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Monday, April 11, 2011

4/8/2011 - Anchored again

Well, after 2 months tied to the dock at Marina del Palmar, we're finally back on the hook. We got everything done that we'd planned to do while tied to the dock, including provisioning, cleaning the boat up, making side shades for the boat for this summer, etc.

It's really good to be back at anchor. It's just so much more private. You feel like an island and, really, you are.

The blissful state reflected in the above sentence came to an abrupt halt on Sunday afternoon. We were at La Costa Restaurant enjoying Bayfest and getting ready to hear how much loot we won in the raffles. The winners were just about to be announced when Karen "Toast" Congers stepped up to the mike with an announcement for the fleet. Seems a boat named Siempre Sabado had dragged anchor and was headed for the steel breakwater separating the bay from Marina de La Paz. Anchors had been provided by s/v Loose Pointer (thanks, Dan!) and s/v Wind Raven (thanks, Jay!) and she was now stable but the owners needed to get back aboard ASAP. Talk about a buzzkill! Lulu and I grabbed our stuff and beat feet back to the dinghy and then motored out to the boat.

Siempre Sabado was sitting way too close to the big steel seawall for comfort. A brisk north wind had kicked up during the afternoon and, for some reason, in spite of having set the anchor really well and having plenty of chain out, we still drug. Dan and Jay had gotten us stopped by deploying Dan's Fortress anchor and Jay's 45 lb. CQR. Jay had to get back to his boat because he was running out of gas in his dinghy and didn't have any oars with him. Dan stayed aboard until we returned.

Our first order of business was to secure the dinghy and get the engine started. Lulu went below and grabbed our anchoring headphones while the diesel warmed up. As soon as it was kind of warm-ish, we put her in gear and started trying to retrieve all 3 anchors.

Picture this: we have three anchors out, each with at least 70-80 feet of rode and each leaving the boat in a different direction. I had Lulu power forward as I pulled on each rode. First, our Rocna, then Jay's CQR and then Dan's Fortress. A little of this one, a little of that one. Since our anchor had dragged, it was the easiest to retrieve in spite of the weight of its all-chain rode. Once it was aboard, I concentrated on the other two. First we motored towards the CQR as I pulled line in and let the line to the Fortress out. Finally, we were right over the anchor and the bouncing of the bow tripped it, allowing me to manhandle it to the surface. I wasn't even going to try to bring it aboard at this point. Next Lulu aimed the boat to follow the Fortress' rode. Every foot of line brought aboard was a hard-won victory but eventually, the Fortress was also off the bottom and hanging just below the surface at the bow of the boat. I was seriously winded at this point. I could retrieve my anchor with the windlass but the other two had to brought aboard by brute strength and it's been awhile since I've had to do that.

We decided to re-anchor a lot further away from the dreaded seawall so I had Lulu steer a course to up near where Jay and Judy were anchored on Wind Raven.

Found a nice clear spot and dropped the Rocna. Let the boat drift back until we had deployed about 100' of chain. Then I snubbed the anchor and let the wind and current set it until I was comfortable that it was secure. Then, Lulu aimed the boat for a point about 30° away from where the Rocna was laying. We motored forward a ways and I dropped our secondary anchor, a Bruce-copy with 50' of chain backed up by a couple hundred feet of nylon line. Again we backed down. This time we only had about 60' of rode out but we seemed to be holding nicely. Let the engine continue to idle in neutral while we watched the boats around us and the GPS to see if we were dragging.

Once we were satisfied that were stationary, we secured the engine and I started to try to get the other anchors aboard and straighten out their rodes, which, by now, were a jumbled mess. When I got the CQR up high enough to see, I could see that it and the Fortress had melded in to one unit. This was going to be fun. Fortunately with Lulu's help and the use of a boathook, we managed to separate them and get them both aboard.

As I was working on the rodes, Jay went by in his dinghy. He was shouting something to me about using the anchor. I hollered back that we were all set. Then I noticed that he was drifting past us really fast and was frantically pulling on his outboard's starter rope. Clearly, he was in trouble. The wind was blowing very strongly and the seas were big and boisterous, especially for a little dinghy.

I hopped in our dinghy, started the motor and headed out to try to catch Jay before he hit the seawall. It was a VERY bumpy ride. The seas were maybe 2' which is about twice as high as the sides of my dinghy. And, with only one person aboard, there's not much weight up front and she tends to point up to the sky a bit. It was a wild ride but I managed to reach Jay and catch his painter and take him in tow about 30 seconds before he would have hit the seawall. We managed to get turned around (so we were headed into these freakin' waves) and headed back to our boats. We hadn't gone far when Jay signaled that he'd gotten his engine started so I set him loose. Now it was just a wild and crazy ride back. At one point, a combination of wind and wave laid my dinghy almost on its side and turned her around 180°. SHEESH! But, all's well that ends well. We both reached our boats safely.

Lulu fixed clam chowder for dinner, which we ate at about 7:30 or 8:00, 2 to 2-1/2 hours after this whole thing started. That was the fastest 2 to 2-1/2 hours that I can remember in a long time.

I didn't expect to get much sleep as I knew I'd be checking our position over and over again. However, although the evening was pretty bouncy, we stayed right in position. And, miracle of miracles, the wind died down in the wee hours and we were both able to relax. That's not to say that one or the other of us didn't get up every hour or two to check things out. But, fortunately we stayed put.

Today, I straightened our anchors out, stowed the Bruce and backed down under power on the Rocna to be sure it was solidly set. Then I returned Dan's Fortress (along with some cookies Lulu made). Jay said to hang on to his CQR a little longer until we're sure we don't need it. That's good since it'll give us time to get some eggs so Lulu can make them a thank-you treat, too.

So, although anchoring out is like being on our own island, it's nice to have helping hands on all these other islands around us.

BTW: we won dinner for two at Il Rustico Restaurant in the raffle.


Steve and Lulu said...

For another account, from Jay's point of view, see:

Anonymous said...

I think your little boat was telling you something like I have been here long enough lets move on. Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Some pictures would have been nice!!!!

Steve and Lulu said...

Yeah, 'cause I had so much extra time to take pictures while trying to manipulate 3 anchors and then trying to control my little dingy in seas that wanted nothing more than to turn us upside down. I'll try to do better next time. Geez!

Anonymous said...

From your non-sailing sister: I gather that the anchors just lay on the bottom, supposedly, heavy enough to keep you more or less in one place? they don't actually dig in, right? The whole episode sounds scary!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm exhausted and my heart is pumping just reading about it.


Steve and Lulu said...


No, the anchors aren't supposed to just lay on the bottom. They're designed to dig in. Ideally, if you dove down on a well-set anchor, all you'd see was a little of the shaft sticking out of the bottom. They should have at least some chain on them right close to the anchor to help the shaft stay parallel to the bottom surface so that they can dig in as designed. the pull on them should be horizontal, not vertical. That's why you let out as much as 7 times as much rode (chain or chain/rope combination) as the depth of the water you're anchored in.

And, yeah, it definitely caused my adrenaline to flow and the dryness of my mouth the Baja desert to shame.


Steve and Lulu said...

Of course, what I meant to say was that my dry mouth PUT the desert to shame.