An anchor ball is a piece of boating equipment used to make it easier for boaters to retrieve an anchor. Many stores that carry boating supplies stock anchor balls of various sizes for different applications, and people can also order them directly from manufacturers. Some practice is required to learn to use this equipment correctly, as there is a potential for fouling the anchor line in the process of setting up the anchor ball.
As the name suggests, an anchor ball is ball-shaped, with an inset ring. The ball is designed to be buoyant. People can snap the ring directly around the anchor line or use a short length of line to attach and ball to the anchor line, depending on personal preference. The boat is slowly moved forward, allowing the anchor ball to slide down the anchor line until it reaches the anchor. It floats at the surface, taking the anchor's weight off the line and allowing the boater to quickly and easily haul the line in.
On boats with cranks and windlasses, an anchor ball is not necessary, as the boat has the equipment to haul the line in. Many boats lack the space for equipment to haul up the anchor, and it can be hard for a single boat operator to manage the anchor, especially in a hurry. For small boats, this simple device can save time and energy for boaters, in addition to allowing them to weigh anchor much more quickly. This can be useful in emergencies.
Anchor balls are often very brightly colored to make them easy to spot. This helps the boater identify the ball, in addition to warning other people navigating in the area that a boat is in the process of hauling in its anchor and there may be an anchor line or chain just below the water between the ball and the boat. Mariners are expected to take safety precautions to avoid endangering other boaters, and making sure people know what a boat is doing can be important.
One risk with using an anchor ball is a concern about tangling the anchor line in the propellers of the boat as it is run. Some people address this problem by tying off the anchor line at the rear of the boat so it cannot travel underneath as the ball slides down the line. Boaters are also careful as they maneuver while retrieving the anchor to avoid fouling the line.