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Living Aboard: Things That Go Bump in the Night

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

Are usually not good things.

Don’t tell the Europeans, but there’s this running commentary among Americans about how the French love to anchor right on top of you no matter how much extra room is in the anchorage. Yesterday it was the Germans. I’m sure they say the same about Americans. Touché.

Anyways, as I was headed to bed around 10 I took one last look at the newest arrival to the anchorage, a 46-foot German boat anchored probably 50 feet upwind of me. I knew that if I wanted to leave before he did I’d have to ask him to move forward so that I could retrieve my anchor.

But with the winds gusting to over 25 knots, it’s not easy to fall asleep with a boat that close to you directly upwind. I’d try to go to sleep, then pop my head out of the hatch above my bunk to take a look. Is he closer? The same? It’s hard to tell at night and your brain will believe whatever you want it to believe.

Everyone has an anchor-dragging story.  If you don’t, you’re lying.

I wanted to believe that he was secure where he was at.  Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, has some weedy patches with poor holding.

Okay, he hasn’t moved, go to sleep. Yes, sleep. There you go…off to sleep…

No, one more look. It sure looks like he’s closer. Great. Now I’ll never sleep. Just try. There you go, back to sleep…

Then I opened my eyes and without even picking my head up off of my pillow, could see his masthead light through my hatch. Ok, now that’s close.

So I turned my deck light on and ran up top. Sure as shit he was considerably closer than when I went to bed. I flashed a bright light at his boat and shouted the boat name but no one answered as he kept creeping closer.

I tried knocking on his hull with my boat hook, but he was just out of reach. The next time he swung by my bow he was two feet too far. Then one foot. Then I could just barely tap it. Then finally on the next swing by I was really able to bang on the railings. He finally emerged, totally confused as I would be too.

But it didn’t really seem like he was in a hurry, or remotely awake, cause he just kinda looked around as his boat finally got to a distance I could step aboard.

He finally turned the engine on and went up front to start pulling the chain in. Well, when the anchor is dragging and you just pull it in without driving the boat forward, you’ll just keep drifting backwards faster and faster as the anchor is brought up.

So now I’m fending him off, his hull broadside against my bow, like I was T-boning his boat, but his boat is almost twice as large as Saoirse.  He keeps pulling his anchor up as he’s drifting backwards and predictably his anchor snags my chain.

Fortunately his anchor snagged my chain at the waterline and not somewhere in the murky darkness down below. That could have ended up in a giant ball of fuck if our anchors and chain became tangled below us!

At this point I realized I needed to turn my engine on in case I had to move in a hurry so I ran back to the cockpit to crank it. Also, his dinghy was secure on deck so he wasn’t getting in the water to untangle this. At around this time his crewmate finally emerged from down below. Welcome to the party, and fashionably late!

Thankfully this night I was too lazy to hoist my dinghy out of the water, because if I did, it would have been smashed between the two of us. I jumped down into it, started it up, and moved forward to unhook his anchor from my chain. I got it free, he drifted backwards, and pulled the rest of his anchor in.

So where does he go next? Right to the same spot he was anchored earlier, or maybe 100 feet forward. Why can’t you just anchor behind me this time?  There’s like 200 yards of clear sand back there.

Now past 11:30pm, I sat on my deck for about 15 minutes to make sure my own anchor was still set and didn’t become dislodged. I wasn’t moving, so it was back to bed, but starting this drill over from the top again.

This time I grabbed the laptop to knock this post out while I monitor his boat out of my hatch.

It’s past midnight and I’ll try this sleep thing again.

Public Service Announcement

Hey kids, please make sure your anchors are set before you go to bed, and go easy on the booze at night in case this shit happens (I took a break from drinking today after the last few days of Carnival; I could see empty bottles in their cockpit – not to say they were hammered but I’ve seen many a hammered sailor almost fall of their boat at night).

PS – 12:18am and I hear commotion up there.  Shouting and the sounds of anchor chain moving.  At least they’re aware.  Goodnight.

