I nearly lost
my boat this weekend.
It happens to us all, I know...but I thought I would share my story none the less.
This past weekend I took my parents, wife and two small kids
on a simple over-nighter from Sidney BC to the little town of Ganges on Saltspring Island. There is a large, (but crowded) bay for anchoring
that is quite exposed to Southeasterly winds, however the forecast
was pretty good and current
conditions were calm.
I dropped the hook in 6.5m (21 feet) of water
(mud bottom) and properly set the anchor
with slow reverse. It was crowded as I said, so I let out just over 3-1 scope
. We all hung out on board for a while making sure swing room was good and that we weren't moving.
I did a few runs ashore taking people and gear
in, then headed off to poke around the shops. Right about supper time the winds suddenly cranked up as a squall rolled over the top of the nearby low mountains. It was blowing cross-bay, rather than in from the exposed southeast. I immediately went down to the dinghy
with my stepdad to go let out more rode
- but for some reason the outboard
wouldn't start. Thankfully another fellow at the dinghy dock
(whose runabout was worth more than my sailboat) offered to take us back. We towed the dinghy, and once onboard my boat lashed it to the side where we could troubleshoot the engine
. The FIRST thing I did though, was to let out more rode
. I paid it out to the 100 foot mark (now a 5:1 ratio).
I know you all see the mistake already, but I'll finish first.
The boat came up on the new length of rode, looked fine and so I turned to the dinghy. After about 15min we got it running, although not well. It was enough to get us to shore, so I battened down the boat and we headed in for supper.
An hour later, when we came out of the restaurant, the boat was gone.
After retrieving my stomach from the bottom of my feet, (and on my way to the dinghy) I started thinking it all out. The lee shore was not out of sight, and there was nothing washed up. What the hell? OK, so if it was dragging or came free, perhaps there was a strong enough ebb to carry it out a little and it went over into the next bay. OK. Start there. Again, my stepdad, who was prairie born and raised, insisted on helping. Fine, lets go!
With an outboard
that wouldn't do much over idle before stalling out I began to scour the bay, working my way further out. By the time I came to the head
of the bay he said "I'm scared Sh*tless, we need to go back".
Now there's an interesting dilemma! We were totally
safe, but if the engine
died there was no way we could row it against the wind
and back to the docks. Do I carry on, telling him to suck it up...or head
back?! (I should also mention that he has a significant heart condition)
I turned back. Would drop him off at the dock
and go back out on my own.
We slowly made our way against the wind
and when we neared the main dock, I could see someone in weather
gear waving from another dock. I cranked it over. When we got close I could just make out his lips as they formed the words: "Did you lose a boat?"
Turned out he was from Vessel Assist....and my mind dared to have hope.
Yep, they had grabbed it JUST before grounding and had it safely tied up on the docks. Apparently a guy on a huge powerboat was sitting on his upper deck
and noticed it moving across the bay. I'm pretty damn sure it was the same guy who had towed us out earlier. My boat smacked into another sailboat on its way through the anchorage - who apparently saw it coming and threw out fenders. No damage done.
So..... I know this was ALL ME. I was an idiot. And that stupidity should
have cost me my boat that day.
Over the years, since learning
to sail, I have been lulled into complacency (or at least indifference) by the habits of the typical BC boater. People bunch up here. They almost NEVER put out the textbook recommended scope
. And even if you get to a spot first and put out 5:1 - you can be guaranteed to spend the rest of the day arguing with people who come in and anchor
too close. And I'm out there to AVOID conflict! I get enough of that in the rest of my life!!
In this scenario, my thought on what happened is this: The anchor was set. Even at 3:1 it was holding in the squall conditions. I have a lot of chain and a Bruce anchor which suited the bottom type just fine. BUT....when I went to let out the extra scope I did it quickly. This was a mistake. Letting out 40-odd feet of rode quickly meant that the boat was drifting. Wind veered the bow to the side and when the line went tight again, the anchor became unset. It certainly held for a while, as we hadn't moved in the 15 or so minutes it took to work on the dinghy. But that didn't last.
I'm coming away from this with a few things -
1. I'm going back to starting at 5:1 scope for normal conditions. If that means I have to anchor further our than everyone else, so be it.
2. I'm going up a size on the Bruce.
3. I'm going to remember to give my boat a kiss each time I come back to her.