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Old 22-09-2018, 18:51   #1
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What a drag!

It had been a spirited day sailing, but the anchorage I had planned on going to was going to be useless, fully exposed to the SE weather ... There were two alternatives I could get to before dark, one was well sheltered, but small and reportedly crowded with local boats and I didn't know if I'd be able to find space there. The other was more open, but with plenty of space ... since I didn't have enough daylight to check out one then move onto the next, I headed straight for the anchorage I knew I'd find space in.

Compared to the open strait I had just left it seemed to offer some shelter from the wind, although there were still some waves coming in ... it was going to be a bit of a bouncy night. I dropped the anchor, and it seemed to set without problem, and I settled down for the night.

The next morning the wind had picked up and was blowing straight into the bay, and the waves had picked up with it. This anchorage was not as sheltered as I had hoped.

I was just contemplating my options for the day when ... BEEEEEP!! ... the drag alarm went off. There had been a few false alarms during the night, but I treat each one as real ... so I hurriedly looked at the plotter, and my heart missed a beat and my body filled with adrenaline ... I was dragging, and fast ... "This is not a drill!".

I threw aside the companionway boards, and rushed to the bow, thinking to increase scope ... that had worked in the past and got an anchor to re-set ... but the chain was completely tight, there was no way I could pull it in even enough to release the chain-hook. So I rushed back to the cockpit hoping that the engine might help ease the tension on the chain.

No sooner than I had got the engine started ... BANG!!! ... with the wind screaming through the rigging, and waves crashing into the bow, and the engine running, the boat was making all the noises I'd ever heard her make, but this one was new. And again with the next wave ... BANG!!! ... That was the sound of the rudder hitting the bottom. The tide was out and I had dragged onto some shoals ... I was seconds away from shipwreck! I had to get out of here and NOW! ... "Full steam ahead!!" ... I threw the throttle open to the max, and the little engine screamed like it never had before, but the wind kept pushing the boat towards the shallows, she took a half dozen more hits before I was in deep enough water.

Even at maximum RPM, the engine could barely make any headway into the wind and waves, continuously broaching sideways and being blown back towards the shallows ... I was not in control! Any moment my boat could be pounding on the bottom again ... slowly making two steps forwards, only to be blown one back I eventually got just the slightest amount of sea room.

Clearly I needed a new plan, letting out more scope would just have me on the rocks ... I needed to retrieve the anchor, and either escape this bay or re-anchor.

Retrieving the anchor turned out not to be so easy ... every time I managed to claw my way off the shore I rushed forwards to the bow and hauled in a few metres of chain before the wind blew it tight again ... then rush back to the helm, to fight my way back off the shallows that I had been blown back dangerously close to ... then repeat.

At one point strugging to reattach the chain-hook my glasses slipped off my nose and into the water ... now I couldn't see properly. Still at least all this was happening in daylight, I was lucky to be able to see at all. Another small mercy, I also managed to nip below for a couple of seconds and grab my foulie jacket and PFD ... it was clearly going to be a long day.

After about an hour and a half I had the anchor retrieved, and could concentrate on getting away from the shore. But without some pull from the anchor helping I couldn't get the boat to turn head through the wind ... I would motor across the bay one way, slowly slowly making headway, then have to lose ground by turning stern to the wind before heading back the other way.

After another hour or so I was only halfway across the bay, and not making any advance on each 'tack'. I clearly wasn't going to get out of the bay, and probably didn't want to ... it wasn't going to be less windy 'out there'.

I had however made enough ground that I had space to drop the anchor again, and hope that it set. I gave it all my chain and some of the nylon rode, for well over 10:1 scope, and let the wind back her down ... when the rode went tight, she started to swing on her arc ... was it holding? no. I started dragging backwards again.

I increased the engine revs to 2500rpm, it helped, but she was still dragging slowly, up to 3000rpm ... better ... with the engine running hard she would trace out a wide arc before turning round and swinging back the other way. But with each swing she'd lose a few metres of ground, the anchor was still slowly dragging ... but it was slow, I could rest a bit before I had to act again.

Why wasn't it setting? was it fouled with weeds or something? I had forgotten to check when I retrieved it, I was too busy keeping the boat off the rocks. I would make sure to check next time ... I was probably going to have to try and re-anchor again before this was over.

I was swinging dramatically side to side, and bouncing up and down in the waves ... if my nylon rode was ever going to chafe through it would be now ... What if it did? without my anchor I'd be in much bigger trouble. I dug around in the cockpit locker and found a piece of old hose and some duct-tape, and cut the hose and taped it over the rode, and managed to force it into place for chafe protection. It made me feel a little better.

After a couple of hours the anchor stopped dragging, and the boat started to swing on one arc. I tried reducing the throttle, but no ... it started to drag again. At least I now wasn't going anywhere ... I had plenty of fuel, I could go like this all day and night if I had to.

