Take an Over-Night Boat Trip – How to Gunkhole

For many boaters, cruising usually means launching their boat on a lake and heading out for the day to fish, to sunbath or to enjoy an outing with some friends and beer. For others, it means spending the day discovering the shoreline, snugging down for a night in a secluded cove and then returning the next day. An over-night boat trip is an excellent way to enjoy a summer weekend.

The type of boat you own determines how comfortable your cruising trip will be. Sailboats greater than 21 feet have interior cabins that can act as a mobile ‘Anchor Hotel’. Power boat owners can’t comfortable sleep aboard their craft but can anchor and camp along a distant sandy shore.

How to Gunkhole
A gunkhole is a small, sheltered cove where small boats can anchor. Because each shoreline is different, the surrounding topography determines how much a cove will be exposed to the wind. Here are a few tips to make your overnight boating trip safer & more enjoyable:

  • Look at the surrounding hills and forest to determine how exposed a cove is. You want a place where the anchor will not drag during an unexpected storm.
  • Talk to local boaters to find out the seasonal wind patterns. Some coves may only be protected from the prevailing skies during certain times of the year. Be extremely cautious of storms which can approach from the opposite direction and can turn a calm bay into a wind-tunnel.
  • Anchor in a sheltered spot that’s protected from the wind and waves and away from marine traffic.
  • Leave enough scope (ratio between the depth of the water and the length of the rode) for a secure anchorage:
    • For a lunch stop, a scope of 3:1 should be good.
    • For overnighting, a scope of 5:1 should be good.
    • For rough weather, a scope of 7:1 should be good.
    • When in doubt, let it out!
  • Be a good neighbor and leave enough room to swing between your boat and a neighboring one.
  • Consider dropping two anchors, one aft and stern, just in case the winds pick up. If possible, try securing the boat with an extra line to a tree or boulder on the shore.
  • Ensure to properly secure your tender or pull the light raft high on the shore. Wind and waves (or tides out on the ocean) can grab your inflatable and set it adrift unmanned.
  • Always turn on your mast light at night. It gets very dark on remote shores so let others see your position.

If you’re an avid boater, try gunkholing one of these weekends. An overnight boating trip is a great way to feel the peaceful isolation of nature that few can afford or have time to experience.