How to Double Anchor a Boat


double anchored boat

Although here at Flat Bottom Boat World we focus on flat bottom vessels such as Jon boats, flat bottom kayaks and canoes etc., the information in this article actually applies to any boat. Here we demonstrate how easy it is to double anchor a boat in a safe way that ensures your boat is fully secure in a stationary position on the water.

To double anchor a boat two anchors are separately attached to the boat to create a more secure and stable anchorage while on the water. The primary anchor is usually attached to the bow of the boat while a secondary anchor is usually attached to the stern of the boat. However, there are other options for positioning the anchors.

What is double anchoring and why do it?

Anyone who enjoys time out on the water boating knows that stable and secure anchoring is often difficult to achieve in adverse weather conditions or very strong currents if their boat is fitted with only one anchor. It can also be challenging to secure an anchor on bottoms that are very sandy or fine.

Using a double anchoring technique when attempting to anchor off a shoreline with strong currents or in challenging weather conditions can an advantage if you are in a sailboat or fairly large vessel. Open waters tend to be more turbulent than inland waters so double anchoring can help keep a boat more secure and stable. However, it is not only large vessels, or those who use open waters, that can benefit from a more secure and stable anchoring.

Owners of smaller boats that want more stability or who want to take up a stationary position on the water, such as Jon boat users who wish to take up a secure position while duck hunting or bowfishing for example, can benefit from double anchoring.

The alternative to running the risk of hull damage due to continually beaching or running your boat aground, in duck hunting for example, is to double anchor your boat.

Double anchoring your boat can also be advantageous when the weather is fine. It is so much easier to shoot for example when you can anchor your boat in a way that almost eliminates movement in unchallenging conditions.

But what is double anchoring exactly?

Double anchoring is the practice of setting two anchors on your vessel to create a more secure anchorage for your boat while out on the water.

Without robust anchoring, your boat is at the mercy of the current and that continual downstream drift that occurs even in relatively still water. This is not just a problem for boats in open waters or for hunters but can even be a problem for anglers. Drifting is no fun if you are trying to stay above your favorite fishing spot!

In this article, we will take you through the basics of double anchoring, its benefits and how to do it safely. We also cover the processes for the retrieval of your anchors as well as taking a look at the different types of anchors available so you can determine which one is the best for your boat.

When to double anchor

When should you employ the technique of double anchoring?

Double anchoring is a type of anchoring that may be utilized due to rough weather, high winds or strong currents that would cause a boat to drift. Boat users that frequent turbulent waters will gain the most from double anchoring. However, all boat owners can benefit from knowing how to double anchor their vessel as conditions can rapidly arise anywhere when one anchor will not suffice.

It is always a good idea to have an extra anchor onboard your vessel.

The added holding power of two anchors is also useful for boats that have anchors that are undersized or when the boat is in marine environment that has a bottom that is soft and difficult to anchor to.

Keen anglers can also gain an advantage from double anchoring when they want to precisely position their boat over that prized fishing spot.

As already mentioned when duck hunting, as well as bowfishing, double anchoring your boat will help create a secure, stable and more stationary platform from which you can shoot more precisely.

Bow and stern double anchoring

Double anchoring a boat is very easy to do. If you can already anchor a boat with just a primary anchor then you already know how to set a secondary anchor. You just need to decide where to secure the second anchor.

The primary anchor is often attached to the bow of the boat while the secondary anchor is often attached to its stern. However, there are other configurations that can be used.

You simply set your secondary anchor in exactly the same way you set your primary anchor albeit in a different position.

Once your primary anchor is set, which should be at the bow of the boat, most boat owners will set their secondary anchor at the stern of the boat as demonstrated in the featured image at top of this page.

However, there are other options for the position of your secondary anchor available as we set out below.

Alternative double anchoring configurations

Below are alternative configurations for setting your anchors for double anchoring.

With each of these options you can work out a suitable balance between the two anchors by simply maneuvering your boat and adjusting your two lines accordingly.

  • V configuration: two anchors are set off the bow with a 45-90 degree angle between them.
  • Bahamian anchoring:  is similar to the V configuration but with a broad 180-degree angle between the two bow anchors.
  • Tandem anchoring: is when you cast the secondary anchor off the bow in-line with the primary anchor.
  • Side anchoring: is when you drop your secondary anchor off the side of the boat.

How to set the anchors

Setting both the primary and secondary anchor follows the same procedure.

  1. Use a sonar or a line to measure the depth of the water in the precise position you want to anchor. Your anchor line will need to be 6 to 7 times longer than this depth.
  2. Position your boat in a windward position, with the bow facing the current before you lower the primary anchor to the bottom.
  3. Once the boat is positioned gently lower your primary anchor into the water. This should always be attached to the bow of your boat.
  4. Your primary anchor anchor will be taking most of the load and should therefore have a good hold on the bottom. So once the anchor is lowered drop back by slowly reversing your boat until you know that the anchor has a good hold on the bottom.

