An anchor trip line is used to pull up an anchor when the flukes snag on something on the bottom. Occasionally the anchor may hook around a rock, but usually snags occur in harbors where the bottom is littered with old mooring chain and other debris. If the anchor’s flukes hook into or under such debris, there may be no way to get the anchor up—and you may have to cut the anchor rode and abandon your anchor if fall else fails.
The Snagged Anchor Problem
If the anchor refuses to break free and come up even when the bow of the boat is directly above the anchor and the rode goes straight down, the first thing to try is to let out more rode and try to pull out the anchor from the direction opposite that in which the boat originally lay. This is sometimes called “backing out” the anchor. If this doesn’t work, you may have to cut the rode to release the boat. Leave the anchor on a float if you plan to come back later for more retrieval efforts.
How to Use a Trip Line
Prevention is the best defense, however. An anchor trip line is a simple, easy way to pull up a snagged anchor. Before anchoring, simply tie a light line to the anchor crown (like the cross-piece across the crown of the CQR anchor in the photo). You can tie a length of line to a float (like a boat fender) and simply release it overboard—or if you have a long piece of line, run it all the way back to the boat along with the anchor rode as you let it out. (In this case be sure that the trip line is completely slack.)
Anchor as normal, being careful not to foul the two lines. Then try as usual to break the anchor free when you’re ready to go. If it won’t break free, pull up on the trip line to release the flukes from the bottom. The trip line works very simply by pulling the anchor out “backwards,” or simply unhooking it. The use of a trip line has saved many an anchor from having to be abandoned along with other rusting junk on harbor bottoms!
An Even Better Solution: The AnchorRescue System
A new anchor retrieval system, called the AnchorRescue, is now available as a better way to free a snagged anchor. Once installed, you can forget all about it until you need to use it. It's much simpler and faster to use than a trip line.