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Boating Tips: How to Anchor at a Sandbar

learn how to anchor at a sandbar

Boating means having the luxury of taking mini vacations in your own neighborhood. Visiting an exclusive spot only reachable by boat. Your local sandbars are popular spots but if you’re in the mood for a bit more quiet try visiting during the week.

Learning how to anchor at a sandbar is a must-learn for safely securing your boat and making sure it stays in place through the ebb and flow of tides. The shallow sandy-bottom waters make it easy to see where you’re dropping and what’s happening underneath. Dropping anchor is a great basic skill that every boater should be familiar with—even if you don’t anticipate doing it very often.

What to consider when anchoring

Your Boat’s Draft

Knowing your boat’s draft (i.e. the distance from the waterline to the very bottom of your boat) will help you determine how much water you’ll need to anchor your boat successfully. Gulfstream Boat Club’s fleet is equipped with top-of-the-line depth finders already programmed with your boat’s draft so you’ll never need to do any math.

When reading your depth finder, it will show you the depth of water minus the boat’s draft. So if it says 5′ of depth and the boat’s draft is 18″ you’re actually in 6.5′ of water (which is helpful for any passenger who isn’t a confident swimmer!) Smaller single engine dual and center consoles need about 2 feet of water, larger and twin engine center consoles need about 3 feet of water, and pontoons only need about one foot of water.

Take comfort knowing that each depth finder has a depth alarm at 4 feet. (You’ll need to keep a battery turned on to get this alarm once you’ve anchored at the sandbar.)

Tides

Keeping track of the tides is important because as the tide changes your depth changes with it, and your onboard depth finder is your best tool in this scenario.

Tracking the tides you’ll want to look for (1) how much depth-change to expect, and (2) at what point in the tide-change are you planning to arrive at and depart the sandbar. If you’re anchoring on an outgoing tide (high going low) you may want to start off anchored in slightly deeper water or plan on watching your depth finder and moving your boat. If you’re anchoring on an incoming tide (low going high) you may want to give yourself an extra 5-7′ of line on your anchor before tying off.

We use the site Marine Weather to keep an on daily forecasts and tide charts. We recommend you get comfortable using this site or one of the many others like it to watch tides and weather in your area.

Wind

The wind can determine where you anchor at a sandbar. Before you drop anchor at a sandbar, notice what direction the wind is coming from to determine the best spot for your boat. It’s best to keep your bow facing into the wind. This will make sure your boat drifts with the wind and doesn’t swing around.

Current

Sandbars don’t tend to have strong currents, but areas near sandbars can experience a strong current. Beer Can Island in Boynton Beach, Florida is known for its large sandbar protected from the inlet nearby. The island itself acts as a barricade from the slushing waters caused by boaters traveling the inlet. The nearby current is caused from the influx of water flowing in or out of the Intracoastal. If you choose to anchor here, we suggest using both a bow and stern anchor.

If you’re in an area of strong current you may want to use a stern anchor in addition to your bow anchor—secure your bow anchor first, stern anchor second. The two sturdy anchors will keep your vessel in place while you snorkel, lounge or explore. Like with wind, it’s a good idea to keep your bow pointed into the current. If you’re not sure, take a look at the boats around you for an indication of which way to point your bow.

Before you throw anchor:

  1. Know what time the tide will swing. The timing of the tides can help you decide the best place to anchor (and for how long)

  2. Gauge your depth. A good rule of thumb for sandbar anchoring is a minimum of 2.5 to 3.5 feet of depth (according to your depth finder)

  3. Calculate the right amount of anchor line you’ll need. We recommend a 5:1 ratio for sandbars, meaning 5 feet of line for every one foot of depth. If you’re anchoring in 4 feet of water, you’ll want 20 feet of line between anchor and cleat.

How to Anchor Your Boat at a sandbar: 

  1. Once you’ve chosen your spot keep the boat engine on and in neutral. Trim your engine(s).

  2. Lay the anchor on the deck or seat while you coil the line. Keep children and animals away from the line and watch your feet to avoid getting tangled.

  3. Gently let the anchor down into the water until you see it touch the bottom. Pull on the line to secure it in place.

  4. Tie the line to the bow cleat with a cleat hitch and adjust as necessary.

Are you a visual learner? Head to our Instagram to watch the Gulfstream Boat Club crew teach you how to anchor at a sandbar. Scroll to find more lessons like how to dock a boat and tie a cleat hitch. Do you want more training? Reach out to our Member Services team for on-the-water training. We’ll show you all the best places to practice anchoring so you can show up to your favorite sandbar feeling and looking like a pro.

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