Anchoring: The Highs and Lows

Just when we thought we had a handle on anchoring!

This is one topic all cruisers agree on; anchoring can be one of the most stressful boating activities. No matter how much you love your partner, there are times when you don’t see eye to eye and anchoring can be one of those times.

When bays are calm, the sun is out and you can see the sandy bottom, when you have lots of space around you, everything is hunky-dorey, life is sweet!

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Calm conditions, lots of space, all’s good!

But, when the rain is beating down, the wind is howling, the halyards are belting the mast, the boat you had been anchored behind is now parallel and the sea is churning, life can get rather ugly.

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Miserable conditions and not much space equal trying times!

As with most yachties, we have a system! When dropping the anchor Mal is on the helm and I’m dropping the hook. For raising the anchor I am helming and Mal is giving directions. We normally raise the mainsail prior to raising the anchor but only if the anchorage is not crowded. Many is the time we’ve had to re-anchor if we’ve been too close to another vessel or a reef or if the anchor hasn’t dug in well. But, raising the anchor is what has caused us most stress lately!

Earlier this month we were anchored off Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, where we had a serious swell coming around Black Point. It was so big that at some stages we were looking down and into the cockpit of True Colors, the catamaran anchored in front of us. Being New Year, the anchorage was quite crowded with boats all around. The winds had been strong during the few days we were there and Kool Kat had been turning this way and then the other, making it difficult to recall where our anchor actually was.  We advised True Colors that we would be leaving the next morning and they offered to motor forward if needed.

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Pigeon beach anchorage : Kool Kat has blue mainsail cover and is right of centre – Nahanni River is the cat to the right and Nightwatch is on our port stern. True Colors hadn’t arrived when this photo was taken.

So, after quite a rocky night’s sleep and with trepidation, I took the helm and Mal prepared to raise the anchor. We didn’t raise the main. As usual, I motored forward using the two engines to follow Mal’s arm signals indicating where to steer Kool Kat. Port (left), straight ahead, starboard (right), and so it went with the wind always pushing us away from where the chain was laying. Mal’s arm movements are getting a little more frantic as he starts to resemble one of those blow-up figures you see at carnivals or out the front of used car yards! Port, starboard, port again, no starboard, slow, no faster. Kool Kat is trying to do the best she can with me throwing the port engine in reverse, then forward, then in reverse again, then forward, now starboard. All the time we’re not really getting anywhere but the swell is pushing us over towards True Colors, who is now, monitoring the situation and motoring forward. I’m also very conscious of the depth getting less when Mal repeatedly yells over his shoulder faster, go faster! I finally hear him over the noise of the wind and engines. I have to give it a bit more grunt to combat the wind pushing against us. Duh! This is so different to what we have experienced before where I edge Kool Kat forward gradually. All this is happening with friends Doug and Wendy on Nahanni River watching (and worrying) and other boats also lifting their anchors to start the next leg of their journey.

Finally it’s up; we’re damn close to True Colors and I’m giving her more throttle to create as much distance as possible whilst being careful we don’t run aground or crash into another boat! Mal hotfoots it back to the helm to help manoeuvre through the tight anchorage. We look back to see True Colors smiling and giving us the thumbs up and Doug and Wendy waving goodbye. We look at each other and breathe a sigh of relief!

Since then, we have had some strong winds providing opportunity for lots of practice under these conditions. The good thing is that we’ve been in quiet anchorages where we can relax whilst trying this and that without fear of hitting anyone!

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Looking under Kool Kat. Note the bridle attached to the anchor chain.

Last year we purchased a 40kg Rocna anchor after dragging half-way across a bay during a thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning. Joining “The Rocna Club” has given us peace of mind and we feel really comfortable when anchored that Kool Kat isn’t going anywhere! But, 40kgs is a big anchor and when it’s full of sand or mud, and it’s blowing the boat this way and that, bringing it up can put a strain on the windlass. So, again, recent windy conditions have given us lots of opportunity to hone our anchoring skills.

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Kool Kat’s 40kg Rocna
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We love this little baby – she’s fully dug in!

Long story short: stressful situations can put a strain on many a relationship and the living 24/7 cruising lifestyle has its’ fair share. Fortunately, we feel stronger and closer now than ever before but wonder what the next stressful situation that challenges our relationship will be!

Team Kool Kat.

The January edition of Caribbean Compass has an excellent article about anchoring (pp 37-38) and is definitely worth a read.

Cheers, Team Kool Kat. xx


5 thoughts on “Anchoring: The Highs and Lows”

    1. I’m sure we’ll get stressed again – anchoring can do that to you! Thanks for the compliment about the photo, it’s fun to try different angles. I really liked your bird one with the green circle around the eye. Fabulous!

      Liked by 1 person

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