Anchoring can be a huge technical challenge – both setting and retrieving, writes Peter d'Anjou. But although setting an anchor can be tricky, 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. (And if you're just starting out, even choosing the right anchor is food for thought.)

How to trip the anchor

How to trip the anchor: tell your crew on the bow to snub or make fast the anchor rode when it’s “up and down,” then let the boat’s power break the anchor free.

Even with a windlass, when the anchor is buried deep and just can’t be retrieved by hauling, the technique for freeing it is to “trip the anchor.” Using this method involves letting your boat do the work.

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


Step by step: How to trip the anchor

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 plough free of the 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 minimise the chance of getting your anchor rode tangled in your prop.


How to use a trip line

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 plough 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 manoeuvring 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.

There are plenty more "How to" articles from – such as: Easier sail handling: 5 steps to a better deck layout and 10 top tips for towing at sea.