Sunday, September 6, 2009

15 Feet is Not Enough

I was awakened from a sound nap by the sound of the bow being ripped from poor Meredith's hull. A ferocious roar accompanied the tearing of fibreglass obviously, in my sleep befuddled brain, the engine of some deranged crab boat tearing at my boat.


Connie was raising the anchor. The chain locker is immediately adjacent to the forward berth where I take my daytime restoratives and the sound of chain piling up 6 feet from your head is befuddling.

Stumbling into action I managed to get both feet in the legholes of my shorts, although back to front I later discovered while trying to unwedge my unmentionables from various unmentionable parts of the body. Up the companionway I clamoured. Turning to view the bow I saw our neighbour Zephyrus trying to board poor Meredith. It was like a scene right out of Master and Commander.

I was looking for incompetent French sailors to come streaming over the gun'ls. In Patrick O'Brien's books they are are always incompetent French sailors or sometimes very incompetent Spanish sailors. This could have something to do with O'Brien's British background.

Poor Zephyrus, our friend and, until that very moment, neighbour had dragged and in doing so had almost taken out poor Meredith. Zephyrus is a 41 foot Hunter so Meredith was fighting in the wrong weight class.

Thinking quickly Connie had taken up enough rode that Meredith slipped neatly out of the way of the juggernaut bearing down on us. It missed but not by a comfortable margin.

We took up the rest of our chain and reset our anchor in a safer place.

As we did so poor Zephyrus, obviously unmanned, continued to trundle across the anchorage and into the channel. Seeing this I left Connie to watch Meredith, climbed into the dinghy and boarded Zephyrus. My intention was to let out some rode to help its anchor catch and I tended to this with dispatch. Zephyrus was bearing down on a crabber's dock at an alarming rate.

As I was paying out line the Sheriff, in his boat, came over to lend a hand. He noted that we were still dragging and had his deputy cleat off some of the nylon rode to the stern of the Sheriff's boat. The sheriff then held tension on the line stopping the rearward march of Zephyrus while the poor deputy hauled up the rest of the rode, recently lengthened by me, by hand.


When the Sheriff applied tension he altered the dynamics of the errant Hunter in the wind and current and Zephyrus took off across the channel the other way. Fast.

Seeing this I ran to the helm and looked for the engine controls. Thank God the owner left the keys in the ignition. The diesel started and I put her in idle forward moving Zephyrus ahead at about a knot. Looking around I saw we were already on the far shore - a mass of rusted steel barges tied up loosely to abandoned docks. Our stern was not 4 feet off.

At this I slammed the boat into neutral, yelled for the Sheriff to pull hard forward I then stepped onto the barge and pushed Zephyrus away for all I was worth. When the inertia of Zephyrus was altered to move her away from the barge I jumped back on and rammed her diesel into half forward.

The sheriff's small boat lacked authority to pwer this behemoth of the sea in tight manoeuvers. The sheriff instructed me to move the boat forward and he and the deputy would carry the anchor and rode to keep it from fouling the prop of our poor Hunter. A good idea and I was glad someone was thinking.

We powered Zephyrus back into the anchorage, the sheriff picked a good spot and dropped the hook. Letting the anchor settle I backed down on the hook like I was digging for China. She did not move again until her owner returned and reanchored.

While all of this was going on the boat next to us in our new mooring place, Carolina Moon (another Hunter), had dragged and Connie was standing on the bow of Meredith ready to take on all comers.

Zephyrus had 15 feet of chain on his anchor. He needed a minimum of 50 and with the windage of the Hunter 410 should have been carrying at least 100. It does not matter how big your anchor is or how much line you have if you do not have sufficient chain you will drag.

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