Anchorages The A to Z Challenge

O is for Overnight on the Hook | What We Look for in an Anchorage

Monday, April 18, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA


During the month of April, we're participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge where every day (excluding Sundays) we'll be posting to the blog . . . alphabetically. The overall theme we've chosen to tie all the entries together is living aboard a boat and cruising – things we've learned along the way: our thoughts, reflections, and tips for those just starting out or who are interested in this lifestyle.


The days pass happily with me
wherever my ship sails.
JOSHUA SLOCUM

Some of our happiest days have been spent at anchor. We love the freedom and privacy it offers. How it enables us to live independently and off the grid. And the Inside Passage is full of stunning bays to choose from, many of which are off the beaten path where you could be forgiven for believing you were the last person on earth. But what makes a good anchorage? And what do we look for when choosing one?


Primary Needs

Protection from weather. When choosing an overnight anchorage, protection from the forecasted wind and swell direction is our first priority. This is especially true toward the end of the season when winter storms start delivering stronger winds and when we’re anchoring in areas that are close to the open ocean, like the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Good holding. Having confidence that the anchor will hold in place is very important, so we look for anchorages with a mud or sand bottom where the anchor can really dig in and we can be sure it won’t drag.

Reasonable depths. We don’t normally have to worry about the water being too shallow for anchoring along the Inside Passage, instead, we have the opposite problem – the water can be too deep. It’s not uncommon for us to anchor in 20 to 30 metres (66 to 99 feet). And many anchorages, especially those at the heads of inlets, can be steep-to (where the shoreline slopes at such a sharp angle that the depth of water goes from deep to shallow in a mater of a few feet), which can make anchoring challenging and (sometimes) precarious. 

Plenty of swing room. We like to spend time in intimate anchorages, ones that are small with narrow entrances and limited room inside. But when anchored, a boat swings (turns in a circle around the anchor) so it’s very important to make sure that there’s plenty of room to swing full-circle without hitting any obstructions inside the anchorage – things like rocks, other boats, shallows, etc.

Location. We’re always going somewhere, usually north. And sometimes our final destination is beyond the number of miles we can do in one day so we need to pick an interim anchorage to split the trip into two (this happened a lot in Alaska).


Secondary Needs

Scenery is important. The Inside Passage in one of the most beautiful places in the world and there are plenty of opportunities to find unique anchorages with million dollar views. To better our chances, we often pick bays that are part of marine and/or state parks and make the trip up fjords to see what’s hiding at the bitter end.

No logging. We try to steer clear of areas that have been logged, not only because of the unsightly scaring on the hills but because we’ve snagged too many logging cables that have been left behind by former operations when retrieving the anchor. In fact, we’re pretty sure we shortened the life of our previous windlass (an electric winch that’s designed to hoist anchors) doing just that.

Wildlife. I love bears and, despite David’s best efforts, I can’t help but go out to explore any time they’re around (I had an encounter once that concerned him but, really, it was fine). So anchorages that have a natural food source (berries, sedge grass and creeks) are popular with us along with mainland anchorages (for grizzlies). But we don’t discriminate, we like all forms of wildlife (except snakes, not really a fan of those . . . or spiders) and seek out anchorages that give us good access to viewing.

Activities. Some anchorages are just stops along the way and all we require from them is protection, holding, depth and swing room. But others are destinations in themselves and we want more, especially if we’re going to spend a few days there. First and foremost, we look for kayaking opportunities. Going out for a paddle is always possible, but some places are more interesting than others. I also like to hike, so I prefer anchorages with access to trails. One of my favourites is Octopus Islands Marine Park because I can kayak a couple of miles to a trailhead, hike a few more to a fresh water lake, and have a cold swim to clean up before making my way down and back to the boat – for me, it’s the perfect day! But David prefers a more slow-paced afternoon and likes to kayak around all the islets and rocks, watching the raccoons feed at low tide before coming back to the boat to play the guitar. It’s a win-win situation for us both. Anchorages with white sandy beaches and hot springs also rate highly with us. And then, of course, anywhere we’ve seen bears in the past ranks high on my list of favourites.

Shore access. When we had a dog aboard, shore access was a primary concern when choosing an anchorage. But now that we’re on our own, it’s no longer critical and more of a bonus because, let’s be honest, everyone needs to get off the boat from time to time and stretch their legs (some of us more often than others).

Onshore amenities. From time to time, we need to reconnect with the outside world to do laundry or buy provisions, so anchorages with access to onshore amenities like grocery stores and Laundromats are handy (especially if they keep us out of marinas). And if we’re really lucky, we can score an ice cream cone in the process!


Are you a boater? What do you look for in an anchorage? Where’s your favourite one? Join the conversation below in our comments section or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

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15 comments

  1. Great, comprehensive list. Weather permitting, I favor anchorages where I can see pretty sunrises or sunsets. ;)

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    1. I agree. That was one of the best things about the run we did down the west coast of Vancouver Island. Without the mountain ranges in the way, we had some incredible sunsets.

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  2. We used to like quiet anchorages, with few or no neighbors, taking your list in consideration. The weather was the main decision maker to where we would spend our nights and how long we would/could stay.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. Protection and holding are our top priorities but we're fortunate up here. There are a lot of very good anchorages within short distances of each other to choose from.

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  3. Most of my boating experience has been commercial--fishing for lobsters--but some day maybe....

    @Kathleen01930
    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    #AtoZchallenge

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    1. We spent last season up in Alaska and I have a whole new respect for commercial fishermen now. It's a difficult and dangerous line of work!

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  4. What a beautiful photo! I hate being too close to other boats (fear of swinging / dragging) so plenty of swing room is at the top of the list. We love Elliot Key in Biscayne Bay - the water is crystal clear, there are a few beaches to walk the dog on, and there's a sandbar to frolick on. It's far enough from Miami that you can see stars, but just close enough for cell reception. - Lucy

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    1. That sounds like a perfect combination!

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  5. We are of one mind. If we can find an anchorage with no other boats, that's great. And wildlife viewing is high on the list of amenities i like. I also like to be able to go ashore and walk. Walking is kind of a necessity for me, so if there are trails, I'm very happy. One of our favorite places is Narvaez Bay on Saturna island. It's usually not crowded and has lovely trails where you can end up high on the rocks overlooking the water. We also loved the quiet anchorage we found up north in Clayoquot sound (up one of the fingers, but I can't recall which one). An hour after we set anchor, we were bear watching! I love bears, too. We spent two nights there because the bear watching was outstanding. Melissa from
    LittleCunningPlan

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    1. We went past Narvaez Bay (you recommended it on a picture I posted on Facebook) on our way over to Bedwell Harbour from Cabbage Island last year and it looks beautiful! I'm hoping we can spend a night or two there on our way north (the forecast was for SE).

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  6. I always prefer a quiet anchorage, ideally where we are the only ones there. I'm going to add a link to this post over on The Monkey's Fist on the topic of anchorages. Not sure if you know, but I also include a link to your Money one on the one we published yesterday on Cruising Costs.

    Cheers - Ellen | http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/2016/04/p-is-for-plane-nancy-drew-investigates.html

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    1. Thanks, Ellen. I actually have a couple of posts coming up that I link back to Monkey's Fist because the idea for a topic came from it. It's good to see it up and running again!

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    2. I know you're going to be heading off cruising again soon, but when you're back for the winter, maybe you'd like to be a topic coordinator?

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    3. Awesome! Just touch base with me or Jaye @ Life Afloat when you're back for the winter and have some time. It would be great to get you involved.

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