|Our anchor alarm set the other night, see the cluster of squiggles in the middle? That is good. Long, straight lines are bad.|
After the squalls the other night, several of you wrote us inquiring about the "anchor alarm" I mentioned on our Facebook Page. Having an anchor alarm is one relatively easy way to have peace of mind on "the hook" (especially during a squally, moonless night). A boat will move quite a bit at anchor depending on wind and current, which is fine...but pivoting around your anchor and dragging it are two very different things. We set an alarm to help alert us to the latter. We do this whenever we feel that the threat of dragging is real, usually in very strong currents and/or very high winds. Believe it or not, Scott and I have yet to drag anchor - but there's a first for everything, and it's best to be prepared.
Some people set an anchor alarm using their chart plotters, but for energy reasons, we use our hand held Garmin GPSMAP 78S (we found ours on sale for $100 off, so look for deals) which Scott has loaded with all the marine charts for the areas we plan to sail in the foreseeable future*. We use re-chargeable batteries that we swap out regularly to ensure it's always ready to go. This particular unit has a specific 'marine' mode and a built-in anchor alarm setting. All we do is activate it, set the drag parameters, and we are good to go. If our boat moves beyond the programmed distance, an alarm sounds. Not much gets you going faster than the sound of an anchor alarm. Lucky for us, they've always been false and due to wind shifts or tide changes.
Regarding drag parameters: for us (sailing in the Bahamas and Caribbean), we usually set ours somewhere between 40-80 feet with the average being about 60 feet. Your setting will depend on a few things: the depth of where you are anchored, the proximity of other boats (or hazards) around you, how much scope you have out and how far you will swing (for example, in a strong current you will possibly swing 180 degrees as opposed to the "normal" 45 or so degrees, so you must set the parameters higher). We always opt for the highest conservative setting to eliminate as many false alarms as possible. Scott also wants me to make sure you know to put the unit within arms reach of both crew members, so the "worry wart" (i.e. me) can check it whenever they feel the need without waking the other up (cough cough).
While sleeping well during bad weather is never easy (for me, at least), having an anchor alarm makes it a little easier. Nighty-night!
*Handheld GPS's are great for many reasons. If you download the proper charts, your handheld can either be a primary or back up chart-plotter, and a handheld GPS is also very useful for day excursions. We've used ours several times to locate shoreside attractions or navigate our dinghy into interesting places our boat cannot go. Furthermore, if you get the proper data cable and software, you can connect your handheld to a laptop, essentially turning your computer into a chart-plotter. They are a great addition to your cruising kit, in our opinion.