Sailing Skipper Secrets – How to Use a Marine Anchor Trip Line For Worry Free Anchoring

How many times have you had a tough time pulling your marine anchor aboard? Perhaps it snagged on a rock, coral head, cable, or worse–another anchor? As a sailing skipper, you can avoid these headaches with a simple, easy-to-use trip line.

One end of the trip line attaches to the anchor and the other end has a float–like a plastic jug or Styrofoam buoy. When you’re ready to pull in your anchor, you grab the float, pull on it, and the anchor lifts off the bottom. Here are four times you will want to use a trip line:

1. Crowded harbors where you might snag another boat’s anchor.
2. Poor bottoms like rock or coral where your anchor might get stuck.
3. To mark your anchor so that boats don’t run over your anchor rode.
4. If you might need to retrieve your anchor fast in an emergency.

Follow these five easy steps to make, deploy, and retrieve a trip-line:

1. Determine the Line Length

Write down the depth of the anchorage shown on your navigational chart. Next, determine the height of the highest of the high tides during the time you will be anchored. Find this information from your marine radio or the Internet. Add a safety factor of three feet to these first two factors.

Your navigational chart states that your anchoring spot has a depth of 18 feet. You will anchor for two days. The tide tables indicate the consecutive high tides over those two days to be 5 feet, 7 feet, 6.5 feet and 9 feet above low tide. How long should you make your trip line?

18 feet (low tide) + 9 feet (highest tide) + 3 feet (safety factor) = 30 feet long.

2. Prepare the Trip Line

Use strong, small diameter polypropylene line. It floats, comes in bright colors for good visibility, and stands up well to abrasion.

Tie one end of the line to the crown, or lower part of the anchor. On lightweight anchors like the Danforth or Fortress, locate the crown where the shank (the long arm) and flukes meet. Stockless anchors–like the Bruce, Delta, or Rocna–often have a small hole drilled where the shank bends down toward the flukes. On a CQR anchor, attach the line to the rear horizontal bar.

Tie the other end of the trip line to your float. Form a large eye-splice in this end to make recovery with a boat hook easier.

3. Coil the Line

Start nearest the anchor and coil clockwise toward the float. Pass the coil under and back over the bow pulpit or rail so that it goes over without snagging. Break the coil in half with your dominant hand holding that half closest to the float.

4. Deploy the Trip Line

Wait for the boat to stop over the anchorage spot. Heave the line float over the bow and allow the coiled line to stream all the way. Next, lower the anchor in the normal way. Use this sequence to keep the trip line and marine anchor from wrapping around one another.

5. Retrieve the Line

Pull on the anchor rode, or use the boat diesel to nudge up near the trip line. Use a boat hook to retrieve the float. First, try to retrieve your anchor without using the trip-line. If it’s fouled pull on the line to try and capsize the anchor. Take the line to a halyard or sheet winch for more pulling power.

After you have your trip line aboard, remove it from the anchor crown. Rinse the line in fresh water, dry it well, and coil it back down into your anchor locker.

Every sailing skipper needs to know the secrets of how to make, deploy, and retrieve a marine anchor trip line. Follow these five fast, easy steps to make your life on the hook easier, safer, and less stressful!