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The anchoring section of the discussion board is now open for business!

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This is the place for discussion about the practice of anchoring in general. Catalina, Santa Barbara Island, the northern Channel Islands, and anywhere else in the world is fair game. Let's get it out there and ask and answer questions!

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Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 803
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 07:00 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Upcoming Seminar at OCC School of Sailing and Seamanship in Newport Beach: Anchoring At Catalina

3/27/12 - SEMINAR
Anchoring At Catalina - Seminar at OCC in Newport Beach, CA
All about cruising and anchoring at Catalina. Anchoring technique and how to enjoy the coves you really want to visit outside Avalon and the Isthmus.

You really don't have to let the availability of moorings limit your plans. You can anchor out in a beautiful cove and enjoy the feeling of self reliance with other cruisers. Plus, get your questions answered by the author.

Advance registration required – go to
Fee: $45.00 + Text available for purchase at seminar
Where: OCC School of Sailing and Seamanship 1801 W. Pacific Coast Hwy. Newport Beach, CA 92663
When: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 7:00 to 9:30 pm

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 802
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 10:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Upcoming Anchoring At Catalina Cruise Apr. 13-15, 2012

If you really want to experience Catalina on a 3-day cruise where you can learn from an experienced hand, join me in April. I'm leading the 3-day Anchoring At Catalina cruise Apr. 13-15 at the School of Sailing and Seamanship at OCC. Cost and registration details are here:

I created this cruise back in 2007 when a friend confessed that she might head back home if there were no moorings available once she got to Catalina. Conducted on OCC’s 42 foot Catalina sloop, “Betty,” this cruise addresses that problem directly, as well as helping you to answer your questions about navigation, sail trim, boat systems, and just cruising to the islands.

Beginning Friday morning, you will use the Anchoring At Catalina guidebook and work with others to navigate to Catalina and pick a cove to anchor in for the first evening. Everyone gets involved. On Saturday we work our way from the western end down east, visiting Emerald Bay, the Isthmus, and the best of the north-side coves – places where you would want to anchor on your own. We rotate positions, there is a lot of coaching, and everyone gets to learn how to survey the anchorage, pick the best place, and guide the crew through the maneuvers. At the end of this second day, you’ll be able to anchor a 42 footer in a cove at Catalina on your own. On Sunday, we navigate back home to Newport Beach and set the spinnaker if we have the right conditions. Provisions are included and the food is really good.

Email me if you have questions, and register for the cruise here: Hope to see you on board in April!

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 801
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Monday, December 26, 2011 - 11:35 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Quick Release for Catalina Moorings.

The rising tide lifts all boats. To avoid getting stuck on Catalina moorings when the tide rises so high that neither the bow or stern hawsers can be released, experienced cruisers use a quick release on the stern.

Here’s the potential problem: with the hawsers on your bow and stern cleats with a rising tide, you may end up with extreme tension on the hawsers at the highest tide. This could happen if your mooring is sized for a larger boat than yours, but you were still able to place the stern hawser on the cleat at low tide with some extra muscle from the deck hands. This could also happen if the mooring is appropriately sized, but the tidal range is greater than usual. Harbor Patrol will usually warn you about this during times of extreme tidal range, but they might forget on a busy day. A couple of sailors I know have been trapped on their mooring, unable to release it until the next low tide.

You can avoid this problem by making use of the quick release every time, and you will be able to easily heed the Harbor Patrol’s warning of an extreme high tide, if they give it to you, by paying out some line. Check out the photos below for an example of the use of a quick release on a mooring at Emerald Bay, on Catalina.

QR 1

I tied a loop in the line with a bowline, and laid it over the stern cleat. I ran the loose end through the loop on the hawser, and finished it on the boat with a cleat hitch.

QR 2

With a l0 foot length of line you should easily be able to pay out slack as necessary. Even under extreme load, you will be able to release this line, pull it through the hawser’s loop, and get underway whenever you want to.

Kathleen C. Matlock
Username: kcmatlock

Post Number: 9
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 02:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I've used it multiple times. It was very convenient and easy to use. One thing that happened to me is that I reserved at Two Harbors, but when I got there my reservation had somehow been moved to Cat Harbor. No one could explain what happened, and they put me in Two Harbors, so all's well that ends well. The best part is that, as Gritz mentioned, you don't have to wait for the harbor patrol boat. You just call to let them know you're there and they tell you your can number.