PPS – Daylight revealed no damage to Saoirse, the other boat wasn’t dangerously close, and the guys stopped by to check on things.

What’s your worst anchor-dragging story?

Ed L

Monday 20th of June 2016

Years ago in the 80's I was on a 2 week sailing vacation on a gulf star 50 ketch. We were at our final overnight in Elk Bay St John's. (had to look it up to make sure). I had fallen asleep in the cockpit. And woke to loud music. This monster motorboat yacht (90 feet) was motoring through the anchorage like a bat out of hell and ran over our anchor chain, damaging one of his props. What a mess, I got the skipper up and then got the spare anchor ready for dropping. Lucky he did not pull our anchor out, But he just kept on going out of the bay. The Skipper of our charter boat was mad as hell. We were unable to get any registration or name since that yo yo turn his lights off while moving away. I flew back the the states 4 days later. But got a call from the skipper that the authorities found the boat and the owner getting his port prop and shaft fixed at St. Thomas. Turn out the boat was over 100 feet. When we pulled our Anchor up in the morning you could see all the scaring on the chain rode from that idiots prop I coxswain power boats in the Navy for a long time and have seen my share of idiots in power boats. [

John Peltier

Thursday 30th of June 2016

Good thing they found the guy! Yes, they do think that they can get away with a lot of trouble by simply speeding away...but it's a tight community and we all look out for each other!

Diane Meador

Thursday 18th of February 2016

As winds were building, we decided to hole up in a small cove in Dundas Bay (near Glacier Bay), described as "bomb proof" by a couple friends, both licensed 100-ton masters. There was a bar at the entrance of the cove, and it was assessible only at high tide. There was room enough for only one boat to swing. Steep-sided mountains and the wind direction outside the bay made perfect conditions for williwaws. As the tide ebbed, we started getting slammed by 50 and 60 knot gusts from all directions, including straight up. We couldn't exit until morning, so we set up watches through the night. We dragged and reset several times that night. Now we keep a second anchor ready to deploy for situations like that!

One time a commercial fishing boat dropped anchor near us the night before an opening. We thought he was a respectable distance away, as he clearly did. But his boat was influenced most by the wind, and ours most by tidal currents, so we swung differently. That became a problem as the tide ebbed and our scopes increased. In this case, even though we were there first, we picked up and moved farther out, without rousing the fisherman for discussion. That's proper etiquette in our opinions - those guys work some serious hours, and we have a lot of respect for the working boats.

As for things that go bump in the night, one time an ice berg the size of a 2-story house - above water - broke from the rank and file and circled the boat all night. We had anchored near the confluence of Tracy and Endicott Arms after our transmission failed. We were going to have to sail back, and were waiting for favorable winds and tides. That was a bit nerve wracking, since getting up and going was going to entail putting the inflatable and outboard on the hip - there was no wind at all, and stong currents. We set up watches all night again. After lapping the boat twice about a quarter mile out, the berg finally beached at low tide. Fortunately, it stayed lodged through the tide change, but we were out of there at the first breeze!

John Peltier

Thursday 18th of February 2016

Wow Diane, those are some wild stories! Make mine look tame! Thanks for sharing and stay safe out there.

Luke Sleeman

Thursday 11th of February 2016

Now, I have practically 0 experience cruising, but I thought the etiquette was, if you were there first, and somebody came and anchored too close, you could ask them to move? Could you have asked the germans to move, when they were setting up?

John Peltier

Friday 12th of February 2016

Yes, the unwritten anchoring etiquette a la the Golden Rule is that I could have asked them to move if I felt they were in my personal space. But in practice, it's not really something that people do in crowded anchorages like this. You just have to go into it knowing that you'll be giving up personal space. Most people are content as long as anchors are all secure. Now safety, on the other hand, that's when you're obligated to say something. Like if they set up in a manner where a wind shift would cause us to collide. I didn't know their anchor wasn't set well so the best I could do was watch - but they for damn sure owed me the same courtesy and failed to do so!