Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nightmare Anchorage in Lizard Town

People that live on land (in other words, almost everybody in the world) usually don't worry about their houses moving in the middle of the night. When you're sleeping on an anchored boat, there is no such luxury. We met one couple in the boatyard in Beaufort, North Carolina that had sold everything to move aboard their boat and then less than a year later decided it wasn't for them and threw in the towel. The main reason they gave was that they were never able to sleep well while at anchor due to worry. Of course, you can try and reduce the stress with good equipment and good planning,  But don't think that just because you buy the best anchor setup that your problems are solved. The rub is that even if you do everything right, other boats can drag into you.
We witnessed a bad anchorage perfect storm of sorts when we were holed up at Allen's Cay to seek shelter from some developing storms and strong west winds. We had a spot in the cove at Southwest Allen's Cay that is big enough for one boat but left us swinging within 40 feet of big, jagged rocks on two sides and right next to a very shallow beach on the other. The main anchorage was pretty full when we got there and boats kept arriving as the sun crept down. Everyone knew the forecast and this was a neighborhood where there are precious few spots to hunker down. As darkness fell there were probably 20 boats anchored in the two small channels that made up the anchorage.

The squalls came through around 2 a.m., as forecasted. At the height of the storm the wind speed indicator showed 45 to 50 knots for about 10 minutes and briefly topped out at 60 knots at one point (our gauge is at the top of the mast and the wind may have been a few knots lower at sea level). We were keeping a sharp eye on our location and were relieved that our anchor was holding and keeping us from smashing into the rocks. The water we tried to collect in buckets didn't fill up because the wind kept blowing the heavy rains sideways.

In the meantime, we could hear over the VHF radio the chaos at the main anchorage. One boat was dragging into another boat and refusing to do anything about it. Two boats had been blown sideways and grounded on the shoal.  Another one was dragging anchor and floating off through the back channel. A charter boat ended up on Iguana Beach. Fortunately, after all the dust cleared, it seemed that there was no major damage. 
Talking anchors is a bit like talking religion and people have strong opinions. After spending almost every night at anchor over the last year and surviving strong winds and rough anchorages with all kinds of bottoms without dragging, I'm ready to jump into the fray with a plug (uncompensated and with no hidden agenda) for our Mantus anchor. We love it. Yeah, we love it so much maybe we WILL marry it. It's held well all up and down the eastern seaboard and done everything we could ask of it.  Of course, part of the reason is that it's a bit oversized for our boat (105 pounds). It is fairly unmanageable without a working windlass and along with the 300 feet of chain makes the bow of the boat tip forward a bit when our water and fuel tanks edge toward empty. But that's a price we're willing to pay for sleeping more soundly at night.  Now if everyone else would just get a Mantus (or an anchor that works just as well), we would sleep even better.

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