Handbook for Caribbean Cruising

Volume 1: Eastern Caribbean



This critical skill will give you the most headaches throughout your entire Caribbean adventure.  Note that we said critical skill.  If you cannot anchor properly you will endanger your life, the lives of your crew and you most likely will lose your vessel in the process.  You MUST know how to anchor before setting off to cruise the Caribbean.

We hear these useless expressions time and time again down in the islands:

“In the Med we are used to anchoring close”

“In France we anchor close to each other”

“The wind has shifted and brought us closer”

“ I have 10 meters of chain out in 3 meters of water”

“I have a scope of 1:1”

“I have been here for 5 days and have not dragged”

“It is impossible for me to drag”

“I have a Bruce (CQR, Danforth, Fortress, Delta, etc.) so I cannot possibly drag”

“I am not too close”

“Are you saying you want me to move?”

“I dove on your anchor and I am only over it when we swing”

The Caribbean is filled with incompetent sailors.  One look at their anchoring skills tells the tale.  Where on Earth did these sailors ever learn how to anchor?  The answer is that they never did learn this critical skill.  How can you competently operate a sailing vessel and not know how to anchor properly? 

You will be able to easily fill your evenings by watching the anchoring dance at any anchorage in the Caribbean.  Someone should make a movie of the incompetence out on the water.  It would surely be a best seller!

Equipment and Technique

Anchor Type – use the biggest anchor that you can carry on your vessel.  Do not undersize your anchor!  If you have a 40-foot boat the minimum size for a CQR should be 45 pounds.  You need to have at least 3 anchors aboard your vessel.  Two at the bow and a third ready to be used from the stern.  The anchors that work well in the Caribbean are the Delta, CQR, and Fortress.  You will see every anchor imaginable in the Caribbean and each sailor swears by his or her particular anchor.

Rode – An all chain rode is mandatory for your primary anchor.  Your secondary anchor can have a combination of chain and rope.  Do not undersize your chain and only use BBB or HT chain of the specified size for your vessel.  This chain will save your life.  Have 250 feet of chain on your primary anchor.

Scope – With all chain use at least a 4:1 scope.  This means that you calculate the necessary scope from the top of your bow pulpit to the bottom of the water, NOT just the depth of the water.  For example, your bow sits 5 feet above the water and the water depth is 10 feet.  You must lay 60 feet of chain to have a 4:1 scope.  If you use some chain with a rope rode you must use at least a 7:1 scope.  In this same example case you must lay 105 feet of scope if you use a combination of rope and chain.

Space – Do not anchor on top of another boat.  Not on their bow, stern or beam.  Give them room and space.  You will swing at anchor and every boat swings differently.  It is not acceptable to have two boats meet in the middle of the night.  If you are a multihull do not anchor near a monohull.  Multihull vessels notoriously swing wildly and should anchor well away from the monohulls.  Monohulls should not anchor next to a catamaran or trimaran for the same reason.  Europeans explain that in the Mediterranean it is necessary to anchor right next to another boat because of the lack of space.  This is not true.  There is plenty of space in many anchorages so that should not be an excuse.  If you are damaged by a boat that is anchored too close to your vessel, you may have to spend the next 2 months getting repaired because they drug into you.  People who anchor too close to other vessels are rude, inconsiderate and stupid and should not be tolerated.  Take the responsibility of asking them to move or in extremely hostile situations, simply pick your anchor up and move away.