Eric Gritzmacher
Intermediate Member
Username: eneveaux

Post Number: 15
Registered: 08-2008
Posted on Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 01:49 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I used it last week Friday at Two Harbors. We called about 0730 that morning before we left. Worked great, for the most part. Just give them a call as you are coming in and they will ask if you have a preference. We were with a group of five boats and wanted to be close. The best they could do was put us five mooring cans away for some reason. What i like is you don't have to wait for a shore boat to take you to a mooring and no paperwork. To be fair, it was not very crowded on Friday.

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 796
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Saturday, September 17, 2011 - 01:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Mooring Reservations At Catalina

Anyone who has used Catalina's new mooring reservation system:

how did it work for you?

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 793
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 01:12 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Do any of you use the Rule of Twelfths? Here's my first shot at making it easy!

The Rule of Twelfths – a rule of thumb for calculating the height of tide at any time

Before I learned to use the Rule of Twelfths when anchoring at Catalina, I used to find it awkward to determine whether there was risk of going aground at low tide, and whether I had adequate scope for high tide. I could get a good rough estimate, but I had to sharpen my pencil, get out my calculator and work on it. By using the Rule of Twelfths, a rule of thumb for calculating the height of tide at any time, I found I could get the answers I needed in a logical way without a pencil and usually without a calculator.

All you need to know is the times of the high and low tides you are concerned with, the range in feet between them, and how many more twelfths to go until the next high or low. First let me describe the assumptions and then apply the process with actual tide data.

The Assumptions
The Rule of Twelfths works where there are semi-diurnal tides, or two cycles of high and low tide each 24 hour period, just as we have on the west coast. The assumption is that high and low tides are about 6 hours apart and that the tide rises or falls through its range over 6 hours as follows:

1st hour: 1/12 of the total rise or fall takes place
2nd hour: 2/12 of the total rise or fall takes place
3rd hour: 3/12 of the total rise or fall takes place
4th hour: 3/12 of the total rise or fall takes place
5th hour: 2/12 of the total rise or fall takes place
6th hour: 1/12 of the total rise or fall takes place

Remember the progression of twelfths as 1,2,3,3,2,1. So, by the second hour after the high or low tide, three twelfths of the tide change has taken place and there are nine more to go; by the fourth hour, 9 twelfths of the tide change has taken place and there are three more to go; the maximum change in height (6 twelfths) and in tidal current flow will take place in hours three and four. Note: study of the tide tables will show you that actual high and low tides are not exactly 6 hours apart as this rule of thumb assumes.

The Process
1. Find the times of the high and low tides you are concerned with and the range between them.
2. Find the change in height for each twelfth.
3. How many more twelfths to go?
4. Calculate the depth at the high or low that concerns you.

Putting it into Practice
It is September 27, 2011, and you arrive at Ripper’s Cove at 1750, planning to anchor bow and stern for the night. You complete your survey and see that the depth where you want to lie is 16 feet. You want to know how deep it will be in that spot at high tide so you can measure out your anchor rode for 5:1 scope at that depth (plus the height of the bow roller), and you want to see if there is any danger of going aground.

Step 1. Find the times of the high and low tides you are concerned with and the range between them. Using tide tables for Avalon (Sept 27 2011 for this example), you see that the afternoon low tide will take place 1601 with a height of -.3 feet (a minus tide); the next high is predicted at 2206 at 5.3 feet; the following low tide occurs tomorrow at 0400 at .6 feet. So, the tidal range from low to high this evening is 5.6 feet and by the time you anchor, you will be at the end of the second hour past low tide.

Step 2. Find the change in height for each twelfth. If one twelfth of one foot is one inch, then one twelfth of 5.6 feet is 5.6 inches. So, every twelfth in this case means the height of tide changes by 5.6 inches.

Step 3. How many more twelfths to go? At 1750 you are nearly two full hours past low tide, and in those two hours, three twelfths of the range has come in. How many more twelfths to go? Nine, each of them bringing a rise of 5.6 inches.

Step 4. Calculate the depth at the high or low that concerns you. How deep will it be at the coming high tide? 9 more twelfths at 5.6 inches each is 50.4 inches, or just over 4 feet. So the depth here at high tide will be 20 feet. Is there danger of running aground at low tide? You don’t need the Rule of Twelfths for that answer. The next low tide at 0400 tomorrow is .6 feet, or 4.7 feet lower than your high tide depth of 20 feet. You draw 6 feet. No danger of going aground.

