Safety update

August 1996 Anchor watches

This safety update is for all mariners who keep watch. It is issued to raise awareness of the importance of keeping a continuous navigational watch when at anchor. It provides safe practice tips for how best to reduce the risks involved and to alert people to the risk to safety associated with anchor watches.


Recently, in only moderate sea conditions, an anchored vessel grounded off the coast of New Zealand. Prior to the grounding, it was found that only an occasional watch had been kept of the vessel’s position.

Precautions and procedures

Mariners are reminded of the importance of keeping, when necessary, a continuous navigational watch when at anchor.

Safe practice tips

In all circumstances, while at anchor, it is recommended that the mariner who is keeping a watch should:

  • Determine and plot the vessel’s position on the appropriate chart as soon as possible after anchoring.
  • When circumstances permit, check at frequent intervals whether the vessel is remaining securely at anchor by taking radar/visual bearings and distances of fixed navigation marks or readily identifiable charted shore objects.
  • Ensure that an efficient lookout is maintained at all times.
  • Ensure that inspection rounds of the vessel, including the anchor cable, are made periodically.
  • Keep a careful check on weather and tidal conditions and the state of the sea and swell.
  • Immediately notify the Master/Skipper if the vessel starts to drag anchor.
  • Where possible, ensure the main engine is kept on stand by, ready for immediate use, in the event of an emergency.
  • Ensure that the vessel exhibits the appropriate lights and shapes and that appropriate sound signals are made as required by the Collision Regulations .

Original source content - Boat Notice 121996, August: Anchor watches.

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