We anchor almost every time we sail and that adds up to more than 100 times a year. We’ve studied the techniques very carefully and are fairly expert, yet every night at anchor both the Bosun and I check our position, the anchor and snubber and we do it half a dozen times each. Part of that is that we’re old men and tend to wander around in the night. (I’m writing this at 0330 and there’s no good reason for that. Just old.)
Most books that address anchoring tell you to take bearings and calculate your position, then draw the circle representing the length of rode and your swing.
If you’ve anchored at the Channel Islands, you know that you can’t get a visual fix, it’s just too damned dark and there are satisfactory lights only in Smugglers and Yellowbanks (Anacapa Light and Platform Gail). So you’re left with taking a look around, estimating how far you are from other boats and listening to the surf for clues about how close you are to the shore.
That’s all standard and not all that accurate or reassuring. What does reassure us is our GPS. We set the track to 5 sec and can see what the trend is. We’ve spent a couple of nights in Yellowbanks with winds gusting over 50 knots and stood anchor watch at the nav table watching our track. BTW – at 50 knots with no riding sail, our track was a semi-circle. We also set the anchor alarm.
Anchor alarm drawbacks
Our anchor alarm works fine but it isn’t as loud as Tom’s (my son’s) snoring. If we’re awake, it’s OK. If not, the wind is much more likely to wake us than the puny alarm.
Then there’s the “where are we” issue. We hit the GPS alarm button as we drop the anchor. I presume that marks the spot where the GPS antenna is, but that is 45.2 feet from the anchor even before we lower it.
Drag Queen is a great addition
Drag Queen is a free phone app and is the best anchoring trick we’ve picked up since we switched to all-chain rode.
We take it forward when we’re about to drop the hook, hit the set button when the 50 foot marker goes by and then put it away.
Once the anchor is set, we get the phone out, add the length of the rode to the distance from the bow plus 10% and enter that in the Distance Alarm field.
With bow and stern hook set, we mark the position wherever the phone is going to spend the night, usually the nav table and set the distance at 70 feet or so, depending on how close other boats and obstructions are and how tightly we snubbed the rodes.
We have used the default for Alarm Delay – 30 seconds, and set 50 feet for GPS Alarm Accuracy.
Those are pretty tight parameters and we get the occasional false positive. We will probably start setting the alarm delay to 45 seconds to reduce the false alarm rate.
The alarm is startling. It’s loud and raucous. It’s perfect. If you want more volume, hook it up to your FM radio or a Jambox. Doing those things will probably wake all your neighbors.
Does it work inside?
The publisher warns that GPS accuracy can be severely degraded if the phone doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. We set ours on the nav table which is near the companionway but with no direct view of the sky and have monitored the GPS accuracy. It rarely wanders above 33 feet on either my iPhone or the Bosun’s Android.
Other cool things
Since the app notes the location of the anchor, you can transfer the information to another device such as an iPad or a second phone.
Plug it in, plug it in
Plug your phone into an external power source. Capt. Rob has installed USB plugs for us, but a cigarette lighter plug is almost as good.
The display will not dim when the app is activated and the phone is plugged in.
If you’ve got questions
e-mail Capt. Dan
See you on the water!