Tripping Your Anchor Free

While setting an anchor may have its challenges, getting it back aboard often proves the most difficult task — especially if you’re hauling it in by hand, without the benefit of a windlass. Even with a windlass, when the anchor is buried deep and just can’t be retrieved by hauling, the technique for freeing it is called “tripping the anchor.” Using this method involves letting your boat do the work. Here’s how.

Have your crew on the bow snub or make fast the anchor rode when it's "up and down," then let the boat's power break the anchor free.
Have your crew on the bow snub or make fast the anchor rode when it’s “up and down,” then let the boat’s power break the anchor free.

Come slow ahead and retrieve as much anchor rode as you can until you are right over the anchor. The chain or rode should be “up and down.” Make it fast on the bow cleat and come ahead slowly. It helps to have a person on the bow indicating where the rode/chain is leading. Use hand signals or radio communication to indicate to the helmsman which way the rode is.

Once the anchor rode is shortened up and snubbed off or made fast, coming ahead slowly until the rode is just past vertical usually creates enough tension to pull the shank up and break the flukes or plow free of the bed of mud or sand. Once it’s free you can haul it up, clean it, and stow it in the usual manner. When tripping an anchor, try not to run directly over it, so you minimize the chance of getting your anchor rode tangled in your prop.

If you find yourself anchoring in rocky ground, it might be wise to put a “trip line” with a buoy on the anchor. Depending on the type of anchor you use, tie the trip line through the hole provided in the crown, or the plow end of the shank, or to the tripping ring or palm of a Danforth-type anchor. The idea is to be able to dislodge the anchor from the rock by pulling it out in the opposite direction by the trip line — which obviously needs to be strong enough to handle the job. Before resorting to the trip line, though, try slacking off the anchor rode and manevering the boat to approach the anchor in the opposite direction to which it was set. Again, getting over it in an up-and-down position, hauling the rode up short, and coming ahead slowly should take care of this.

Now you know how to let the boat do the work of tripping the anchor with a little patience and guidance from you.

Written by: Peter d'Anjou

A USCG licensed captain and former merchant mariner, Peter d'Anjou is now a freelance writer and editor. A one-time executive editor at Sailing World magazine, he writes about his passion for racing and boating. Having managed a large yacht repair facility in the NE U.S. his background in boat construction and repair translate to the practical side of boat ownership.


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