But my "what if" mind was still working ... what if the engine died? after all, that's all that is keeping me safe at the moment. sails? ... no I really don't think I could even have the sails raised before the boat was on the rocks, let alone have the sailing skills to make any ground to windward. I do have a second anchor, maybe deploying that off the bow too would help. it never seems to be recommended as the best action to take, but I seemed to be out of other backup options. Now that the tide was higher there would probably be room to swing on it for a while. But it was at the stern ... I had never thought about how I would deploy it from the bow with the primary anchor already using the roller and cleat ... so I started to formulate a plan ... it kept my mind occupied, because otherwise I'd just be worrying about the engine failing, or the wind getting stronger.

An hour or so later, and I noticed that the boat was no longer swinging at its maximum arc ... I reduced the throttle ... 2500rpm, and she still held steady ... the wind must be letting up! this was my chance to reset the anchor.

This time it only took 30 minutes to retrieve the anchor ... no it wasn't covered in weeds or anything. Slowly I managed to fight my way up the bay, still struggling at every turn, eventually getting to the place that would give me maximum dragging room ... and I dropped the anchor again.

The wind pulled the boat back on the anchor ... and she stopped when the rode went tight ... and swang ... and back again ... this time the anchor was holding. For the next half hour I watched intently the trace on the plotter, ready to leap into action and rev up the engine at a moment's notice if she started to drag ... but it held ... I turned off the engine ... still holding.

Still ready to jump at any moment, I went below to brew some tea and open a packet of chocolate biscuits ... it was the first thing I'd eaten all day, and now it was starting to get dark again. Still dressed in my foulies I went to bed for a restless night regularly interrupted by the anchor alarm as the boat swang at anchor ... but always on the same arc ... she was not dragging! How lucky i had been that the drama had all taken place during daylight!

By morning the wind had died, and as I tried to retreive the anchor to leave, it had taken a bomb-proof set, and I needed considerable help from the engine to break it free. Four hours later I arrived in Comox harbour ... Two nights ago I should have sailed on through the darkness to get here ... lesson learned, the hard way.

In the calm harbour waters I squeezed into my wetsuit and went overboard to see if there was any damage to the rudder ... but I could see no visible damage, and everything seems to work ok ... hopefully it can wait til the next haul-out for a closer inspection.

Disaster averted, and may lessons learned ... but it was a bit too close for comfort.
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Old 22-09-2018, 19:11   #2
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Re: What a drag!

There are lessons there for all of us.


(Good job you hadn't converted to EP and batteries for auxiliary propulsion )
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Old 22-09-2018, 19:33   #3
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Re: What a drag!

Nice write up, I was right there beside you while reading it.
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Old 22-09-2018, 19:48   #4
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Re: What a drag!

Kelkara, what a nail bitter that was. A sailor’s worst nightmare. To top it off you were single handed. Man, that could have gone south for you in so many ways...what if the engine died? What if the wind picked up even heavier? What if you ran out of fuel?
What if you chafed through the rode? What if you had snagged something below that prevented your anchor from resetting?

Thanks for posting up this nightmare. You really opened my eyes wider and caused me to think even deeper about plan b and plan c and plan d....and planxx.

Please disclose what anchor, what size of anchor, connection of anchor to rode, what size of chain rode and length.....and what size of rope rode....what do you use for your back up anchor and rode? Respectfully, alan

Ps...thanks again for sharing this ball buster..
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Old 22-09-2018, 19:52   #5
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Re: What a drag!

Kelkara, do you have a way to release your whole anchor rode so you can escape and come back later to pickup your anchor setup...I.e., an anchor buoy?

If you did ditch the buoy...could you have made it out of the harbor on engine alone until welll enough off shore to set sail? How far was it to safe haven from this lee shore harbor you were snaked into?
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Old 22-09-2018, 19:54   #6
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Re: What a drag!

Hi, Kelkara, good story, nicely told. But now, could you please tell us what the lessons for you are? because your take on it might be different from someone else's?

Thanks,

Ann
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Old 22-09-2018, 20:22   #7
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Re: What a drag!

Glad everything turned out OK. As a pro editor, I noticed the manner by which you explained the experience ("foulies", wetsuit squeeze), and it appears that you're trying to be an author. Is that true? If I may, here's the title of chapter two: Angel of Goose Spit and the Free 'Post Drag' Crab Dinner
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Old 22-09-2018, 20:46   #8
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Re: What a drag!

