And always pay attention to your gut feelings.
Particularly when you are anchored in “king tides.” Monday night, we had a 15-foot tide swing. That means that when you measure the depth under the water at 1pm, it measures 20 feet, but at 10pm, it’s 35 feet. That’s not the Bay of Fundy, by any means, but in an anchorage with limited room, you need to make sure that you have enough “scope” or amount of chain in the water, but not too much, because you don’t want to wander into a dock or another boat. I was thinking about putting more chain down, but it was cold and wet outside.
You see, anchors (at least modern anchors) don’t hold by weight. If Braesail needed to stay put just by friction on the bottom, we’d need almost a ton of concrete hanging off our bow to drop to the bottom. Needless to say, there’s no room for a block that big! We carry a 70 lb anchor and about 300 lbs of 3/8″ chain (200 feet that’s spliced on to another 200 feet of nylon rope) instead. A modern anchor works by digging into the bottom. In a place like Bedwell Bay, the anchor might dig in so much that only a couple of inches of the shank will show above the bottom, and that gives several tons of resistance in the right direction. The problem is that in the wrong direction, the only thing holding you in place is 150 lbs of anchor and chain–next to nothing. (That is by design—you free your anchor to go on your way by pulling backwards on the anchor.) If wind or current change and you have enough rode on the bottom so it pulls horizontally on the anchor, the anchor will pivot and reset (and it probably did several times when we were in Bedwell Bay). The absolute limit is about 30º from the bottom. To save you the physics problem (of catenaries, gravitational forces of chain spring equivalents, depth equivalents when using bridles, etc.), it’s normally safe for us to put out three times the depth of the water in chain in winds up to about 15kts.
We had about 120 feet of chain. It should have been enough. It was nice and quiet, but over about 5 minutes, a squall came by and we went from 1-2kts northerly to 15-20kts southerly. That popped the anchor free (no big deal, right? It will just reset) at the top of a tide. It would have reset had I put out another 30-50 feet of chain, but we were probably doing 2kts and the slope of the bottom was in the direction we were going so the angle was getting bigger, just from the slope and deeper, to boot. By the time we were on deck, our 3+:1 scope was down to 2:1, and there was no way anything would catch. So, off we go. Next stop, Granite Falls (we hope!).
Lewmar’s windlasses are nicely engineered pieces of kit. The one problem with the V-series is that it’s hard to retrieve an anchor if the windlass breaks down. But Lewmar has a fix for that—buy this little kit and you can pull the anchor up using a winch handle and some elbow grease:
Problem is that you loosen the nut in the middle with a winch handle to let the anchor free fall, and once it starts to free fall, the friction between the cap and the nut further loosens the nut, speeding the free fall. Bigger problem is that if the anchor jerks just right as you are pulling it up, it can loosen the nut, and that’s what happened. As we were getting the anchor up, it went into free fall, spun the nut off and donated it to King Neptune’s hardware store.
OK. Things happen. What adds insult to injury is that I looked at that box when we were getting ready to go and decided that I didn’t need that spare. It was the original, non-retrieving cap for the windlass (number 22 below).
So we did a quick rental car run down to Everett, stopped by the storage locker, stopped by Trader Joe’s in Bellingham to get some of Lorelette’s new addiction (Cacio e Pepi corn puffs. Highly recommended!), and back to the boat. Spun the old part on, dropped the chain to get rid of hockles that were caused by pulling the chain up “in anger” (emergency conditions), and rolled the chain back in. Works like a charm. Should never have changed to the “better” form.
Another high recommendation: Fisheries Supply on Lake Union is my “go to” for all these sorts of parts. I held their last retrieval kit for a day, and now have asked them to chase down a replacement “part 24” so I don’t have to buy a new whole kit. Did I mention that they are almost always cheaper than Defender (in Connecticut) and West Marine (which, like many retail stores, forgot what business it was in in the early 2000s, and is now dying the death of private capital).