Tips for Anchoring or Beaching Your PWC
One of the best things about owning a personal watercraft (PWC) is that you can take it just about anywhere.
Whether it’s a beach at a secluded cove, a stretch of lakeside, or an inviting riverbank, you can glide your PWC right up to the water’s edge, hop off and enjoy! The only thing to really worry about when picking a spot to park it is preventing your PWC from drifting away if there’s nowhere to dock it. When this happens you have two options: beach it or anchor it.
The deciding factor on whether to beach or anchor a personal watercraft usually lies with the potential for hull damage. To minimize the risk of damage, PWC riders typically lean toward anchoring.
Types of PWC Anchor
There are several different types of personal watercraft anchors available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
The best choice of anchors largely depends on where and how you want to use it. Here are several of the most popular types of personal watercraft anchors.
Fluke (or Danforth) Anchor
Works by digging itself down into the bottom as the PWC drifts and pulls against the anchor line. Once dug into the bottom, the resistance secures the anchor and the PWC. Fluke anchors work best with sandy or mud/silt bottoms, but not so well with rocky bottoms.
Similar to a fluke anchor, the plow anchor digs itself into the bottom to secure the PWC. Plow anchors also work best with sandy or mud/silt bottoms, but not so well on rocky bottoms.
Grapnel (or Folding) Anchor
Has four arms that fold out and hook onto rocks or into the sand/silt to secure the PWC. Grapnel anchors work on most bottoms, but are best suited for rocky bottoms.
Uses both its shape and weight to secure the PWC. Both add resistance to keep the PWC in place. Mushroom anchors work with most bottoms, but are not as effective in rough waters.
Sand or Sandbag Anchor
A bag that can be filled with sand, rocks or any other heavy material and then dropped to the bottom to secure the PWC using its weight alone. A sand anchor works with most bottoms, and is very easy to use.
A sturdy rod with an auger tip that is screwed into the bottom. A screw anchor works best with sandy or mud/silt bottoms, but should only be used in shallow water.
Anchor Rode and Scope
Other important factors for successfully anchoring your PWC are the rode and scope of the anchor.
The anchor line or anchor chain is known as the rode, and the ratio of the length of rode to the depth of water is known as the scope. Rode and scope are more relevant to fluke anchors, plow anchors and grapnel anchors. In general, a scope of about 4:1 or 5:1 is recommended when anchoring a personal watercraft.
A scope of 5:1 would use 5ft of rode for every foot of water. Therefore, in 2ft of water, you would use 10ft of rode; in 3ft of water you would use 15ft of rode, etc.
Using lengthy rode is recommended even in shallow water because fluke, plow and grapnel anchors work by being dragged horizontally across the bottom and digging in or hooking on as they do so.
A long rode puts the PWC at a distance from the anchor, so anytime it drifts, the anchor drags along and digs deeper into the bottom. A short rode puts the PWC directly above the anchor, so if the PWC drifts, it would likely yank the anchor off the bottom. The slack from a longer rode also acts as a shock absorber for mushroom, sandbag and screw anchors. As the PWC drifts, it slowly pulls the anchor line taught, which reduces the pull on the anchor and helps keep it in place.
Anchoring a PWC
When anchoring a PWC, your objectives are to prevent it from being damaged by touching the bottom and from drifting away.
Watch out for obstacles in the water such as rocks and swimmers. Look for any debris that could get sucked into your PWC’s intake and clog its jet. Close the throttle and come in on idle speed. In soft sandy or muddy areas, you could anchor in a few inches of water, while in rocky areas you should anchor further out and keep a foot or two of water between your PWC’s hull and the rocks below.
In tidal areas, you’ll want to anchor closer to shore if the tide is out, and further from shore if the tide is in to compensate for the rise or fall in water depth. Remember that the rode allows the PWC to drift, so don’t anchor so close to shore that the watercraft can run aground. PWC anchors aren’t guaranteed to secure your machine, so never leave your personal watercraft unattended for too long. Before taking off again, push your PWC away from the shoreline into deeper water to reduce the possibility of debris from the bottom getting sucked into the intake and damaging the machine’s jet.
Beaching a PWC
If you don’t want an anchor and its line taking up cargo space on your PWC, or if the shoreline spots you visit are soft, you can beach your watercraft instead.
When beaching your personal watercraft, take your time coming in to prevent hull damage. While it might look cool when people drive their jet-skis directly toward the shore at speed and skid up the beach, the friction of the sand and/or gravel can badly damage the underside of a hull.
Again, watch out for underwater obstacles like rocks and swimmers on your way in, as well as for any debris that could get sucked into your PWC’s intake. Close the throttle and come in on idle speed. When the water depth gets to be about 2ft, kill the engine and prepare to dismount. Doing so prevents debris near the shoreline (weeds, trash, etc.) from getting sucked into the intake, and the hull from hitting the bottom with your weight still on the PWC.
Carefully pull your PWC up onto the beach so at least half of it is out of the water and won’t drift back in. Never leave a beached PWC unattended, and keep an eye on waves or incoming tides that can quickly lift it and drift it. Push your personal watercraft away from the shoreline into deeper water before starting it up again to minimize the possibility of damaging it.