“Hi, my name is Julie. I’m anchored a little ways away from your boat. Your anchor appears to be dragging and you boat is heading for some rocks. I found your number in the window and decided to call you. I’m not sure what to do at this point…”
I raced out of the house and jogged the mile and half to the marina. I have my phone number posted in the window of Solace in case a problem arises while I’m gone. As I ran, I called this Julie person back and thanked her, between puffing breaths, for alerting me. I fired up the dingy outboard and raced back to Solace as fast as the little rubber boat could get there.
Sure enough, Solace was pinned to the cliff face, up against the rocks. The stern line I had tied to shore was keeping her from moving into shallower water and my outboard was beating against the rocks. The tide was going out and I had to act fast. The wind was blowing at 15 to 20 miles per hour. The chop was building and pushing Solace against the rocks harder and harder. The wind was forecasted to build even further.As I ran around trying to assess the situation, another sailor rowed up. “I was just about to cut your stern line so she could swing around.” I shook my head. “No, I don’t think that would have been a good idea. Thanks though!” I shouted back. The stern line was the only thing keeping the boat in water deep enough to float in. I tugged on my anchor line and got nothing but slack. I could feel the anchor skidding along the bottom, not finding any purchase.
I made sure my anchor rode was untied and free to spool out. I hopped back in the dingy and brought up anchor. It was a wrecking ball of sticky mud and sea weed; a perfect snowball of gunk. I couldn’t even see any metal, it was buried so deep. The anchor had taken a huge chunk of earth with it when it drug, but that sticky mud had failed to fall out. It was clogging up every square inch of the claw. I shook and dug the debris out and brought the anchor into the skiff. With my rode spooling out while my dingy raced and splashed into the wind, I dropped the anchor about 200 feet away.
Back aboard Solace I tugged on the anchor line and the anchor immediately dug in. I began to take up the tension, but the boat wasn’t moving. I appeared to be stuck. Shit. Shit. Shit!
I ran to the stern and raised the retractable outboard bracket. My rudder appeared to be sitting on a rock, so I climbed onto the engine mount and pushed off with my foot. I slid on the slick mount and skidded a little ways into the water before catching myself. I used my extended posture to push the stern away from the rocks a little more before climbing back aboard.I pulled on the anchor rode some more and slowly, ever so slowly, inch by painful inch, Solace began to move forward. After a couple feet she was free of all restrictions. I alternated between bringing in the anchor line and slacking off on the stern line until she was well clear of shore. I was exhausted and wet, and the danger was over, but I had more work to do.
I dinghied back to shore and untied the stern line from around the massive tree I had attached to. I used the rope to drag the dingy back to the boat in the now 20 to 25 mile per hour winds and chop that was continuing to build. I fired up the engine and tested everything for damage. Nothing appeared to be the worse for wear. I raised anchor and pushed back into the chop.
The night before I had set the anchor with a four-to-one scope in 12 feet of water, plus the stern line to shore. I had slept through the night and ferried two loads of laundry to shore without any sign of dragging. This time I dropped anchor in 40 feet of water, set the anchor, and let out about 150 feet of rode until I was sitting in about 10 feet of water. I was about 100 feet from shore after I reset my stern line and brought in the slack.As the wind and waves continued to build that day I watched my position, but I didn’t budge an inch. I turned on the wind turbine and let this little squall charge my batteries. Eventually I ran back to shore to pick up the laundry I had been doing. I also stopped by the market to pick up a bottle of wine. I dropped it off with the Good Samaritan who had called me and raised the alarm.
The adventures never stop. Even at anchor. The lesson learned? …I’m not sure. Shit happens? I guess.
Four-to-one scope is usually adequate in my experience and this is only the second time my 16lb Bruce anchor has ever drug on me. The fact that it was fouled so badly was a fluke. It normally resets like a champ. I’ve heard it said that more scope is needed in shallow depths. I think I’m a new convert in this way of thinking now.
One thing I know: I sure love having a small boat. When the shit hits the fan, docking maneuvers get messed up, or the boat runs aground, a smaller, lighter boat lends itself to self-rescue. I can sail with less wind, maintenance and modifications cost less, and moorage is cheaper. Despite looking at boats all summer, I didn’t see a single one that I would trade for Solace.