How Long Can You Leave a Boat Anchored in One Place


Do you need to go somewhere and have to leave your boat anchored for a long time? Not sure where and for how many days you need to leave your boat unattended? If this is the first time you’ll be doing this, it is only normal to have a lot of questions running through your mind.

Your boat is one of your most valuable possessions and it is only right that you take good care of it and ensure its safety. But how long can you leave a boat anchored in one place? That’s the question we will be answering here and everything you need to know about leaving your boat anchored.

How Long Can You Leave A Boat Anchored

The duration for leaving a boat anchored may vary depending on the location and local regulations. In some places, boats can be anchored for weeks or even months, while in others, restrictions may apply, typically ranging from 24 hours to 30 days. It is crucial to check with local authorities or marinas for specific guidelines before leaving a boat anchored for an extended period.

What You Need to Know When Anchoring and Leaving a Boat Unattended

What You Need to Know When Anchoring and Leaving a Boat Unattended

Anchoring a boat is common practice for most boat owners. However, there are rules and regulations to follow on proper anchorage and the duration a boat should be anchored. Although anchoring a boat is not regulated, it is best to at least leave an anchor or two on your boat if you need to leave it for a longer period and unattended.

While there is no law on the length of time a boat can be anchored, there may be policies or rules that you need to follow depending on where you plan to leave your boat. Most of the time, anchoring is intended for short periods only, but there are factors that may allow you to leave your boat unattended and anchored for long periods of time. Here are some of the things you need to know about anchoring a boat.

Anchorage Restrictions

The first thing you need to know if you are going on a trip across the United States is the Code of Federal Anchorage Regulation. This will help save you from a lot of trouble when leaving your boat anchored. In this code, you will learn about anchorage grounds and special areas for anchoring your boat. There may be restrictions due to environmental reasons and on open water anchorage.

Environmental Restrictions

You cannot anchor and leave your boat anywhere you feel like it. There are certain areas where restrictions are implemented on where you can only anchor, length of time, the distance between your anchor and the shoreline particularly on protected environmental areas, and a lot more.

There are also areas that do not allow anchoring of any kind. Be on the lookout for no anchoring zones signs to make sure you don’t accidentally anchor in those areas. These signs are normally placed in areas near a water sports event or commercial water areas where there can be too much traffic.

Geographic Restrictions

There are some regions that do not allow anchoring so, be sure you are aware of some geographic restrictions. In the United States, there are several restrictions on where you can anchor particularly on the east coast. Florida takes these laws seriously as its counties started reinforcing anchoring laws. Some of the laws you need to be aware of are as follows:

  • You are not allowed to anchor to an unpermitted or unlawful object that is attached to the ground of the water.
  • You are not allowed to anchor 100 feet from the borders of a public mooring area
  • Anchoring is not allowed within 150 ft of a boatyard, marina, and launching vessel

However, there may be exemptions such as if the bad weather condition presents an unreasonable risk for the passengers and the boat if there are mechanical issues and a contractual agreement between the public mooring and the operator.

If you are planning to anchor anywhere in Broward counties and Miami Dade, these laws are being reinforced. Sunset Lake, Biscayne Bay, and Middle River allow anchoring only during the day, but anchoring before sunrise and after sunset is no longer allowed. If you are planning on anchoring on one of these areas, you better find another place to anchor.

Open Water

There can also be some restrictions when anchoring on open water such as proper disposal of waste. Depending on where your boat is anchored, there may be regulations on pumping sewage accordingly, and restrictions on supplying harmful wastes and toxins in the water.

Aside from proper disposal of waste, you also need to be prepared for anything that may happen and all possible water conditions. Since open water is deep, you need to have the right anchors and equipment to keep your boat safe. There may be no regulations on how long you can leave and anchor your boat in open water, but it is still best to check in the area if there are any guidelines to follow.

How to Anchor a Boat

How to Anchor a Boat

Now that you know the possible restrictions regarding leaving anchored boats unattended and for how long, it is time to learn how to properly anchor a boat. If you are a boat owner, you need to learn how to properly anchor a boat and all the other equipment you may need. This is not only for your own safety but also for the welfare of the other boaters.

It is recommended by law enforcement to always carry at least one or two anchors on your vessel that has an adequate size. The kind of anchor you should carry needs to be compatible with the type of vessel you have and the possible conditions on where you are going.

Just to be clear, anchoring is not the same as docking or mooring. When docking, you need to tie your boat to a dock or any still object. When anchoring you use a line and anchor to keep your boat from moving away on open water.

But when do you need to anchor a boat? You will need an anchor if you need to stop your boat to enjoy the sight or if you plan to swim or fish. You also need to anchor your boat when leaving the boat overnight in open water and when you need to find refuge during a storm.

Choose the Right Anchor For Your Boat

Before you can properly anchor your vessel, you need to have the right equipment and the correct anchor. Basically, all you need is an anchor, rode, and connecting elements. But essentially, you need to have the right anchor. When choosing one, there are certain things you need to consider.

Most of the time, boat owners carry two anchors in their boats, a lunch hook and a second anchor which is larger. A lunch-hook is typically used when the weather is nice and the water is calm. The larger anchor is typically used when there’s a storm or when passengers are asleep.

When choosing the right anchor, you need to consider the size of your boat, weather conditions, demographics, and locations.

Boat Size

Your vessel’s weight and size will determine the type of anchor you’ll need. If you have a large boat, it will also require a heavier anchor. If you have a small boat, you can go for a smaller anchor, but you also need to consider the total weight of your boat.

Environmental Conditions

Weather conditions may also cause anchoring issues such as strong winds, high tides, and waves.


