night as one of the locals thought someone had set down a competing mooring. We watched a boat pull up to our buoy and try to pick it up thinking it was a mooring. It 's a risk.

Losing an anchor is an expensive proposition for us. As we have had one anchor so jammed that we 've had to cut it away, we tend to use trip lines rather often. We use nylon rope so it sinks and doesn 't foul dinghy props. We label our buoy with our boat name so it 's clearly associated with us and not confused with a mooring. And still these precautions wouldn 't help in the situation you describe.

As there are ways to retrieve a fouled anchor without a trip line these days, perhaps setting aside the anchor buoy for the foulest of bottoms is the way to go.

Happy Hooking!

Vice Commodore, OCC 
Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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Thought you might like to see a picture of the event. Our anchor buoy is visible on the starboard side of our friends on Jamin...

I would absolutely HATE to lose our 80lb Manson and 275ft of chain because of a fouled anchor and wonder about putting a spool of line on the pulpit? It would seem to make the whole deployment/retrieval process far more complicated however...

I wonder if there 'd be a way to link the windlass to an electric winder on the spool - so that when retrieving, the spool takes up the slack in the trip line. The trip line could maybe be fishing line - such that if it 's needed, then use it as a messenger to send down a thicker trip line...

All too complex?

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

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AnchorBuoyRunner.jpg (142 views, 22.00 KB)
Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
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Yep, sounds complicated.

In our book, "Happy Hooking. The Art of Anchoring." we describe a way to retrieve a stuck anchor by shimmying a length of chain down the rode to the crown of the anchor from a dinghy; that 's after taking up the slack in the rode. Then you can use the dinghy to pull almost horizontally by the crown to free the anchor.

There are also commercial anchor retrieval systems like Anchor Rescue, Anka-Yanka, and Anchor Witch among others. The Anchor Witch website has a demo video that shows it retrieving a Rocna.

We 've only had one instance where that did not work. A friend anchored in a mooring field (always a bad idea)and got his anchor 's tip stuck in a link of a massive chain. It was wedged in so hard that it took several divers with equipment to free it. Neither a trip line nor any other retrieval system would have helped in that case.

Vice Commodore, OCC 
Simon Currin
Simon Currin
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I just read about a magnetic tripping line which would seem to eliminate the need for buoys. A 20 metre line is shackled to the tripping point on the anchor and the other end to the chain as it is run out. Every 3 metres a magnet adheres the line to the chain thus eliminating (hopefully) the problems Bill has described.

I have no idea whether it works but it is an interesting idea.
Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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So, having convinced myself that an anchor buoy was more trouble than it 's worth, and having read accounts from sailors for whom I have the utmost respect - which indicates that they essentially never needed to empoy the services of a trip line... I now read in The RCC Pilotage Foundation pilot book 'Atlantic Islands ' (recommended reading for our upcoming trip to the Azores) that Trip Lines are "highly recommended" in most anchorages of the Azores with their rocky bottoms...

I 'm now second guessing my decision and would appreciate someone inspiring me to have more backbone - or conversely to get sensible and bring along a trip line!

What 's it to be?

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

Simon Currin
Simon Currin
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Bill,

We were anchored of Gracisoa in the Azores in 2002 then our anchor chain wrapped around a huge boulder and jammed. We had SCUBA gear aboard for just such an eventuality and this was the first and last time we had to use it to retrieve the anchor.

Simon
Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
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Bill,

How expensive is your anchor if you have to cut it away vs. how much hassle would it be to carry a trip line? Then again, like Simon says, you can always go for a swim.

Daria

Vice Commodore, OCC 
Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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When I researched this hole thing a couple of months back, I got a pretty resounding opinion that anchor buoys were a pain in the anchorage and possibilities of being inadvertently tripped. Indeed, in my first post on this topic I try to describe the sinking feeling I had while watching my friend 's boat sail around my anchor buoy while we were enduring a rather nasty squall. The buoy even passed between his rudder and keel - somehow not getting tripped... Had it tripped, had we not been up and about, we might have lost more than the anchor!

I 'm not much of a swimmer and not equipped with skuba gear - so maybe in a deserted anchorage with a rocky bottom, there 's a place for one of these things...

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

BillonAdvent2
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One may try attaching a "specrta", or other high strength fiber line to the trip point of the anchor. Tie the trip line every few feet to the chain using electrical cable ties (zip ties). The fiber line needs to be somewhat longer than the water depth. To release the anchor, go to up-and-down with the rode, and attach another line to the trip lne. Then reverse the boat to max scope. Go to the second line and yank up, breaking the cable ties down to the anchor, and pull up on the trip point. Similar to the magnet system mentioned earlier. This will only work if the rode does not have a twist,which may be able to be verified and corrected when the anchor rode is up-and-down. This system may be left in place and used when needed.
Bill Doar
s/v Advent II
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