Jan 152012

Hi there. So on my last post, I left off when Donnough went ashore to get our trainees and the rest of our crew. We got pretty lucky with that because the wind just happened to lay down to a nice 15 knots or so for the entire time he was ferrying people back and forth, AND while we craned our zodiac back onto the deck-house for safe-keeping (there is a large “derrick” on the fore-mast which is used to lift heavy objects on and off board, including man-overboards). The weather really is interesting around here…you just can’t count on it being the same literally from one minute to the next.

Since I didn't get any good shots of us anchoring, the beautiful photos in this post are from my Second-mate Richard, taken from the zodiac on a calm day while we were at sea.

At some point after our shore-party got back on board, with the winds getting back up into the mid-high twenties, the Captain decided to put down a second anchor. On the water, one encounters all kinds of potentially dangerous situations, and choosing from the wide variety of possible courses of action is the artful skill developed by captains over a lifetime. Each response has its benefits and risks, and the key is to know those well, and understand how it will all play out.

When you’re expecting a blow, you might decide to head back to the dock if you’re close enough to home; you might also choose to “heave to” if you’re out in the open ocean and you have no other option. If you’re nearby to a harbor of safe refuge, or even just an island that you can put between you and the blow, you might drop an anchor there. The risk of anchoring in a protected cove, of course, is that if you have a wind-shift, you could find yourself precariously hanging off your anchor on a lee shore.

In this case, you might want to put out a second anchor, to guard against the possibility of dragging anchor onto the shore and wrecking your boat on the rocks. However, the risk THERE is that if the winds are shifting frequently, your two anchor chains could get twisted, leaving you in a difficult situation when you try to retrieve them. Lots of factors to consider! I just found a fantastic article on gcaptain.com discussing the benefits of using two anchors in rough weather…worth the read!

Anyhow, the safe way to set two anchors is to set them far from each other, preferably at a 90 degree angle from one another, which is exactly what we did. Throughout the rest of the night, the wind howled and shifted, but our anchors remained untangled, and did not drag. Eventually the wind settled into the north-west, giving us a comforting view of our stern without land behind it. Still, during my watch shift I was very aware of the strength of the gusts. They ended up topping out in the high twenties, and I was really grateful to go to sleep that night anxiety-free, knowing that we were well-secured with a crew that could handle what might come…and what DID end up coming the next day! Stay tuned! :)

If you look at the water by the bow on the port side, you can see the swell we were experiencing. Doesn't look like much, but we could really feel it!