Selkie at anchor in the Bustards Islands of Ontario

Anchorology: ā’nk-or-ô-lō-gee

“The art of anchoring in quiet, bucolic settings abounding in wildlife, including fish, beautiful songbirds, soaring raptors and wonderful trees, with the ability to stay or move on, based on whatever suits the anchorer.”

(The “ology” part is a nod to a good friend, Spence, who is an excellent writer and used to be a music critic (actually still is, just not paid to do it now).)

We love to anchor, and we’ve been finding some spectacular anchorages on the Georgian Bay and North Channel of Lake Huron.

We’ve anchored the past two months in all kinds of weather, from flat calm to severe thunderstorms with tornado warnings.

There’s five essential elements that make a successful anchorage.

One is shelter. The Anchorage must protect from inclement weather.

A second is the right depth… not so shallow so your boat hits bottom, but not too deep that your anchor won’t grab the bottom and hold on in inclement weather.

A third is the size of the anchorage. You need enough distance to allow enough anchor line (called “rode”) to allow the anchor to set.

A fourth is the anchor itself. Many anchor designs are out there, and lots of arguments are had over adult beverages as to which is the best design.

The fifth is power. You need power, whether from propane for stoves, electrical for lights, or whatever power you need to get through the night… and get going the next morning.

For shelter, the ideal anchorage has towering trees and cliffs that lift the winds over the anchorage and protects us from getting blasted during storms, and the ability to not generate anything bigger than a ripple on the water when it is blasting outside.

High cliffs and walls help with providing shelter from strong winds

If the anchorage is open in any direction, we prefer it is open to the northeast, as that is the direction we have the least likelihood of strong winds in the Great Lakes.

For the second element, the correct depth, we prefer an anchorage that is in 10 to 15 feet of water, which gives a swing space of about 150 feet in radius.

A screenshot of one of our better anchorages, Covered Portage in Ontario

We can do up to 30 feet deep comfortably, but we prefer less.

The deeper the water affects the third element. If you have deeper water, you need to put out more anchor rode, which will increase the area you need to anchor in.

Our swing radius helps define the third element, anchorage size. But there are many other factors that help define a good anchorage size .

That includes accounting for other boats that arrived ahead of us. If there are already boats there, you must respect their space.

If you are the first boat in your location, everyone must respect your location.

Usually the wind will blow at least a little bit, and keep all the boats pointing in the same nice orderly direction.

We need to account for how our boat will swing when the wind changes direction.

If there is no wind or water current, boats can swing at anchor in any direction, so if one boat doesn’t respect the space of another boat that came before, boats could swing enough to hit each other, usually at 3:08 in the morning.

Typically, when we anchor in a tight space, we will check in with any boats that were there before us to make sure they don’t feel like we’ve encroached in their space.

Once we anchor, we monitor Selkie with an anchor alarm app, as well as the Garmin chart plotter software.

The last thing we want to do is have our boat come loose and drift through a fleet of boats in the middle of the night. That happened to us once in San Francisco Bay, and that will not happen again!

Larger areas will cause the waves to build across the fetch (the distance across the water for wind to act on the water to make waves).

Even ripples lapping against the hull can keep us up at night.

The anchorage should have a bottom that consists of mud, sand or clay so the anchor can dig in.

Rocks are ok for us if the weather is not going to be stormy and the winds remain less than 10 knots (12 miles per hour).

That brings us to the fourth element, anchor design.

Basically, you want an anchor that will dig in as soon as it hits the bottom. But some anchors don’t do that.

There’s a guy out on the west coast who has taken it upon himself to test anchors. He has a YouTube channel, and funds himself with donations, but he does a really good job. 

You can spend hours watching his videos on anchor design. This is a link to a smaller version of the anchor we chose

The anchor we chose was Rocna Vulcan. It has proved to be an excellent choice, allowing us to sleep well at night.

Last but not least, is having power at your anchorage.

If you may recall, when we entered Canada, we anchored in Half Moon Bay in a wonderful setting. Libbie caught her first fish, a beautiful Northern Pike that was dinner.

Then, our generator did not start. We lost our power source.

That was a problem, as we needed to keep Selkie’s batteries charged.

When our generator died, we had to leave our anchorage at Half Moon Bay. It was disappointing.

One thing about Selkie: she’s got big batteries.

They keep our refrigeration running, our lights working, and our navigation operating.

We are able to keep the cell phones charged and use other household items like our vacuum cleaner or hair dryer.

We can start our engine.

But to keep our batteries charged, we need our generator.

It’s living off the grid on the water.

We are talking about putting a bigger alternator on her main engine, and maybe some solar panels up top to be able to run our generator less.

But without our generator to back up everything, Selkie’s systems would die and she would turn into a beautiful, cold hunk of iron, copper and fiberglass.

Luckily, after a repair, the generator is working well now. So we can anchor as much as we want.

That pretty much wraps up my dissertation on Anchorology, and is probably more than you wanted to know.

But it’s what we do to sleep well at night when we anchor.

By Tad Sheldon

I'm a retired Silicon Valley Technologist and Director. I teach skiing as a 4th (5th? 6th?) career for fun, and am passionate about Boating. I'm even more passionate about my family and friends. I volunteer occasionally for non-profit Boards, and currently serve as the Secretary of the Board for Western Division of the Professional Ski Instructors of America / American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

2 replies on “Anchorology”

Great write up Tad on Anchorology…I loved it. BUT….I AM NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO SLEEP TONIGHT!!! LOL. Your anchorages look so lovely and Selkie is gorgeous and idyllic but all the what ifs??? Libbie knows…I am bit of a worrier. Sleep tight! xoxoxoxo


Tad, thanks for the update on anchoring. Gréât référence info for me. Safe travels and keep the updates coming.


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