Friday, October 16, 2009


Meredith wanted to leave Annapolis immediately following the boat show. Last year we stayed in town for a week and got caught in a 4 day storm of continuous ice cold rain and temperatures to match.

The storms, accompanied by high and gusty winds out of the North East are called Nor'easters. These storms are hated and feared on coastal North America from Labrador to Georgia.

Newfoundland fears them as well but being a taciturn race they never mention it. Since the storms last only 4 days the septuagenarian set in Florida normally doesn't notice them until they have long passed. And then it is only because their heating bills went up that month.

Intending to avoid a repeat of last year's experience we planned a timely escape from Annapolis.

Of course we had to wait until Tuesday, the day after the show, for the sailmaker to take his measurements for our new genoa. Then the rigger could not accommodate us until Wednesday. So...

Thursday departure it was to be.

Thursday winds were out of the North East 20 - 25 gusting 30. Rain. Drizzle. Fog. Vis 1 - 3 miles. Today the winds are out of the North/North East at 20 - 25 gusting to 30+. Rain. The forecast for tomorrow is the same as is Sunday.

That makes it, what? Say Four Days.

Leslie Owen, a local resident, fellow Cabo Rico owner, our sewing coach and newly acquired good friend, tells me her father always said "A Nor'easter takes 4 days to leave.".

Nor'easters are cold and wet. Very cold and very wet.

After enduring a single day of cold and wet we devised a plan in which Meredith would endure the 20 knot winds and rain to make a one day run south. The weather forecast promised more favourable conditions further down the Chesapeake towards Norfolk.

To be ready to move we thought we would pull up the stern anchor and side anchors we had out and move to a ready location. Several good anchorages had opened up after the boat show as attendees left to head south.

Meredith was anchored stern to shore in a North South configuration. Caught in a strong West wind a week ago we had put out an anchor off the starboard side to hold Meredith in place. Now of course we had strong East winds right over the port beam. With the wind off the port beam our formerly starboard anchor was taut off the port side.

Weighing the side anchor was a treat. Back Creek where we are moored has a gelatinous bottom of silty oozing stinking black mud the consistency of which resembles old lubricating oil from a dirty old diesel. Actually I am sure the bottom consists of a mix of old lubricating oil together with human waste, old body parts, industrial runoff, heavy metals and probably nuclear waste.

By the end of this escapade all of that coated the dinghy, the port side and decks of Meredith, all of me and most of Connie.

The side anchor, our 30 lb. Bruce, was firmly set. Pulling myself along the anchor rode hand over hand in the dinghy I found where the anchor was set. A useful piece of information to be sure but no help in withdrawing said anchor from its watery hold.

No amount of pulling worked. I wrapped a weighted second line over the rode and dropped it down to the head of the Bruce. With the second line secured on the head of the Bruce the idea was to use the line to motor the dinghy against the direction in which the anchor was set. This would trip the anchor. This method of tripping an anchor by dropping a line around a rode and backing against it is called a "Canadian trip line".

Apparently it doesn't always work.

No amount of pulling by hand or outboard would dislodge that sucker. It did however ensure an even distribution of black ooze over dinghy and operator.

Next we tried securing a halyard to the anchor rode close to the place where the anchor was set. According to theory the halyard, connected at the top of the mast, would exert a near vertical force on the anchor and this would trip and dislodge it from its icy redoubt.

Success. Connie wrestled with the the halyard winch and used every ounce of strength to pull the recalcitrant Bruce to the surface. It was success if you define success as covering your dinghy, your sailboat, the bottom half of your wife and most of yourself in toxic waste.

Thank God for the ceaseless icy cold rain. It was the only thing that kept mefrom breaking out into a rendition of "Swanny".

By now it was close to sunset and light in the overcast sky was on the wane. Meredith still had to be moved in readiness for departure. We made a cursory effort at retrieving our stern anchor - our intrepid Fortress - and when we did not meet with immediate success we just tied a buoy to it's rode to mark its location and set off to reanchor. We would return later to retrieve it.

As we slowly moved Meredith up Back Creek the now heavy but still freezing rain and newly introduced patchy fog did not help visibility. Our moods reflected conditions.

The good anchorage locations that had opened up after the show had now filled. There was no room at the inn.

We returned to an opening close to our original anchorage which showed promise. Three attempts to find purchase in the indistinct bottom and the anchor caught. Connie was on the bow dropping the hook and ensuring the chain dropped cleanly. Three tries kept her there for near half an hour. Backing down on the chain at 1800 rpm I made sure Meredith would not drag in the high and gusty winds.

That done we dinghied to the buoy marking the location of the Fortress stern anchor and with modest effort Connie pulled it straight up and in.

Returning to Meredith we ran the washdown pump to wash the mud from the dinghy and deck of Meredith and the sail covers and lifelines and port topsides and coachhouse roof and everywhere else we could find mud. By the time we finished the rain driven by freezing wind had done the same for us.

We stripped wet clothes off in the cockpit (full enclosure up) and retired below where Connie made hot buttered rum followed by hot soup. Climbing under our marvelous duvet we listened to the wind blow.

Sleep came easily.

As to the efficacy of anchors: we put a 45 lb. CQR, a 30lb Bruce and a #23 Fortress all to a real test of holding in a poor bottom with gusty winds and short scope. We would use any of these anchors without a second's hesitation or a modicum of doubt. It is comforting to discover your anchor may be lost because it was holding your boat too well.

Note: these are all original designs - not a Bruce "knockoff", a Fortress "style" anchor or a CQR "clone". The fate of our boat and its passengers will never be trusted to some cheap copy that is "just as good as" the original. Trust me: It is not.

No comments:

Post a Comment