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Old 26-06-2012, 11:48   #1
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Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

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">foul 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.
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Old 26-06-2012, 11:58   #2
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

Not to second guess you, but...

I'd go with a 7:1 Scope as a minimum. Additionally, IMHO, one should include the distance from the waterline to the deck of your boat in your calculation. I.e. a catalina 27 has about 1m from deck to water, plus the 7m depth, equals 8m. So to be safe, 56 - 60m of rode for 7:1. I'd use 5:1 only for a lunch hook or if you are going to be onboard.

If you are concerned with swing, add a stern anchor or go to a bahamain set with two anchors. These of couse depend on what the boats surrounding yours have done.

Lastly, depending on the mud, especially soft mud, some plow type anchors will, well plow.

Glad you saved the boat!

Keith
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:06   #3
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

i use around 7:1 scope--leaving as much chain on bottom as possible--is needed many times--the winds come up in different areas at differing times--here is , now summer is here, 1500-2000 or so--and rains daily with some winds. lightning is an option not always used here.

my rule is--wind blows--- put more chain out......especially if in a semi protected area
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:19   #4
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

You bring up a good point I forgot Zee.

Not know if the OP has an all chain rode or not. If he has all chain, 5:1 might be ok, but 7:1 is better.

If I know a squall line is coming and I can put out 10:1... I'm doing it. Better safe than sorry.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:22   #5
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

I think your conclusion is erroneous. It wasn't the letting out of more rode that broke the set. It was that you still didn't have enough rode. I wouldn't go with anything less than 7:1 and more for the conditions you were in.

Also a Bruce is not the best anchor in mud and sand. Thought about carrying a Danforth as well?
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:25   #6
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

we have near daily winds here with a bottom of rocks and sand with occasional mud for good luck. a friend of mine lost his bruce anchor as it was on 60 ft chain and then snot braid--the rope frayed from chafe and he went walkabout. i traded --gave him a 45 pound cqr and 200 ft 5/16 chain in exchange for work to be done, and he will search for the chain and bruce underwater-- but anyone cruising with rope rode is looking to do walkabout from chafe affecting the rope. the chain i use has been completely de-galvanized. -- this fried has more miles on the sea than anyone i know. despite his having sail cruised this coast for years and many many miles, he still used rope with chain--he is switching to all chain so he doesnt again go walkabout. can be the difference between keeping and salvaging your home.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:28   #7
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

Umm, if you have 100 feet of chain out, and you're in 21 feet of water, you probably don't have nearly 5:1 scope out. Scope is not measured from the surface of the water to the bottom, but from your anchor roller. I don't know your boat, but the anchor roller must be 3 or 4 feet above the water. So if the total height is 25 feet, then you've only got 4:1 out.

Some anchors will tolerate that kind of scope better than others (and I'm not EVEN going to go there tonight . . . ), but even if I had a pure tungsten 200 pound wonder-anchor, I would not leave my boat on 4:1 in squally weather. Unless I'm really severely limited in swing room (and I try to avoid such anchorages), I start with 5:1 in dead calm weather, and 6:1 to 8:1 if there's any boisterousness to the weather.

Besides the "slow backing" to set the anchor, it's good to give it a test pull at full throttle astern (at the same time you blow the carbon out of your engine) for a few minutes before you start mixing Martinis. I always do this, and it is surprising how often an apparently well-set anchor fails this test.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:31   #8
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

The sad part of this story is that anchorages are these days so congested that one feels obliged to anchor to suit the over population rather than the seamanlike necessity. This ratio thing is a heap of manure. 3:1 / 5:1 / Fiddlesticks. Here's another rule of thumb, ; 1lb of anchor per ft of boat length, Then minimum 60ft of short link chain regardless of depth then nylon rode of the water depth so that the rode is not sweeping across the bottom.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:35   #9
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

I propose that the anchor had something preventing it from setting properly in the first place and that the symptom didn't show it's self until it really started to blow. I've turned 2 circles around my anchor in the night according to my GPS and it held, we have a fake CQR that's 1-2 sizes larger than recommended.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:41   #10
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

Yeah, I could certainly do with a little more chain. I have about 55 feet right now. To be honest any more though would make the bow start to sit too low.

Not sure about the straight up 'dragging anchor'. I really feel like I unset it when letting out more scope. The boat veered off to the side and when it pulled tight there certainly would have been sudden twist forces on the hook.

Anything is certainly possible.

I did feel really bad that I missed the guy who was bumped into. While he had told Vessel Assist that is was no problem, I was going to give him a bottle of Pusser's for the trouble. He was gone early in the morning though.

