Superyacht Captain Camilla Rothe tests AnchorGuardian in the summer of 2023

Captain Camilla Rothe provides answers about her pilot study with AnchorGuardian.

Camilla Rothe, Captain of the 37m superyacht Audrey1 since 2022, tested AnchorGuardian for 1 month during the fall of 2023.

“What I especially liked about AnchorGuardian was that the data provided didn’t take away the importance of whoever was on the bow looking, feeling and feeding back information to me, it was just additional information I could work with.  More importantly, it was information I could use the next time when anchoring.”

We caught up with Camilla and her crew on a sweltering October afternoon in Follonica/IT to talk about her experience from the pilot study with AnchorGuardian.

How were you first introduced to AnchorGuardian?

I met Thomas [Frizlen – founder of Swiss Ocean Tech] at a yachting event where he explained the technology to me.  My first reaction was, what more could I possibly want to know after having already anchored successfully for the past 15 years?  But I admit, it made me quite curious.  We don’t always know what is going on down on the seabed and since the pilot study did not require me to change anything on our equipment or how we actually anchor, I decided to give it a try.

And the biggest surprise after working with it?

To be honest, I did not expect all the information provided to be useful.  Over time however, I learned how valuable it was and how it improved my anchoring overall.  It changed my perspective and gave me information that I began to incorporate into how I manoeuvred.

You were recognised earlier this year by RINA, the Italian classification society, with a special award. 

Yes, they surveyed a 4m€ refit I managed on my last vessel.  It involved something like 60 contracting companies and 400 various jobs.  They got to know how I work, and they witnessed the nitty gritty side.   I think the award was to highlight the work being done by a young, female & promising captain in an industry dominated by males. It has been a long journey, and it hasn’t always been easy, but it’s nice to see my efforts being recognized by such a large body.

You had an AnchorGuardian prototype installed on Audrey1.  Any reservations at the beginning?

When I first saw the anchor module, I thought…that’s never going to fit. But it did!  And the good thing was since AnchorGuardian already has an integrated swivel, we could get rid of quite a bit of chain, which included our own swivel, and that made it easy and didn’t take up any extra space.  Even when our bow roller arm was retracted, making it very short, the anchor module fit in without any issues.

You mentioned during our talk, about anchoring being a team effort.

Absolutely.  At the end of the day, the overall responsibility lies with me, but I can’t do my job without everyone else doing their part, almost to perfection.  I liked that about AnchorGuardian, it didn’t take away the importance of whoever was on the bow looking, feeling and feeding back information to me.  What it did do was provide me with additional information to help me anchor better.

Can you talk to me about the issue of anchor dragging.

Nobody wants to drag.  It is an additional stress. To get rid of this stress, an easy solution is to pay out far more chain than is actually necessary. But that is obviously a problem when you are in a busy anchorage with many other boats because a superyachts’ radius is very large.  AnchorGuardian helps you to get the right amount of chain for that specific location, ensuring safety for all.  

A common occurrence is during the night when your anchor drags slowly.  It may hop a little bit but then stabilize itself again.  You decide not to re-anchor or wake anyone else up, but you are repeatedly waking up yourself and checking with the night watch.  It is a slow drag of maybe ten meters – more or less – at a time. Very often safe, but as a captain you are constantly alert because you are not holding.

But you have your GPS alarm monitoring your boat?

We use a plethora of alarms, not just the GPS.  Basically, anything that can indicate a change in conditions; increased wind speed, wind shifts, changes in depth etc., This can all lead to a lot of alarms.  But that takes me back to the issue of complacency where if you start getting too many alarms, you will certainly react the first time and speak with the watch keeper, but the second time, you may not react so quickly.  

With AnchorGuardian, you only require the one reliable alarm.  All the other ones, which give slight indications of the possibility of dragging – without actually monitoring the anchor itself – they can all be turned off.  In the end it should be less alarms but better, more useful ones. 

Have you experienced any recent dragging incidents?

I would say we had about three dragging incidents this year, the most critical one was off the coast of Mykonos in a very busy harbour.  It was a bit of an eye opener for me because we had been at anchor already for three days with a continuous 25 knot wind.  I felt confident, the anchor was very safe and we weren’t going anywhere. We were preparing for a boss trip and weren’t fully crewed at the time and our G.P.S. alarm went off.  It was a surprise because there hadn’t been any significant changes in weather conditions.  Here we were, three days in and we started dragging.  Thankfully the crew on board was quick to react, but it was a close call.

Now I know AnchorGuardian would have given us a few extra minutes or even some additional seconds to react and we would have been safer.  Also, AnchorGuardian doesn’t wait until your anchor is in motion before it alerts you.  

In the end, knowing when you are dragging is super essential.  Add all the other data provided by AnchorGuardian and it helps to better understand what’s going on.  

I would never say no to an extra helping hand.  Particularly now where crews are getting smaller but requirements higher, so any additional support is very much appreciated.   

As a captain, you are responsible for crew, passengers, vessel and your immediate environment.  How do you prioritize?

Safety will always come first. But sometimes you’ve got guests asking for cocktails and calling crew members to put awnings up or tenders in the water or whatever, and you cut corners when trying to protect the marine environment, especially if you are in a place where there are no regulations. 

If we could work quicker because we have more information at our fingertips rather than dropping the anchor, then going astern on the engines and trying to see if the anchor is dragging, it would benefit everyone.  With more accurate information from AnchorGuardian, we can still maintain the same kind of safety standards whilst also taking care of the seabed.  

What do you love most about your job? 

I love the feeling of being at sea.  It is exhilarating.  And at night when you have that fresh breeze and the stars are shining above, it is just beautiful and not comparable to anywhere else.

If there were something like an AnchorGuardian Award, both Camilla Rothe and Luke Windle would have one.  It is not easy finding captains willing to take time out of their busy schedules to not only test budding technologies, but to share their feedback and insights.  Not everything will go as planned or expected with a prototype, patience is so important.  Even more, it requires trust in the team providing the solution.  Both Camilla and Luke gave us their trust and for that, we will be forever grateful.