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Putting down and pulling up the anchor can be a real pain. Especially, when after the pick is finally secured, you find that you are now nowhere near the big blotches of bait that showed so prolifically on the sounder screen only a few minutes ago, and you know if you want to catch fish, you reluctantly have to re-anchor.
The person who draws the short straw then climbs through the front hatch and proceeds with the long haul of pulling up the (two tonne?) anchor, which, after much moaning and groaning from the wretched crew member, feels like it's been Araldited to the ocean floor.
Usually some time later after lots of engine revving, and cries of, "Forward slowly, careful!! Watch the #**A%$ rope around the motor" followed by, "Back! Back! Back!", the anchor person, soaking wet, exhausted, and with arms a foot longer than normal, reverses back out from the front hatch and collapses on the cockpit floor, mission accomplished!
Does this scenario ring a bell? Crikey! It's easier to sit in the same spot for six hours and go fishless. There is a better method of anchoring and retrieving which can be done with just one person on board, and all the effort to retrieve your anchor is provided by the engine of your boat and a large mooring buoy, you don't have to leave the cockpit!
You have probably seen it happen right next to you and couldn't quite understand how easy the bloke weighed anchor and got underway. I hope, by reading the following, it will make the job of putting the pick down a pleasure and take away all the worry and fear some people have when they decide to drop anchor.
This is the method that I have employed for over 20 years and is used by most fair dinkum fishos who venture out into the blue yonder.
The anchor rope is all ready to go, coiled in a container (we use a fishbox) in the cockpit. When you reach the spot you want to fish, you simply pick up the anchor and feed it overboard. When the anchor hits the bottom, keep some tension on the line so that the chain doesn't slump onto the anchor, fouling it.
Then you drive away slowly letting the anchor line pay out from the box. Before you are near your chosen spot, test the anchor for grip. Now let out more line till you come back onto your marks. We squirt a mixture of vegetable oil and Glo-Bait on the water to mark the exact spot we want to fish and then manoeuvre the boat back under anchor to the green stain on the water.
When you are certain the anchor has "set" on the bottom and you are over your marks, make a knot in the anchor line, open a snap shackle on a rope called the painter and put the knot through. Close the snap shackle and let the painter fall into the water.
The painter is a line running from the bollard or cleat on the bow of the boat back to the cockpit, and, for our purpose, with a large snap shackle on the end.
Feed a few more metres of anchor line out until the painter goes taught and the boat swings to, from the bow. Secure the now slack anchor rope running from the container in the cockpit (the knot and the painter are taking all the strain) to one of the jam cleats on the gunnels of the boat.
By pulling on the anchor rope from either side of the boat you can move your position to the left or right. When you're sure you are directly over your chosen reef, baitfish school or drop-off, secure the anchor rope back in the jam cleat, keeping the boat in that spot.
As the photos show, we have one jam cleat on either side of the boat to allow us to move either way giving us greater lateral manoeuvrability.
When it's time to weigh anchor, start the engine, take the anchor rope out of the jam cleat, put the motor in gear and move forward slowly, pulling in the few metres of anchor rope, till you get to the snap shackle on the painter which holds the knot. Open the snap shackle to release the knot and bring the painter back into the cockpit.
Remember - what ever you do, don't let the anchor rope go, or it will feed out of the container.
Now connect, via another snap shackle, a large mooring buoy to the anchor rope. (The buoy has about a 15cm length of rope to which a large snap shackle is attached). Throw the buoy in the water, tie off the anchor rope to one of the stern cleats, and then motor back down the direction the anchor was laid. Believe it or not the buoy will work down the line and submerge, its lifting power pulling the pick off the bottom while the anchor rope slides through the snap shackle on the buoy till the anchor rises from the depths.
Eventually the anchor jams itself against the floating buoy with the chain hanging down preventing the anchor slipping back to the bottom. All the retrieved anchor line will now be lying on the surface of the water. Now undo the rope from the stern fitting and pull the slack in, coiling it neatly back in the container, till you come to the buoy/anchor, then lift them both over the side together.
If you intend to try this method you will need a few items before you put to sea. Most of the stuff can be purchased from your local ship chandlers, but first a word of advice. Always buy the best quality you can afford, it will be cheaper in the long run and, because of the lack of downtime you have with reliable gear, you will get much more enjoyment out of your fishing. The environment we fish in, such as heat and salinity plus the strain of constant use with little or no maintenance, is so demanding on equipment, it is foolhardy and costly to compromise with second best.
OK, sermon over, let's get the hardware of this anchoring system in place. Secure a piece of rope, approximately the length of the boat, (8-10mm in thickness for 4m-5.5m craft) to the anchor bollard. The technical term for this bit of rope is the painter, but it is commonly referred to as the bow line or mooring rope.
If you have the talent to plait rope, use this talent to advantage to attach a large snap shackle to the other end of the painter. If you can't plait do a blood knot to secure the shackle. Ensure that if the painter accidentally falls in the water, it is not quite long enough to reach the propeller when you are underway.
