Anchoring etiquette: The unwritten rules

10 November 2020 | Beneteau

Summer is almost here, and this year will undoubtedly see an increase in boaties exploring New Zealand’s exquisite cruising grounds.  

There’s been a huge demand for boats in the lead up to this years’ festive season, with limited international travel options meaning Kiwi’s are looking for ways to enjoy our own backyard. 

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The hustle and bustle of busy bays can be a bit daunting for those newer to boating, so 36° Brokers have compiled a few tips to help you retain the serenity while anchoring.

  •  The first boat sets the precedent. Beautiful bays abound across New Zealand’s coastlines, and there’s usually plenty of room for all. But like anything, everyone will have their favourite, and you’ll often get a jam-packed bay right next to one with plenty of space. If you’re unsure, go to the next bay. If you like your chances, make sure to respect the space needs and swing radius of the boats who have arrived before you. 
  • No need to rush.  Turn your clock to cruising time. You’re not in the big smoke anymore, and you want your neighbours to like you. Slow down, think of those eating dinner, and keep the wake to a minimum. 
  • Check out your neighbours. Are you planning on cranking the sound system through the night, or do you have kids on board who need their sleep? You can probably tell which boats have the kind of people that might fit in with your boating style, so bear this in mind when you’re choosing your spot. If in doubt, give em’ a wave and have a chat. 
  • How much room? According to textbooks, you need to allow enough room for your boat to swing in a complete circle around it’s anchor without overlapping the swinging circles of other boats. In reality, there’s often limitations within a bay, such as the proximity of other boats, shallow waters, or areas of poor holding. In this case, refer back to note #3, and check out your neighbours. Try to choose boats of a similar size, windage, and underwater profile as you are more likely to get away with partially overlapping swing circles. For example, if you’re in a 30ft catamaran and you’re wondering where to park in proximity of a 100ft superyacht, we would advise choosing a different bay!  
  • Be respectful: It’s cool to be kind. Summing up 2020 in a few words really! Anchoring upwind of another boat, cranking the music and having a fry up on the BBQ is often unwelcome behaviour. As is running a generator in the wee hours of the morning, shouting above the engine noise, or shining a spotlight directly at other vessels. Popular bays will often be the most sheltered, but with that serenity comes the ability for sound and smell to travel with ease. Everyone is out to have a good time, and no one needs ‘that person’ in their chosen bay. 
  • Communication with your fellow boaters.We’ve all got that story of being the lone boat in a vast bay, and someone comes in and plonks their anchor right on top of yours. The magnet effect, if you will. Sure, you may feel like verbalising your annoyance – but just remember that people will watch you too. It’s inevitable. So stay calm, keep watch to see how their boat swings, and dinghy across for a civilised word if you’re concerned. 
  • Don’t be afraid to re-anchor. This can sometimes be what splits the novice anchorers apart from the experts. The key here is to sit and wait a good 10 minutes after dropping anchor to see where your boat swings and check your holding. Don’t immediately hop in the dinghy and head to shore, just wait. No one will think any less of you for re-anchoring, in fact it’s the opposite as it makes your neighbours aware that you are respectful of others’ space. 
  • Holding tanks: It goes without saying! Common sense really, but theres’ still the odd occasion where someones forgotten to flick to holding tank mode, or worse, empties the tank right in the middle of a crowded bay. Refer back to #5, be respectful. No swimmer wants to come across a tideline of excrement, or wade through a glob of fish guts or kitchen scraps. Keep that stuff onboard, and dispose of responsibly. Be a tidy kiwi! 

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With all that said and done, you can conclude most of this comes down to common sense. But like anything, that can often go awry  in the fluster of a busy bay in the scorching summer heat. For experienced boaties and seasoned cruisers out there this summer, perhaps just be mindful of those newer to the lifestyle, and for those less experienced, remember that communication is always appreciated on the water. Boaties are generally willing to lend a hand or give a word of advice if asked! 

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Here’s to a safe and happy summer season boating. We hope to see you out there! 



36 Degrees