So Why Worry About This?
It’s all about scope at high tide, and avoiding going aground at low tide. The most frequent mistakes when anchoring are forgetting about BOTH the height of the bow roller and the height of tide. In the above example, the effective depth is not 16 feet but 20 at high tide plus 4 for the bow roller, or 24 feet. At 5:1 scope, that means paying out 120 feet of rode. If just the 16 foot depth was used, only 80 feet would be paid out at 5:1 and at high tide your effective scope would actually be a totally inadequate 3.3:1. Remember the underlying principle of horizontal pull on the anchor to keep it digging in – adequate scope enables horizontal pull. At 3.3:1, you risk dragging anchor and waking up to a pounding on the rocky eastern side of Ripper’s Cove.

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 792
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2011 - 02:13 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Video of Anchors setting and dragging.

The Manson and Rocna are pretty impressive. I'd like to see underwater video of the Bruce and Danforth. Here's some of what's on YouTube:

Manson Supreme
Quick setting anchor in sand

Bruce digs a trough

CQR drags, Rocna Sets

Anchor dragging through kelp
Here’s one view of why not to drop the anchor in kelp

And now, a couple of items from the RidicuList:

Ship drops anchor on a tugboat

Spinnaker catches freighter’s anchor – boat dismasted o

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 791
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 02:36 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Seminar coming up at OCC

Anchoring At Catalina: No Moorings? No Problem.

The focus is enjoying Catalina without depending on the moorings. Come and get your questions answered.

When: Aug. 31, 7-9:30 PM
Where: The School of Sailing and Seamanship, OCC
1801 W. Pacific Coast Hwy. Newport Beach, 92663
Reistration: Advance registration is required

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 790
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 02:15 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Re: Avalon on Labor Day Weekend

Q: "Hi Marc. I am an Aventura member and attended one of your Cruising Catalina seminars in the spring. It was eye opening and very informative - Thank you! I am considering making a trip to Avalon over the Labor Day holiday. I know it will be crowded and I really would like to get a mooring - although I know what to do if I don't get one.

Here is my question. Do you think leaving on Thursday morning that I would beat the rush over? I've never gone on one of the really busy weekends and don't know what to expect. I know it's just an opinion, but if you have any feel for the traffic on holiday weekends, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge with your fellow sailors. I think I've read through the material now at least a couple of times and it will stay in my sailing bag for reference!


A: Good question. I think you have a very small chance of getting a mooring at Avalon on Thursday afternoon - including the moorings at Descanso and Hamilton. If you could arrive Thursday morning, your chances are better for getting a mooring - but probably only for Thursday night. Brian at the Avalon Harbor Department (310-510-0535) just told me they have a tournament which will be clearing out and will make many moorings available Wednesday. The real problem, he said, is getting bumped by mooring owners coming in over the holiday weekend. You may be asked to vacate if the owner of your mooring wants it.

I think it's going to be like getting a parking spot during the Christmas shopping rush. You may get lucky, but you may have to park far away, and you just don't know until you get there. First, just get ready to have an adventure, and don't pin all your hopes on Avalon. Get over to the island Wednesday, or by Thursday morning preferrably. You still have options and may get a mooring Thurs PM.

Here's what to do if you do not get a mooring or have to vacate the one you picked up: cruise west up the coast and check out the anchorage at Gallagher's, Toyon, or Willow - these are only 2-3 miles away. Willow may be your best bet. Or, go one more mile west to the Whte's Cove complex. There are four areas that have moorings, and anchorage is also available in each. The moorings at White's are controlled by the Two Harbors Harbor Department, and you might be able to reserve one of them with their new reservation system. To use the reservation system, go to The location you want to specify is no. 3, "White's Landing, Moonstone, Hen Rock, Buttonshell."

Please let me know how it goes!

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 789
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 02:08 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Here's one I replied to in Yahoo Answers.

Q: "What is the best cove to anchor in at Catalina Island?"

A: You should check out my guidebook, "Anchoring At Catalina: No Moorings? No Problem." It's available at With that said, the best cove to anchor in depends on many factors including the season and the weather forecast, whether you want to go ashore or just need to drop the hook for the night, whether you are comfortable anchoring bow and stern, whether you have time to visit the S side of the island, and so on. The book has detailed info to help you make choices in a variety of conditions.

My personal favorite is Doctor's Cove, immediately W of Emerald Bay. Bow and stern anchors are required as there is not enough room to swing on a single hook, and while it is exposed to the N and E, it is very nice in the prevailing westerly. Snorkeling in the cove is good and access to beautiful Emerald Bay and its reef is easy by dinghy.

