Long Night at Anchor (but Fun with Flo, too)

Location and Moorage: White Cove (33 23 649N, 118 22 084W); one night at anchor

Well, we learned a valuable lesson. Don’t judge us.

Together with Flo, we made our way to White Cove, which is a lovely little cove just northeast of Avalon. We had planned a day of water play, including lounging on the floaties and getting crazy with the halyard catapult. But it was blowin’ up to 13 kts in the anchorage and it just wasn’t that warm, so instead we rigged CD (Cyril’s Delight, our little dinghy that can be sailed, rowed, or motored with the electric Torqeedo) so folks could sail around for some fun; others played cards or napped. That evening we had a wonderful dinner of freshly caught and cooked mackerel with salad, scrumptious buttery mashers, and homemade bread — it was delightful. Thank you Flo!!

When we pulled in earlier in the day, we easily could have picked up one of the many mooring balls, but we opted to anchor — and of course, we wanted to be next to Flo, but locations were a bit constrained by where other boats had already dropped their hooks. It’s a deep anchorage (40-100+ ft), which required all of our anchor chain (225 ft). We weren’t happy with where we settled on our first attempt, so we hauled in the chain and reset. The second attempt was a little better, but we were still close-ish to a neighboring boat, “Fifth Tuition” (in fact, the owners came over after a while to ask us how much chain we had out. They were satisfied with our 200+ ft). Here’s the lesson: when your gut tells you you’re too close, you’re too close. Make another go. Especially knowing how shifty the winds can be and how the tidal changes and current can influence the orientation of your vessel. We knew that if the wind shifted to the southeast, we could have trouble. But that was pretty unlikely. And not forecast. And, of course, the wind shifted to the southeast.

So, Jody kept watch (read as: Jody didn’t sleep) and at 0100, Rand was roused from his beauty sleep so we could make a plan. Free Luff and Fifth Tuition were yawing around like crazy and coming within 20 ft of each other. The rule in anchorages is last in, first out if there are any issues. Since we were last in, we were obligated to remedy the situation.

We contemplated weighing anchor, but given the wind direction and movement of the boats, we were very reluctant to try to haul it in — in the dark — which would require us to pass even closer to Fifth Tuition to get by and pick up our hook. We decided the best thing to do would be to extend the length of our chain by attaching the chain from our secondary anchor to the bitter end of our primary rode. This was a process that required careful planning and preparation because chain is extremely heavy and we didn’t want it to get away from us — all the while, we had to execute the plan in very close quarters. Did I mention it was pitch dark AND 0130 in the morning? Yeesh! We talked it through a few times, fired up the engines, and went to work. Here’s how it went:

– Gather tools and headlamps and put on deck socks;
– Undo bitter end of the primary rode and detach the secondary anchor from the secondary rode;
– Connect primary and secondary rode using bomber D shackle and reinforce with a length of Spectra;
– Portage secondary rode into compartment beneath windlass. We were ready.
– Rand at helm; Jody operating windlass;
– The moment Fifth Tuition yawed away from us, Jody hauled in chain to the bridle and had a hell of a time getting it undone (the shackle was wedged in a chain link — this has happened, never). We had roughly 90 seconds to do this before Fifth Tuition yawed back our way.
– With the bridle undone, pay out remaining primary rode and secondary rode up to the shackle;
– Snub the chain so the shackle could manually be moved over the windlass and the chain wouldn’t run;
– Once shackle cleared the windlass, release the snubber to pay our remaining rode. Because of the load on the chain, the snubber got sucked out of the hawse hole and lodged in the chain link. Cannot remove. We untied the line from the snap shackle and let it go overboard with the chain. Ugh.
– Attach bridle to the end of the 25 feet of chain on the secondary rode and pay out enough of the nylon rode to allow bridle to move freely.

Done. This bought us about 50 additional feet of separation from Fifth Tuition. We felt good about it, but things were still pretty shifty, so Jody still didn’t sleep. Come morning, Flo departed early for Avalon and we planned to head back to Two Harbors to connect with the rest of Summer Camp. We made one attempt to haul in the anchor so we could move on, but the wind did not shift or abate and our chain was too close to Fifth Tuition for us to get by without risking contact. The boats were still moving around quite a bit; the water was choppy and the wind was building. Ugh. So we suggested to the owners of Fifth Tuition that they power forward a bit to give us just enough room to haul everything in. They were reluctant because of the conditions, and it was going to take a bit of time and preparation — remember all of those steps outlined above? Well, we had to do them in reverse. Doh! So, we enlisted Jason, the White Cove harbor master, to aid in holding Fifth Tuition off by taking a line from her starboard quarter to his runabout. It worked beautifully. We were off. Whew!! Crisis averted. We then motor sailed back up to the Isthmus, grabbed a mooring, and connected with our buddies. All was right with the world. We had snacks and drinks on Mary ‘Ell, then dinner on She’s No Lady, played some Euchre, and were in bed by 2200. Nighty night.

White Cove — what did we learn about ourselves and/or observations: Listen to your gut and act on it. If you don’t, things may go awry. If they do, contemplate your options thoughtfully and thoroughly, then execute methodically and calmly. We are learning that weather forecasts for extensive/general areas in the Channel Islands are unlikely to reflect what may happen locally; expect things to change — winds to shift, etc., and leave room when anchoring to accommodate unexpected weather/wind shifts.