When you are buying rope for your anchor rig, (we use 6mm anchor rope and keep approximately 400 metres on board) always ask for quality silver rope, as this rope floats, will not kink or tangle and pays out nice and clean. Do not be a cheapskate (here he goes again!) and get "pot" rope or any other low priced rubbish. It could get in a hell of a mess at a critical moment and evoke a nasty incident, especially if a strong wind is blowing whilst retrieving. (Sorry, I did say there would be no more sermons).
The amount of rope you have on board and its thickness is governed by how deep you usually fish and the size of your boat. As a rule of thumb you need about three times the amount of rope out to the depth you are fishing, e.g If you regularly fish in 30 metres or so, you would need about 90 metres of anchor line out to enable a good secure hold on the bottom, and, to give you an adequate safety margin you should carry at least 200 metres of rope on board.
Take into consideration variables such as current, length of anchor chain, bottom terrain etc. and allow accordingly when anchoring. For boats up to six metres in length, anchor rope of 6mm thickness is sufficient in terms of holding strength.
Lay the painter from the front of the boat where it must be securely fastened to the anchor bollard, and bring it round the windscreen to rest in the cockpit. When the painter is not in use, we have it captured in a cam cleat (see pic) so it is always within arms reach, but out of the way. Be careful of where you tie the painter off as the heavy snap shackle on the end could swing about when you are travelling through a sea and give someone a nasty headache.
Buy the jam cleats to hold your rope (6mm?) from your local yachties store. Jam cleats are a fitting where you insert rope in the "V" and as the strain is taken up, the cleat traps the line, locking it. To release the rope just pull it the opposite way to the load and the line can be removed from the fitting. Glue and screw the jam cleats to the gunnels, roughly in line with the seats so that they are easily accessible. These cleats can take a fair bit of strain when you are anchored with the rope shortened to swing to a selected position, so make sure that they are installed securely.
Tie about 20 metres of rope of a different colour on the other end of the anchor line, (you can use cheap rope for this!) so if you are letting out a fair bit of rope when anchoring, you are not taken by surprise when you reach the last bit of line and therefore avoid losing the whole lot overboard. A piece of wood tied to the end of this coloured line is good insurance. If ever you have to abort your anchor and go and chase a big fish, you can attach the buoy to the line (the piece of wood acts as a stopper) and throw all the remaining rope in the container overboard after untying the painter.
This latter exercise is very useful and can be done very quickly with practice. After all the action has finished, go back, locate the buoy and retrieve your anchor.
All you eagle eyed fishos can see by the accompanying photographs we actually have the anchor line running through the handle of the mooring buoy and don't use, "the snap shackle on a small length of rope" method. Some fishos however, prefer the snap shackle technique as they can remove the bulky mooring buoy from the main line and store it out of the way till it's needed.
Both methods work, so I will leave the choice up to you.
In retrieving, when you fasten the anchor rope around a stern cleat and motor forward getting the buoy to lift and pull up the pick, tremendous force is applied to that fitting and it could lead to severe damage to your craft if there is any weakness.
If you have any doubt at all about the strength of the stern cleats, buy cast anchor bollards, and, after removing the suspect fittings, install the bollards with plenty of reinforcement under the gunnels to give them added strength. If need be contact your local shipwright who will advise and do the installation for you.
I strongly suggest that you test drive the "buoy" anchoring method in calm conditions to familiarise yourself with it and to customise the system. When retrieving out to sea with a strong wind blowing, being unsure of what you are doing, will put undue strain on both equipment and your seamanship skills. In turn this could put you and your crew in a situation which is unnecessary and dangerous. (Sorry...that really was my last sermon!)
Well, there you have it. I do hope anchoring becomes a cherished part of your love of fishing. Now, having the knowledge and confidence to "upstumps" at any time, and move from one possie to another, will dramatically increase the enjoyment factor of your favourite sport and ultimately increase your catch rate.
1) Always remember when retrieving the anchor keep the boat headed into the weather at all times so that you don't end up swinging round stern first. In a sloppy sea there is the grave risk of getting a big "greenie" in over the transom.
2) Check that the anchor rope is free of the propeller after you have thrown the buoy in the water and before you throttle up to begin the retrieve.
3) Do not let the buoy go down too deep when you are lifting the anchor as you can "pop" it, even if it is foam filled.
4) Motor forward at about 8 knots to bring the pick up. If the anchor won't release, try a different tack using a bit more power.
5) A plume of water from the buoy will tell you that the anchor is up and has locked into the buoy, so turn the boat 180 degrees towards the side the rope is tied off and motor back to the buoy. This manoeuvre makes it easier to pull the rope back in as you are not dragging the floating anchor/buoy through the water until the last few metres.
6) If you decide to use the "snap shackle on the buoy method," make sure the shackle used is large enough to allow the anchor chain to pass through as well as the anchor rope so the anchor can "trap" against the buoy. Otherwise the anchor and chain will fall back down into the depths when the anchor line goes slack.