Next choice would be Goat Harbor, just W of Twin Rocks. It is open to the NW, but well protected in the prevailing westerly with the best spot in the western portion of the cove, with bow and stern anchors, and the vessel lying in about 30 feet of depth. The guide has pictures of this spot and a good description of bow and stern technique. This is a good place for a couple of days. No services ashore.

If you have to visit the store, bar, or a restaurant, go to the Isthmus and anchor in Little Fisherman. Anchor bow and stern in close to the beach or swing on a single hook further out in 45 - 60 feet. Pull the dinghy up on the beach and walk or take it to the Isthmus Cove dinghy dock on the W side of the pier. This is a great little village with one of just about everything, and outdoor music and dancing during the season.

Many more details in the guidebook. See Also available as an E-book.

Please let me know how it works out.

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 788
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2011 - 08:44 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Here's a starter question. How far do you swing around while at anchor on a single hook? Check out the graphic below.


This is a 7 hour GPS track of the C&C 38 “Cool Man Cool” swinging on a single hook at Santa Barbara Island. Our effective depth was 35 feet and we had 175 feet of anchor rode out including 40 feet of chain. It was morning and the wind was light and variable.

The GPS log shows that while at anchor, we traveled .6 nm covering 29,887 sq. feet at an average speed of .1 nmph.

From “Anchoring At Catalina” page 49.

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 786
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2011 - 08:09 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I have been away too long. I'd really like to get the anchoring discussion going here. There are many possibilities, but I need your input, comments and questions, and expertise if you have it.

Here's a starting list of possible discussion items:

Charles Kepford anchored solo, bow and stern in Doctor's Cove not too long ago and gave me the description on how he did it. What about anchoring solo, and anchoring under sail?

I had a near disaster anchoring at Orizaba Cove on Santa Cruz one March several years ago, and have never come so close to putting a hole in the boat. We broke the windlass, had to cut loose the stern anchor with a knife, and nearly had to leave 300 feet of chain and a big Bruce anchor on the bottom to make our escape. How about "Things not to do" when anchoring at Santa Cruz and elsewhere?

My friend Mike recently told me about dragging his stern anchor when bow and stern at Prisoners' on Santa Cruz. What about dealing with wind on the beam when you are anchored bow and stern?

That reminds me of what we did at 0300 when an easterly storm blew in while 3 or 4 of us were anchored bow and stern at Willow Cove on Catalina during one of the Saddleback College trips. Want to hear more?

What about dragging anchor? Susie told me about when she dragged out to sea from Shaw's Cove in Laguna during a Santa Ana event one December; This last May Eric, and I dragged a couple hundred yards in 30+ knots while enjoying lunch, that is until something got our attention.

How about this: can you really anchor in Isthmus Cove in 90 feet of depth without having 450 feet of rode so you can maintain 5:1 scope?

There is so much more. Talk to me.

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 780
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Sunday, January 16, 2011 - 12:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

David, can you help me move the anchoring discussion I started under "New Thoughts" to this location? I'm having difficulty accessing the administration controls with this IP problem I mentioned. Thanks for your help. Marc

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 333
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 06:56 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I was eager to get a look at this book. Marc's presentation at Aventura Tuesday was terrific. Marc pointed out that every anchoring is a little different. But every case always resolves to a basic few guidelines. Getting experience anchoring teaches you what you need to know to anchor anywhere within your capabilities.

Went through the book yesterday. Like having a magnifying glass for places I've anchored. I was dying to use the huge cleat at Cabrillo Beach singlehanded on Pilgrimage a long time ago. I guess it didn't occur to me to fender up. With winter seas things are really moving around on the west end of the cove that you just don't want to get close to the rocks, even if they look like a sheer drop. Very limited control of the vessel at really low speeds. Ended up bow and stern, I think.

Then I got to use the magnifying glass for places I'd wanted to anchor but never did, for some reason. Now I know I will have a friend available when I do actually anchor there. Thanks again, Marc.

Thanks for recording your experience for the rest of us, Marc. This book will sell for a long time.

Maybe I could do "Anchoring at Santa Barbara"? :-)

Marc Hughston
Username: hughston

Post Number: 772
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 01:04 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Anchoring At Catalina: No Moorings? No Problem!

The guidebook is now available for purchase at Thanks for your support!

Here's the cover:

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