Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When Anchors Drag

Beautiful to look at, but these rocks do not bode well for fiberglass!
Nothing quite gets your heart thumping and your blood pumping like popping up the companionway hatch at 11pm in the pitch black to check that all is well and see a boat not 15 feet from you that wasn't there before.

This is what happened to us last night.

We had just finished a wonderful dinner with friends aboard Rasmus* and were tucking into bed when Scott decided to check the scene outside.  Thank god he did because all of a sudden he yells, "Where's the air horn?!  Where's the air horn?!!"  Panicked out of my doze, I jump out of bed and yell, "Under the stairs!" and within three seconds Scott gives it three long (very loud) blows.  Adrenaline was racing.

I look up and sure enough, there is a very large sailboat 15 feet off our port beam, dragging anchor and headed to shore.

The poor captain (probably still disoriented from being woken so suddenly) hops on the bow and yells, "Is it you or me?"

It was him.  We had heard about this happening, but couldn't believe that it was actually happening to us at that moment.  It was all a bit surreal.

Dragging at anchor is something that is (unfortunately) pretty common.  We have seen several wrecks of boats that ended up on the rocks - a total loss - all because of a poorly set anchor.  An alarming amount of boats are either under anchored, under scoped or both.  This is precisely why Scott and I invested in an anchor that is twice as heavy as is "recommended" and have 275 feet of all chain 5/16 BBB rode.  In addition, we have two smaller anchors that we use (mostly) as anchor weights**.  If the forecast calls for winds 20 knots or more, we throw out one of our smaller anchors on the same rode, essentially doubling our holding power.  This method is known as "tandem anchoring" and you can read more about it here.

The boat got sorted out and re-anchored and the gentleman even came by this morning to thank us, adding, "I am indebted to you!"  We were all lucky last night and the bottom line is that it could happen to any of us in any circumstance, so looking out for each other is what we do.

After last night though, boy oh boy were we happy we bought a 40lb secondary anchor yesterday!

*We met another boat from Chicago!  With young cruisers on it!  And they are headed the same way we are!  Check 'em out on their blog!
** For those who are curious, our ground tackle is as follows:  Primary anchor:  55lb Delta, Secondary anchor: 40 lb Danforth.  In addition we have a 25lb CQR and a 15lb Fluke as well as a little dinghy anchor.


Mid-Life Cruising! said...

So glad you posted this! I'll be sure to share it with my husband, Ken. This will help make my point that we need bigger (and more) anchors! Once we finally leave you can bet we'll be taking your advice. I want to sleep well at night!

Anonymous said...

Well, just because I said it could happen doesn't least now you can say you really experienced Elizabeth Harbour! Glad you guys survived unscathed! -Catherine

Junaid said...

Does anybody use the anchor alarm feature on their GPS ? I thinks its a pretty handy tool to have. I have two hand-held Magellans, both have this feature.

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