Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 17 Dragging The New Bruce Anchor

June 5.
The forecast is for gusty winds as we approach Pender Harbour, so we keep winding our way passed several possible anchorages until we reach Garden Bay - the innermost one. It is a beautiful place with high hills to shelter us from southerly winds. The chart tells of a mud bottom, but we feel safe because before leaving on this trip north we bought a new anchor and chain. "Blow ye winds hi ho!" At first we anchor facing a northerly wind but the next day we move again in preparation for the southerly gale that is on its way. But still, we have this excellent anchor, right?

This bay has literary associations for us because it is the home of Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer and we can see their home close by. We go for walks ashore, do some more scraping and sanding and generally enjoy ourselves.

That night the gale arrives and, far from being sheltered, the bay catches big gusts that rush down from the heights above. These are the worst conditions for Shiriri because she lunges backwards in the gusts, coming up tight on the chain anchor rode and then moves forward on the slack chain in the lull. The next gust catches her bow a glancing blow and she heels and sails off to one side only to be brought up with a sharp snap, turns, and sails off in the other direction. The new Bruce anchor is jerking and swivelling from side to side in the soft muddy bottom of the bay. After several worried hours of this, the inevitable happens and we break free of the bottom and drag rapidly backwards between several anchored boats, finally coming to rest just off a dock at the head of the bay.

We retrieve our anchor with difficulty. Not only is it stormy and pitchy black, but the usual hand signals between bow and cockpit are useless in the dark. I crank the windlass and run back and forth to communicate with Heather who is steering blind and controlling the engine. Finally we motor back out into the biggest open space in the bay and re-anchor with lots and lots of scope and spend a few more hours keeping an eye on lights ashore as bearings to see if we will drag again. The wind slowly drops and we get some sleep.

* The funny thing looking back on this anchoring episode is how ordinary it seems in retrospect. The Bruce anchor actually performed well that night, all things considered, but we have dragged it through some pretty high class harbours since then. No anchor is foolproof in all conditions and we kept on learning!

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