Anchoring Under Sail

As this is one of the sailing skills that I have chosen to enhance and seeing as my past experiences have been lacking I thought I would add some thoughts on anchoring under sail  from Jay FitzGerald's book Wind and Tide. Jay generously granted me permission to reprint some of his writing and as I reread his thoughts on anchoring under sail I realize that I am not stealing from him nearly often enough (you can read his take on sculling oars here).
I think it is also good to set a hook at some speed of travel. Mostly you see people motor up, plop the thing, and back up. You've read about boats doing that sort of thing under sail---but there are many books like that where guys gas about traditional sailing techniques and (they read them somewhere) don't know beans about it. While on a large vessel of say 60 feet or so might be able to drop a hook and back under sail reasonably, or a square rigger might---a small sailing yacht isn't likely to generate enough power backing to even pull the chain shot straight let alone set the hook. I like to set the hook sailing at a a couple of knots and surge the thing in good and hard. Often times, under the main alone I'll come into a harbor with the rode flaked out on the foredeck ready to run. If it's tight or tricky, I'll lead the chain shot back to the cockpit, but not too often does this prove necessary. If I'm going to anchor, in say, 30 feet, I'll have that ready to go and as I approach where I want to set I'll drop the hook over the side and hold it at about 6 fathoms---keep sailing; as soon as I feel it bump the first time I'll let the whole works go. It pays out with alacrity, I head to the foredeck and as I reach that 4 to 1, I'll take a turn around the bow cleat and surge the boat to a stop. That rode will go taut, the boat will spin around and there I be, set and head to wind. Very slick and fast, and unnerving to everyone else in the anchorage. Don't be panicky about this---three knots is fast but not too fast, as long as one knows how to handle lines there shouldn't be a problem. Likely, even if the hook fouls or fails to set it will still pretty much stop the boat, but not with a surge, so take note, haul the hook aboard, sail out to weather and give it another go. No big deal, you likely just got a big haul of kelp---still, that will spin the boat around. You won't make the beach in any event.
You can do this to weather, as well, if you feel the need. When the rode fetches up you can spin around and try to screw it in the other direction as well. I think a Bruce sets easier with a semi-rotary pull that a straight linear pull anyhow. I can't really validate that but if you look at the flukes you can see why it might. Not a big problem, again, as long as the hook is reasonable heavy.
It is hard to get the feel for a set hook until one has done a bit of anchoring---so I usually suggest a different technique for a novice or myself if I'm expecting a heck of a blow and really want to be certain about my holding.
Sail up to where you want to swing from and drop your primary hook. Do this under the main alone, especially if by oneself, to keep the foredeck clear and so when you let go of the tiller and have the mainsheet sheeted in as far as it will go, your boat will round up and stall nice and easy. Your boat won't do that? Sell it; it's a dog.
Make sure the anchor hits the bottom first and you pay the chain back in a straight line as the boat starts to get sternway. This is the trick, making sure you haven't go wraps around things. If you just dump it in a pile it is quite likely that things will foul up. Better let things tug a bit, You'll start wiggling the hook in. If the wind is really roaring you might just go ahead and accidentally set it. That's OK. We'll confirm the set.
Let's say you feel it starting to grab. Go ahead and pay our a lot of rode in highly antisocial fashion. You aren't going to swing like this so don't sweat it. Pay out to about an 8 to 1. You'll see why in a moment. Don't know how much rode you've paid out? A clever hint---stitch roman numerals on your rode at one fathom intervals. then your' know.
At an 8 to 1? Drop the little kedge over the stern, and haul on the bow. Bring our self back up to a 4 to 1. Now you've go a 4 to 1 on both, right?
Take the kedge rode to a sheet winch and haul it bar taut.
Have a beer and watch it for about 15 minutes. Does it stay taut?
Does it slowly, slowly go slack? You're dragging, and if you would have tried this with an engine you never would have known, would you? Feel smug. If you need to , haul the kedge and try again. You'll get a bottom sample when you do; if all you get is a big blob of kelp you'll learn something as well. Move.
Now you've got options. Put the main away while you think about it, as you're going nowhere.
I do, a lot of times, leave both of them down, and I take care to set myself pointing into the direction of wave or wind action. A boat rides very nice like this, but if I've likely go a pretty good current running at some point I might not. Depends. It is often a good idea to keep the bow pointed into the direction of incoming powerboat wakes. Sometimes it's since to pull the kedge and get a couple of chowder clams. At any rate, this technique allows a sailor to really feel a set, and he will sleep better for it. I really recommend making a habit of it, at least until one is comfortable with the anchoring game.
Again, an anchor's hold is primarily determined by its angle of bite to the bottom. This of course is the purpose of scope but can be greatly increased by a heavy chain rode. As I said, if one seldom needs a heavy chain rode but on occasion needs that short scope, a 20 pound or so mushroom anchor can be shackled to the head of the chain rode to act as a sentinel and will greatly increase the holding power of the ground tackle. This is especially useful in and anchorage that is experiencing a good deal of surge, or if one is anchored on a weather shore being set into deeper water.

Rereading Jay's writing is a good shove to get me past the complacency that has set in during the past 5 or so years that I have been reaquainting myself with sailing. Hopefully this time next year I can discuss this topic with some experiences of my own.