Repeat the process for your secondary anchor reversing step 3 and 4 if you have secured your secondary anchor to the stern of your boat.

Once the two anchors are set, maneuver your boat gently until both lines have gentle tension and sway is reduced to a minimum.

Anchor retrieval

Bringing up an anchor can be a source of trepidation for some boaters and has even even lead some novices to give-up and cut the rope on a good anchor. No anchor should compromise your safety but it will be a very rare occasion when you have to cut an anchor loose.

The following procedure for retrieval should be useful.

  1. Gently move your boat directly over the position of your anchor.
  2. As you move, pull in your anchor line.
  3. If there is resistance to retrieval, gently turn the boat while maintaining the tension on the anchor.
  4. Once it is loosed carefully pull it up and lift it into your boat.

Modern boat anchors are usually lightweight, but if your back can’t take the pulling up, invest in a winch to assist you in doing the job.

How to choose the right anchors for your boat

You will need to consider both the type and weight of your anchor and it’s adequacy for your size of boat. The type of bottom of the river, lake or marine body that you are navigating will have a great impact on the type of anchor you choose as well.

Before you can understand which anchor is best for your boat it is a good idea to give you a brief description of how modern anchors work.

A modern anchor will  work in one of two basic ways:

  1. It will rely on its size and weight to hold the boat in place and keep it from drifting.
  2. It will rely on its specific shape, which allows it to become buried in the bottom to hold the boat in place.

Unless you are intending to take a very large vessel onto the water you will be using the second type of anchor. However, things can be a little complicated as there are different variations of this type of anchor with specific anchor types designed for different marine environments. Although we cover this below if you want a more in-depth explanation of the different anchor types see our article on the subject here.

Most modern sailing yachts, Jon boats and skiffs etc., use faily small anchors that are lightweight with most being made of aluminium – they rely almost entirely on their shape to function. Selecting the correct anchor for your boat is the most challenging part of double anchoring. If you are a Jon boat owner we already covered the best anchors for this boat type here.

Anchor types & the rode

Here are some anchor types regularly used by boat owners:

  • Grappler or grapnel anchor – a typical choice for a smaller vessel like a Jon boat. It will grip a rocky bottom well.
  • Mushroom anchor – small mushrooms are a good choice for short term mooring on a silty or sandy bottom.
  • Richter anchors also have a grappling effect and are great for grabbing onto rocky bottoms.
  • River anchors are auger type devices that will dig into bottom and will grip rock.
  • Navy anchors are a popular choice for anglers looking for a versatile anchor that is easily set and retrieved.

It is a good idea to use 2 different anchor types when double anchoring.

In addition to the anchor itself, you will need an adequate length of appropriate rope to secure your line. This acts as an anchor cable, often called the rode, and ideally should combine a length of chain with an approximately sized rope.

Nylon rope is an ideal choice, due to its strength and elasticity. It is also lightweight which is advantageous on boats where extra weight counts. Choose from braided or twisted varieties.

The length should be as follows:

  • 8 foot of rope per 1 foot of anchoring depth.
  • Rope diameter should be 1/8 of an inch for every 1 foot length of your boat.

A smaller amount of chain is also needed which should be half the size of your rope diameter and a length equivalent to the length of your boat.

Last-minute tips

Here are a few tips to help you anchor securely.

  • Secure the primary anchor at the bow into the wind/current first.
  • Never anchor a boat off the stern only. This is incredibly dangerous and can cause damage to the boat and even lead to fatalities due to capsizing or swamping.
  • Allow swing room for any changes in wind or current if there is potential that such changes could cause your boat to collide with other vessels, structures or objects nearby.
  • If you believe your anchor is dragging, reset it.
  • If you come up against a stuck anchor, be patient when trying to retrieve it. Accidents are more likely to occur if you rush.
  • Only cut an anchor free as a last resort. Again … be patient.

Keeping safe when anchoring

It may seem easy but it is always worth having a healthy respect for your own safety and the safety of your crew and passengers when setting and retrieving anchors.

Poor anchoring techniques can cause a number of problems including:

  • Loss of the anchor.
  • Difficulty in retrieving your anchor.
  • Swamping or capsizing your boat.
  • Anchor dragging which can cause collision or damage to your own and other vessels.
  • Damage to navigational aids or harbor facilities by a misapplied anchor.
  • Damage to your own boat if an anchor hits it.

Error in anchoring can even be fatal, so understanding how to apply a reliable double anchoring technique by acquainting yourself with all the steps involved is advised before attempting it.

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