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What should one do when their anchor is fouled (can’t be retrieved) and they need to “get out of dodge” quickly, perhaps due to bad weather? Well, the anchor line could be cut of course, but as both anchors and the attached rode are expensive, no one is going to be too happy with that solution.

What about cutting the rode and attaching it to a float for later retrieval? That sounds like a much better solution. But let’s assume that you are using all chain for your anchor rode, or a big, beefy anchor line. Neither of those two would be too easy to cut, especially if time is of the essence. An alternative I have read about is to have the bitter end of your anchor rode (line or chain) attached to the boat by a smaller sacrificial piece of line that could be more easily cut (the bitter end is attached to the boat, right?). I can’t see any reason to ever (intentionally) pay out every inch of our rode, so that piece of line shouldn’t have to be able to bear much force.

I recently read about what I think is an even more elegant solution though. On our boat we now have that short piece of line connected to a snap shackle which is then attached to the boat. Now, in the event that we need to disengage from our anchor, we can reach into the anchor locker, release the snap shackle and reattach that small line to a float which we have at the ready. The float only needs to suspend some line so I would “think” that it wouldn’t need to be huge (I have yet to test this though). Like our Epirb, this is hopefully one of those things that we don’t ever have to really use.

We had this little fender on our boat for some reason so I decided to dress it up a bit with a marker and some reflective tape to have on hand as a float. It’s possible we might just use our big orange ball instead though if we were ever forced to try this out.


  1. Just make sure the line for the float is long enough for the water depth. One of my friends had to cut his anchor free, and had the forethought to tie a fender to the chain. What he neglected to do was use a line deeper than the water, which he discovered when released the thing into the water and watched as the chain pulled the fender down under… Whoops!

    • You see, I hadn’t thought of having a line on the float long enough to reach the bottom. I was thinking that the float would hold up the anchor rode (line, not chain). I guess having a length of line on it would make that more fool proof. Thanks for the idea..

  2. A fender, even a small fender like the one you have shown is something that will likely get stolen before you get back to it.

    An alternative strategy is to use a small piece of poly (floating) line that is strong enough for you to pull your chain from where it is lying on the bottom, up to the deck of your boat.

    Have that floating line almost twice the length you choose to usually anchor in so you have some extra for deeper anchorages. Pass that floating line through the handle of a one gallon juice jug, (whose cap has been glued tightly on) and sink the loose end of the line with small weight, such as a window sash weight.

    Nobody bothers to play with a floating juice jug, and since the handle is on the downward side of the jug, the are not likely to notice your treasure still attached to it.

    Works for me. Your mileage may vary…. (grin)

  3. John, it may also help that (at least among Canadians) a floating juice or bleach jug is a well-recognized symbol for “There’s an uncharted hazard of some sort here” (usually discovered by smashing a propeller) and encourages other boaters to stay clear. Floating rope isn’t a nice thing to catch a prop on, so yes, sinking the loose end would be wise…

    Good call, planning for this possibility BEFORE it actually happens. Now that you have a strategy, the odds of actually needing it just dropped tenfold.

  4. Some good ideas here! Before you catch fish or crab, check out the license requirements for your then current locale! Local governments LOVE to grab money from unsuspecting tourists! 🙂

  5. Great info about something we hadn’t even thought of. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know! =)

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