We'd been anchored at Gallows Bay on St. Eustatius for a couple of days and with the wind from the east and the swell from the south, we were (as our old cruising buddy Larry Kruzick used to say) "Rolling our guts out!" We couldn't leave anything out on the counters and we had to sleep like starfish; arms and legs fully spread out. It was miserable.
We've used a stern anchor several times in the past but setting one up requires a fair amount of time and effort, so I suggested we try a swell bridle. I read about this recently but can't remember where, so if one of the brilliant Women Who Sail posted it, please take credit and accept my thanks. Because it is awesome. And it works. And it's easy!
Here's how to set it up:
Take a line (nylon is best, but if you are desperate, you'll use a dock line) about the length of your boat and tie it to one end of your anchor chain snubber, then attach your snubber to the chain in the normal way. (If you use rode, tie it to your rode with a rolling hitch.)
Now instead of taking the snubber through a bow chock, run it outboard of all lifelines and shrouds, through a midship fairlead or hawse pipe, and to a primary winch. Do this on the side you need to face into the wind.
While letting out chain, winch in the snubber and your boat will head into the swell. Observe how the boat sits and adjust as necessary to keep the boat's bow directly into the swell. Notice the tug boats in front of us? They are using the same technique even on their mooring buoy.
It's that easy! You don't have to heft the stern anchor into the dinghy and you don't have to retrieve it later. And the real beauty of this method is you haven't complicated everyone else's anchoring by having two anchors out.
Positioning your boat side to the wind increases the strain on the anchor, so consider adjusting your scope as well. And obviously if there's a wind shift, you won't be heading into the swell any longer. If the swell comes back or wakes you up, simply adjust the bridle again.
I don't know why we waited so long to try this; we certainly could have used it a few times here in the Caribbean. Next time you're in a rolly anchorage, give it a try; I think you'll be impressed. We certainly were.
ps: Please excuse my lame graphics. I don't have Photoshop or Illustrator so I made these drawings on my tiny phone screen with a tiny slippery stylus. At anchor.