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Anchoring & "Operation Make Way" on the Columbia River
How to Anchor Safely...

Every boat should have an anchor on board, and every boater should know how to use it. Anchoring isn't as easy as just "tossing it over the side." In fact, an improperly anchored boat can sink within seconds. Here are some tips to anchor safely.
  • Keep your anchor handy and ready to use. In the event of motor trouble, you may need to deploy your anchor in a matter of seconds to keep from entering treacherous waters, log jams or other life-threatening hazards. A basket or mesh bag is a good way to keep your anchor line from entangling other equipment.
  • Use the correct type of anchor for your situation. Mushroom, pyramid or other heavy anchors are adequate on lakes and may be suitable for drift boats on rivers. Anchors, like the Danforth, the plow and similar designs, are designed to dig into the gravel, silt or sand and should have 5-10 feet of chain above the anchor to help it set properly. For boats 18 feet and under, a 3/8 inch nylon line is adequate anchor line.
  • Image courtesy of USACEUse anchor lines that are 7-10 times the depth of the water. River depth may exceed 100 feet in some places on the Columbia. Use a float for the anchor line to serve as a buffer and to reduce the risk of getting the anchor line tangled in the propeller. See the diagram above.
    a) Lower, do not throw, the anchor to avoid tangles in the line
    b) Anchor only off the point of the bow. Anchoring off the stern or the side will capsize your boat.
  • NEVER anchor from the stern. The boat can be pulled under in seconds, just like a fish diver, in even a moderate current. Never allow your anchor rope to become entangled in your out-drive or outboard motor - the same thing will happen. Keep a sharp knife handy and cut the line if this occurs. Your life and your boat are worth more than the anchor.
  • Consider a quick-release cleat on your bow to hook your anchor line through. Watch for floating debris up-river that could ride up your anchor line and sink your vessel. Products are available that will release the anchor line under heavy stress and prevent your boat from sinking. A float on the end of your line will help you retrieve it.
  • Power upstream of anchor before retrieving it. Maintain position in line with flow of the current while retrieving anchor. Turning cross-wise to the current increases the risk of capsizing.
  • Larger rivers can become turbulent with little or no warning. You are advised to wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) at all times. Also, take precautions against hypothermia. River temperatures can range from 70 degrees in the summer to near freezing during the winter.



    Operation Make Way

     Official joint press release from the Marine Board and U.S. Coast Guard for "Operation Make Way 2014"


     Operation Make Way -Video from 2013



    Boaters are reminded that  it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the navigation channel, namely Commercial Vessels.  Commercial vessels have reduced visibility over their load and the length of the bow make it nearly impossible for the Captain and crew to see recreational boats.   

    • Five blasts of a horn signify danger and you must take immediate action and pick up anchor.  If you hear this horn, it's almost too late!  Large ships can travel 1.5 miles in six minutes, but because they are so large, their speed appears much slower.  Waiting until the ship is visible as it comes around a bend leaves no time to weigh anchor.    
    • Keep a sharp lookout at all times.  If you have to move, take your anchor with you...don't simply detach from the hog line or float buoy. 
    • Avoid joining hog lines that protrude out into the channel. 
    • Large vessels need room to maneuver.  Keep well clear when they are turning. 
    • Contact large vessels on marine VHF radio channels 13 and 16. 
    • Commercial vessels use range markers to align with the center of the channel.  A red nun buoy marks the right side of the channel when heading upriver.  A green can buoy marks the left side of the channel when heading upriver.  Depending on current, wind and other factors, commercial vessels may need additional area.  Barges and ships may need the full width of the channel to maneuver or pass.  In many locations, the channel simply isn't wide enough to do either.