I have spent more than 600 nights at anchor and if you and your crew want to be safe and/or have a good nights sleep, here are a few tips to know.
It’s all in the planning
Look for protection from the wind and good holding for the anchor.
Check your Chart/Plotter/Ipad for depths and nature of seabed (sand/mud/reef etc). Research as much as you can before you get there.
Will there be wind or tide change? Use a smart phone app to get an accurate weather forecast and tide information.
Do you have more than 7 times the depth in anchor rode? If not you are taking a risk!
Measure and mark lengths along your anchor rode with cable ties, paint or similar (say 1 at 10, 2 at 20 etc.).
It is generally safer to drop anchor close behind another boat making sure you have room behind and alongside. When you drop anchor, you will fall back away from the boat in front.
Steep cliffs and sudden depth changes are generally not good anchorages. Look for sandy beaches and places where a river may have created a soft seabed.
Motor against the wind/tide toward your preferred anchorage.
Stop, and before the boat begins to drift back, drop anchor and pay out the anchor whilst drifting back. If there is no wind or tide, use the engine and gently go astern.
Pay out 5x times the depth, if there is strong wind or current let out 7x times (or more).
Check that the anchor holding. You may tell by what’s around you but the best way is to take some transits. Look out both sides of the boat to see 2x fixed points. The first transit may be a navigation mark, tree, or post, something in the foreground. Now identify something in the background that is in line with the first point. The background mark needs to be further away and can be a hilltop, tree, chimney. Whatever is in line with you and you can see easily.
If the anchor is holding, the transits will stay in line. If there is little pressure on the anchor, you can simulate strong wind by putting the engine gently astern. If the transits separate, then you are dragging and need to lift and try to reset the anchor again.
Tips from the experienced
Stay calm and never lose it. Have a back up plan if it doesn’t work the first time.
Look and learn from those before you, maybe ask advice from those who look good at it.