ALDERNEY RING – By Wayne Comben

Hauling your anchor by hand can be a chore, when you’re on your own it’s often difficult, and just occasionally it’s ridiculously hard. I am well acquainted with the effort required because it was the way I did things for years.  Add to that the fact that on my boat you need to climb round the front to haul and it all becomes a little bit hairy, especially if the sea conditions pick up.

Alderney ring anchor and bouy

If you have someone with you who can drive the boat slowly forward to pick up the slack it does takes some of the effort out of things, but if the anchor snags on the sea bed then there are times when you just won’t be able to free it by hand power alone, and if there is a swell building it can be a very unpleasant experience. My back isn’t quite what it once was just to compound matters so for some time now I have been looking to switch over to the Alderney ring method of anchor retrieval.
Now there has been plenty written on the pros and cons of buoying up your anchor – for my part I would strongly recommend that anyone considering this method should have a good grasp of boat handling before they try it. It’s not overly difficult but as with all things ‘boaty’ ….you do need to have your wits about you. The first thing I did was to check that the bow roller was up to the rigours involved, it was,  but the washers behind didn’t look as if they were,  so I replaced them with a large stainless plate that spreads the load over a wider area. Incidentally my Wilson came with full, good quality stainless rails all round, the washers on the other hand were no bigger then the nut that held the rails on,  the thought of 15 stone hanging off them in mid winter meant all were replaced with the biggest penny washers I could source.

 The idea is simple for the Alderney method, basically its a buoy with a ring attached,   the anchor rope should run smoothly through the ring and the buoy must be of sufficient size to float your anchor and chain, the chain should be heavier then the anchor so the weight of it will hold the anchor in the ring preventing it dropping back to the sea floor once it has been lifted. On the subject of anchors I have found the Bruce pattern to be by far the best – its good practice to set a trip also, the chain is fixed usually with a shackle to the crown of the anchor, the chain is then run back along the stock with a link or two worth of slack and its then fixed with a cable tie to the eye at the end. The thickness or number of cable ties will depend on the individual anchor, but it should be strong enough to hold under normal circumstances but break if the anchor is snagged and you apply extra pressure.

Your boat needs to be capable of making 6-8 knots against the wind/tide in order to power the anchor up, the basic idea is you head up tide at around a 30 degree angle to the rope, once past the buoy you straighten the course keeping an eye on the rope to ensure that it does not run under the boat or anywhere near your prop. At this stage I have a boathook to bring the rope to hand, this way I can feel the distinct rattle of the chain as it passes through the ring. The buoy often gets pulled slightly under once the anchor has tucked in the ring and at this stage it’s a case of cutting the engine and drifting back to pick up the slack.

On my boat the anchor rope has been run along the inside of the rails and through the bow roller – this allows me to anchor and retrieve without the need to climb round the front, however it is vital that the point of pressure is always on the BOW, it must never be midships or on the stern – or you run the very real risk of sinking if the anchor snags in a strong tide. 

If you do decide to use an Alderney ring then try to have someone aboard who is familiar with the method for the first few attempts, once you get the hang of it you will wonder why you didn’t try in the first place.