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How to Anchor Safer with a House Brick

'Anchor buddy with friend'   
You’re in a deserted anchorage. It’s a dark night, no moon. You can’t even see to line up to the shore. It’s a lee shore - that’s the only way you could escape the worst of the 30 kt winds out there in the ocean - but invisible. In here, although the sea is calmer, the wind is still hitting 25 kts occasionally. It’s a small anchorage and deep, 20 metres. You have 80 metres of chain out. Scope 4 to 1. Is it enough? Will you sleep?

Maybe not, not tonight. But there are two things which might help, and the first is the anchor alarm:

The good news is that they come with most standard GPS systems. However, they aren’t always useful. An anchor alarm is almost no use in changeable wind, because if your boat is swinging, you must either set the alarm for such a great movement that it is useless, or else it will be waking you every time the boat swings. With a steady wind from the same direction, as in the anecdote above, you can set the anchor alarm for as small a variation as 1 metre. This means that if your boat moves even one metre from its GPS position the GPS alarm will wake even the sleeping fish around the boat.

The other is a House Brick. I guess if you help me to sleep soundly when at anchor, you’re a brick! – Or a buddy. An Anchor buddy in fact. It was Glynne Attersall from the Middle Harbour Yacht Club who was first heard to say, 'The first anchor buddy I ever used for my boat was an ordinary house brick.'


While Glynne may have used a house brick – and it would still work well – anchor buddies have come a long way since then and go by any number of names on the world market: chums, kellets, sentinels, anchor angels

And what are they and how do they work?

Anchor Buddy at work -    

They change the angle of pull on the anchor to help it dig in, thus reducing the boat swing by up to 50%. In this diagram, the lightly drawn line between the bow of the boat and the anchor is there merely to show what WOULD have been the angle of the anchor without the anchor buddy in place.

So the central role that they perform is HOLDING THE ANCHOR RODE DOWN to the ocean bed, so that it pulls ALONG the bed, rather than at an upward angle.

Anchor weights have been used for generations to anchor boats more securely. Modern manufacturers claim that they almost double the holding power of the anchor.

However, and very importantly, there is also an additional advantage in that it REDUCES THE EFFECT OF THE WIND ON THE BOAT, because as the boat yaws less, there is less windage, and therefore less drag on the anchor.

What are the other alternatives to using an anchor buddy?

Second anchor -    

Well, you can set two anchors and hope the wind does not change direction.

But do you really want to be in the dinghy setting an extra anchor when the weather is bad – and it’s always when the weather is bad that you need the extra security- ?
Should you really risk using your second anchor in case of further difficulties? If you have to move in a hurry, getting up two anchors just adds to the difficulties, and should they get entangled, it won’t be a good look.

The advantage with buying a commercially designed anchor buddy or any one of the other names on the market is that they have been designed for simple detachment – they can be simply twisted on or off in less than a minute- no tools are required. Speed is really important if you have to move the boat in a hurry.

So, apart from the advantages of reducing windage on the bow of the boat, and decreasing the angle between the anchor rode and the sea bed (hopefully to zero), there is another advantage, and that is the DECREASE IN THE SIZE OF THE SWINGING CIRCLE, and this is a huge advantage in crowded anchorages, where you can tuck into a smaller space than otherwise. If the wind is not high, you will swing around the anchor buddy position, not around the anchor position.

Glynne Attersall, the sailor we quoted above who started life with a house brick buddy, has also found another advantage, which I had never heard of, so I will let him tell the story:

'Anchor buddies, more often than not, STOP AN ANCHOR ROPE GETTNG WRAPPED AROUND THE KEEL as the yacht swings to the changed tide or wind direction. This can be a problem in an area with small tides, but where the tidal movement is great it becomes much more important as an issue. In the diagram above, imagine the straight line from the bow to the anchor were an anchor rope. If the yacht were to swing to a new wind as the tide current reduces, then the keel may well become entangled in the anchor rope. However, with an anchor buddy, the anchor rope is hanging almost straight down to the anchor buddy weight, which is below the keel, which hopefully, therefore, safely passes over the part of the anchor rope leading from the anchor buddy weight to the anchor.'

And are there disadvantages to using an Anchor Buddy?

Setting the anchor buddy -    

Well, yes a couple, but they are not major. The first is that, unless you want extra weight in the bow, you cannot store it anywhere in the bow, which means it has to be lugged backwards and forwards each time you want to set it. The other disadvantage is that, of course, if you want to get your anchor up in a hurry - another boat dragging and threatening to hit you, or any other sudden calamity – it will definitely delay your getting the anchor up by a small amount of time.

Having said that, don’t leave home without one!

If you would like to know more, go to Anchor Buddy’s
website, and we thank them for the diagram in this article.

We also thank Glynne Attersall from the that great cruising club the Middle Harbour Yacht Club

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by Nancy Knudsen/Glynne Attersall, MHYC


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9:42 AM Thu 27 Apr 2006 GMT

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