A Word on Civilized Communication During Maneuvers


By: Alex Blackwellwalkie-talkie

Be aware when anchoring (especially during the early evening hours), that almost everyone else in the anchorage will be observing you (as discreetly as possible, of course). It is just the way it is. You will do it too. Just remember that it is not the anchoring, or the need to re-anchor, which separates the beginners from the experts. It is the amount of yelling and chaos that breaks out between the person handling the anchor, and the person maneuvering the boat. Boating is the only sport which has generated T-shirts that proclaim “Don’t yell at me!” and classes called “Nobody yells.” One can be pretty confident in stating that anchoring has been responsible for many of the verbal tirades. The point here is to avoid yelling in the anchorage. Everyone will hear, and no one will be impressed.

In order to avoid the embarrassing shouting you almost certainly have heard during anchoring and other maneuvers, we have several suggestions for communications. 

Most important, develop a set of hand signals to communicate with one another well in advance.  When you have someone on the bow working the anchor (we prefer the strong male in that department even though we now have a windlass and we both have to know how to use it) and the other person aft at the helm, it may be difficult to be heard above the roar of the engine. We usually use simple hand signals to let each other know of obstructions, intentions, and speed or course changes.

We also use walkie-talkies (handheld radios) that are available relatively inexpensively at most sporting goods stores. These radios are especially useful when the wind is really blowing and your words are scattered from the bow before they have a chance to leave your tongue. We also use them to communicate from below decks to topside, like on night watch when we need to rouse a sleeping mate.

In the US the walkie-talkies are FRS and GRMS radios. These are not legally usable in the UK and Europe, the EU equivalent is the PMR446 Pan European Radio system which uses similar (often the same) models as FRS but chipped for a different frequency.

The other great reasons to have these radios are that you don’t need a license and they are legal for use on shore as well as for keeping in touch with the dinghy brigade. Don’t forget, that VHF radio is for use solely on the water – ship to ship and only with special permit from land to water as in a marina dock house. The newer GMRS radios have a much greater range and can be used to communicate ship to shore as well – but only where permitted.

Alex and Daria Blackwell are the authors of “Happy Hooking – The Art of Anchoring.” It covers every aspect of anchors and anchoring in a fun and easy to read format with lots of photos and illustrations. It is available in print and Kindle from CoastalBoating.net, amazon worldwide, & good chandleries.


  1. Loved your thoughts on anchoring. We are in the Med where there are numerous nationalities and by watching how a boat anchors you can actually work out the skippers country of origin.

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