I’d like to talk about an choring. And I’d like to talk about garbage. The topics are related since the anchoring skills of most boaters are, um well, garbage.

I will confess at the outset that I have dragged anchor; I’m sure almost every boater has done so. The question is whether a skipper learns from each incident.

I studied anchoring as a boy in my eight-foot pram in the sandbars of Onset Harbor. I would watch the flukes of my little Danforth anchor flip out of the sand when I anchored with my nose to the west and the wind shifted quickly to another direction. I learned later, while charter skippering in the Caribbean, that it’s hard to know if your anchor is set or if it is simply wrapped around a piece of coral. I have found anchoring in mid-coast Maine to be a matter of luck as my anchor worked to grab any purchase on the rock bottom. I have felt my anchor’s flukes skidding on top of the thick weed outside of Cuttyhunk Harbor rather than burying themselves into secure holding ground.

A good skipper knows how to anchor. He knows that his boat will swing in a radius around the anchor so he will leave a 360-degree circle of sufficient length of anchor rode (called scope) around the anchor to keep him away from other vessels as the wind goes light and shifts during the night. He knows how much scope (line or chain or combination) to let out so his boat will stay secure should the wind increase dramatically during the night. He sets his anchor and then backs down hard on it to make sure its really dug in and not just laying on the bottom. He knows the first boat into an anchorage has privilege and the next boats need to leave proper room. The good skipper never sleeps soundly when anchored. There is logical reason for the term “anchor watch.”

I once anchored in Little Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands while running a charter sailing yacht. At dusk I watched a sailboat motor into the harbor and throw that “heavy thing tied to the string attached to the pointy end” into the water while drinks were being passed around. I hailed over to the new arrival and suggested that they set their anchor further away from me as they would bang into our boat when the wind went slack after midnight. I was soundly ignored.

So did I wake up at midnight and have a heated discussion with the new arrival? Nope. Instead I put on my diving gear, went over the far side of my boat and dove to their anchor, which was dangling off a coral head and not attached to the bottom. I picked up the anchor and swam it along the bottom to a spot a couple of hundred yards from my boat. When I got back aboard my boat, the new arrival’s crew was peering over the side, holding their drinks and trying to figure out what kind of big fish must have moved them around the anchorage.

One September night in outer Milford Harbor, the remnants of a hurricane blew into a dead calm anchorage and wreaked havoc as dozens of large boats dragged into each other while pajama-clad crews dashed around swearing at each other. My wife and I got our anchor up and headed downwind to Stamford Harbor where we found refuge from the blow. Sometimes the most prudent step is to just get out of Dodge.

This leads me to garbage. In the late 1960s, when there were fewer boaters on the water, there were fewer places to deposit boat trash. Just as cruise liners until recently would toss their trash off the transom when offshore, the sixties and seventies saw black trash bags floating along the coastal zones from Maine to Granada. Too many careless boaters simply threw garbage into the ocean. Some still do. It might be acceptable to throw pieces of paper or cardboard into the water if you are well offshore, but it is never acceptable to drop your trash over the side. Anywhere. And it is never, ever acceptable to do so in anchorages.

Smart skippers flatten cans and break down packaging to reduce volume and have places to store trash on board that won’t smell up the boat. They know to keep trash in bags and to get it ashore where there are facilities to deal with it.

Now back to the topic of anchoring and garbage.

The skipper who has anchored well but has spent the night awake worrying about the poorly-anchored adjacent ship of fools has another option for what to do with his boat’s trash. He could gently place his neatly bagged trash in the other boat’s dinghy while he quietly leaves the anchorage in the early morning. The thoughtful and pungent reminder might teach that boat to do a better than garbage anchoring job the next time.

Jim Malkin lives in Chilmark.