It is also important to know where you will use your anchor, whether the bottom of the water is rocky, muddy, sandy, or grassy. Although most anchors are made to withstand different floor types, it is still best to have several anchors with you that are intended for every setting and condition.


Where you plan to anchor your boat is also a consideration. Whether you are anchoring in open water or in calmer areas, you need to have the right type of anchor and equipment handy.

Choose a Spot

Once you have determined the right type of anchor and you have a complete set of equipment, the next step is to find the anchoring spots. When choosing a spot, search the area where it is safe to go boating but is also a bit shallow to make anchoring easier.

As much as possible, steer clear of habitats, too many rocks, and reefs. You may also want to avoid grass beds. Find a rock formation and anchor your boat on that side if you think the wind blows are too high.

Choose a spot

Always Wear PFD

Aside from you, the people who will help in anchoring the vessel should always wear a PFD or a life vest. It is also recommended to let the passengers wear life jackets if the weather condition is unsafe such as heavy currents and waves.

Reverse and Reduce

Loosen the throttle and reverse your boat’s engine, then reduce speed until you are close to the standstill.

Secure the Line to the Cleat

Tie the line to the bow cleat, but stop to check the strength first before you continue. One common mistake of most boaters is not checking the strength of their line resulting in misplaced anchors. It is recommended to put an additional chain to the rode if you plan or leaving your boat anchored overnight.

Lowering the Anchor

Lower your anchor carefully to the water. At least 1/3 of the line should be submerged. Never drop or throw the anchor and line all at once, do it slowly, and always use your free hand to hold on to the railing firmly.

Testing the Anchor

As soon as the anchor reaches the floor, lightly pull it to check grip and stability before you release the remaining rode.

Calculate your Scope

Calculate your scope and if the ratio is 8:1 you can let it out.

Inspect for Any Drag

If you have a depth sounder it can help you check if there is any drag once the anchor is set. You can also check an anchor alarm system, so, you will know in case of potential dragging.

Choose At Least Two Landmarks

To help you keep an eye on your boat’s movements while it is anchored, pick at least two permanent landmarks such as rock formation, and remember the distance between your vessel and the two landmarks. This will let you know if there are unusual movements or dragging.

Anchoring Etiquette

Anchoring Etiquette

While there are no laws regarding anchoring, you should always practice good anchoring etiquette. There are no written rules or guidelines, but all you need to do is use your common sense especially if you are leaving your boat unattended.

Follow what the first boat is doing

If there’s an anchored boat before you, follow what the others are doing in terms of the distance between each boat, how the anchor was set, and the other boaters’ activities.

Check if there’s a boat anchored nearby

If there is an unattended boat anchored nearby, keep a safe distance. This will avoid colliding with other boats and will give privacy to other boaters as well. This will also help minimize noise pollution.

Anchor only on anchoring zones

Never anchor on areas that restrict anchoring to avoid being caught by municipal police officers. Most cities and various counties have their designated anchorages so be sure to anchor only where it is allowed.

Never throw trash on the water

Local governments and the Wildlife Conservation Commission will penalize boaters who pollute the water. It is illegal and could damage wildlife. Be sure to use pump-out stations and a holding tank religiously. Aside from keeping the water free from trash and toxins, never feed the birds and marine animals. It’s your duty to keep the environment clean.

Keep your lights low

Some boaters need their good night’s sleep that’s why they anchor at night. Avoid turning on too much light at night, and make sure you follow the guidelines regarding anchor light.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can You Leave a Boat Anchored Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I leave my boat anchored?

Anchoring is typically done for short periods only, however, there are no laws on how long you can leave a boat anchored. The duration for leaving a boat anchored varies depending on the location and regulations.

In some areas, boats can be anchored for up to 14 consecutive days, while other places may have time restrictions ranging from 24 hours to several weeks. Always check local laws, permits, and restrictions to ensure compliance with anchoring time limits.

Can you leave boat on anchor?

Yes, you can as long as you follow proper anchorage.

Can you just anchor anywhere?

No, there are places where anchoring is prohibited.

Can you anchor anywhere overnight?

Yes, you can anchor a boat anywhere overnight, as long as it is in a designated anchorage area and complies with local regulations. Ensure you have the necessary equipment, such as proper anchor and sufficient line, to secure your boat safely. Always check local laws and restrictions before anchoring overnight.

Please note some areas only allow anchoring during the day like in Sunset Lake and Middle River.

Is mooring the same as anchoring?

Mooring is securing or tying your boat to a stationary object like a mooring buoy. Anchoring is just dropping a heavy anchor to keep the boat in place anywhere that anchoring is allowed. When mooring a boat, you cannot do it in any place, it has to be to a dock, a mooring buoy, pier, or wharf.

What is a ground tackle?

It simply means all the parts of the anchor package such as the rode, chain, anchor kellet, shackles, etc. It is recommended to invest in a good ground tackle for your boats.

Can You Drop Anchor Anywhere?

In maritime navigation, it is essential to understand that dropping anchor anywhere is not always feasible or safe. Anchoring a vessel requires careful consideration of various factors, including water depth, bottom conditions, current strength, and potential obstacles.

While some areas allow for anchoring in designated zones or open waters, maritime regulations and local laws play a crucial role in determining where anchoring is permissible. It is important for captains and crew members to consult nautical charts, seek guidance from authorities, and assess the prevailing conditions before deciding whether it is appropriate and safe to drop anchor in a specific location.


Are you ready to go on that trip you’ve been planning without worrying about anchoring and leaving a boat unattended for a few days? Boating is a fun activity, especially if you are cruising with your family and friends.

However, you are responsible for your boat’s safety and the welfare of your passengers, so, be sure you are aware of the guidelines and laws regarding mooring and anchoring to avoid ruining your cruising trip.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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