Thanks for the thoughts. More is certainly better, and like I had learned in school, I definitely didn't have enough out. To the best of my knowledge people here rarely set two forward anchors, and it is only in severe conditions that I have seen them do a stern anchor. Because of the mountains and hills we often get such fluky winds that if you were stationary while all around you were rotating you'd have a whole new set of problems.
However - Dare to be Different?! Especially when it's the right thing to do.....
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:43   #11
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

with a danforth, the rode will become befouled around the shank within 3 tidal cycles. bruce is a good anchor for mixed bottoms as it will dig down into the mud/sand/silt until there is nothing more to dig into. cqr will work just fine as long as you have enough scope and heavy enough anchor.
our bottom here is sand and rocks and some mud. here the bruce is best. the ones who have suffered walkabout have used 60 ft chain and rest rope. the rope sits on the bottom and chafes on rocks. even in 25 ft water with 60 ft chain.

mechanism of action--when you add more scope, the boat will act as if dragging anchor for a bit, as that new length has yet to seat. once the boat situates, is alll goood. you arent dragging, you ate settling in. i watched a newish catamaran anchor and then i watched as the owner believed he was dragging anchor despite the fact he wasnt..just looked and felt like he was as he had just added more chain to his scope. he decided to up anchor and leave in a rough water situation. his choice. but he also did not have the patience to wait long enough to see if he was truly dragging or just settling into the anchorage. he also didnt know how to take a bearing to see where he really was.
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Old 26-06-2012, 12:47   #12
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

The holding in Ganges bay is known to be poor.Quite often in the afternoon the wind comes up from south,funneling right into bay.I run a 50 lb. Manson plow on all 5/16" chain, always let out at least 100 ft., even in 20 ft. of water.Anchor has never dragged.When setting,always best to give anchor a minute or two to sink into mud before backing down hard.My Bruce anchor was brutal to get it to stick.
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Old 26-06-2012, 14:32   #13
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elysium View Post
Yeah, I could certainly do with a little more chain. I have about 55 feet right now. To be honest any more though would make the bow start to sit too low.

Not sure about the straight up 'dragging anchor'. I really feel like I unset it when letting out more scope. The boat veered off to the side and when it pulled tight there certainly would have been sudden twist forces on the hook.

Anything is certainly possible.

I did feel really bad that I missed the guy who was bumped into. While he had told Vessel Assist that is was no problem, I was going to give him a bottle of Pusser's for the trouble. He was gone early in the morning though.

Thanks for the thoughts. More is certainly better, and like I had learned in school, I definitely didn't have enough out. To the best of my knowledge people here rarely set two forward anchors, and it is only in severe conditions that I have seen them do a stern anchor. Because of the mountains and hills we often get such fluky winds that if you were stationary while all around you were rotating you'd have a whole new set of problems.
However - Dare to be Different?! Especially when it's the right thing to do.....
Don't dare to be different. More scope is good, but there are practical limits in the crowded anchorages around here. Certainly heading further out is a good idea except the water get really deep, really fast sometimes.

Stern anchoring and Bahamian moors don't work unless everybody's using them (and I really don't like either in most situations on their own merits).

More chain doesn't help in high wind situations becuase the chain is straight anyways. I like all chain, but only for chafe resistance (not a big issue in these waters) and holding the boat in one spot in light winds. In a boat as small as yours, you can't really go all chain due to the weight. I wouldn't do it around here.

Bigger anchor (or better anchor) and more scope are really your options. How well will a Manson Supreme fit on your bow?

I don't think you did anything poorly except forgetting to factor the drop from the roller to the water into your scope calculations and maybe not going to enough scope once the wind really started blowing. You also might decide to forgo Ganges and stay on the boat next time it really starts to blow. The family can bring the artisan goat cheese back to you there.
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Old 26-06-2012, 15:29   #14
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

I wasn't implying for you to be different, but if the neighbors have 7:1, it is a good indication of what you might want to do. Asking always helps.

I you are the only one in the anchorage with a stern anchor set, you are most likely going to have visitors sooner or later.

In any case, all's well that ends well!
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Old 26-06-2012, 15:52   #15
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Re: Lesson Learned: When a Squall Comes Into an Anchorage

Unless I am forced to, I won't anchor in a crowded area overnight. Plus some of these anchorages have parking lot mentality. There can be all the room anyone would want in the anchorage and then at 1 am. some yahoo has to anchor right next to you. They're so close that when they motor back to set the anchor the noise wakes me up. I usually get up and say..."lonely"?
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