Quote:
Originally Posted by alansmith View Post
Please disclose what anchor, what size of anchor, connection of anchor to rode, what size of chain rode and length.....and what size of rope rode....what do you use for your back up anchor and rode?
anchor is a 12kg excel. with 70m of chain and 70m of 1/2" nylon. water was 7m to 10m depending on tide.

my second anchor is a Danforth with mostly nylon rode, but as I said it's not really ready to drop in a hurry, especially from the bow ... something I should work on.

one thing I did learn was how variable the setting can be in a single anchorage ... the first set seemed to be good, but failed with a strong enough blow. the second time it never properly set. and the third time it wasn't going anywhere.

releasing the anchor would be easy, just tie a fender to the rode, let it all out and cut the nylon at the bitter end. but considering my engine alone was not going to let me escape to sea, that wouldn't have helped.
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Old 22-09-2018, 21:20   #9
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Re: What a drag!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
Hi, Kelkara, good story, nicely told. But now, could you please tell us what the lessons for you are? because your take on it might be different from someone else's?

Thanks,

Ann
where to start ... I guess the first lesson I learnt is how quickly I went from wondering what to have for breakfast to fighting to keep the boat off the rocks ... there really was no time to think.

so that leads to the next lesson ... you need your plan of action pre-prepared ... once that anchor alarm goes off, there's no time to hesitate.

on that note...
unless there's lots of dragging space, start the engine before going to the bow.
grab appropriate clothing on way out of companionway, you may not get a break for a considerable time, and hypothermia can sink boats too.

I also learnt that once you are operating your backup plan, it feels very naked not to have yet another backup for when that fails.

I also learnt that I'm much more dependent on my engine than I thought ... and consequently its worth making sure there's enough fuel in the tank for heavy motoring all night before going to bed (fortunately I didn't have to refill my day tank in the middle of all that).

I most definitely got a better understanding on what the limits of my engine are.

I learnt a lot about using an engine together with the anchor to improve holding.

with no windlass I tend to get lazy and seek shallower water to anchor in so there's less chain to haul around ... I learnt that with a Lee shore it would have been better to anchor out in deeper water with more space to drag. I learnt that when selecting a potentially windy anchor spot to leave as much space as possible to drag, because one day it will happen again.

very importantly I learnt that arriving tired and late in the dark at an unfamiliar but well sheltered anchorage, when there is some weather kicking around, is much better than risking it in a more exposed anchorage ... it would have been midnight before I arrived at the safe harbour ... but I could have got here.

and probably a hundred other things that sometime in the future I will think: "remember that night ..."

and finally I got reminded just how much buoyancy a wetsuit has ... diving under the boat to look at the rudder was really hard work.

these may all seem to be newbie lessons ... but they needed learning.
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Old 22-09-2018, 21:29   #10
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Re: What a drag!

That stretch of east coast of Vancouver Island can be VERY nasty! I have been caught a few times by wind that just seems to come up out of nowhere and yes, very little true shelter there.
I have mostly managed to hide behind some rocks here and there but uncomfortably close to shore and more rocks.
Very well told .... and brought back many memories!
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Old 22-09-2018, 22:35   #11
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Re: What a drag!

Good write-up, thanks Kelkara! That reminds me I have some work to do on my second bow anchor
Do you have 70m of chain? How much rode was out for how much depth? I may have missed that.
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Old 22-09-2018, 22:55   #12
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Re: What a drag!

I guess another obvious question is what engine and what prop do you have? It might be worth changing the prop if it isn't well matched to engine and boat (and lots of boats suffer such mismatches).

Jim
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Old 23-09-2018, 02:34   #13
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Re: What a drag!

Why didn't you try to use the mainsail ?
In my boat seems to help more than my 8 hp diesel inboard.

You manage to keep calm and save the boat wirh no critical damage or life threatening risk and that's that matter , the rest are lessons to be learnt .
Well done .
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Old 23-09-2018, 09:39   #14
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Re: What a drag!

Dragging can be very scary. When single handed I can imagine things become much more difficult. Thanks for the report. Your graphic description made me feel I was there! Your post should come with a warning as unsuitable reading material when bad weather is forcast .

You did well to escape any damage, especially when the anchor did not set on the second drop.

Any anchor can drag, but it might be time for a rethink of the equipment. Dragging when singlehanded and without an anchor winch is never going to be easy and I would be thinking about the best equipment to avoid the situation in future.

Your anchor I presume was a Sarca Excel number 3 which is 12.5 kg. This is the size recommended by the manufacturer for your boat, but rather than relying on the anchor tables fit the largest anchor you and your boat can comfortably manage, although I appreciate without an anchor winch this may be the largest size that fits this criterion. In your position, especially after the experience you have described, I would want the very best anchor design. The Mantus, Rocna and steel Spade all fall into this catogory in my view.

The Excel could become the second anchor. When managing without an anchor winch, especially singlehanded, if dragging occurs often the best policy is to drop the main anchor with a buoy for recovery later. I know you considered this. This means having a second, suitable, reasonable general purpose anchor ready to go, although the primary consideration is always to avoid the need for this in the first place.

The Danforth is not a great design as a back up anchor. It is more of a specialist anchor suited to soft substrates (where it is excellent). Also the Danforth is not a great with a changing direction of pull. Finally, it tends to float across the bottom if dropped at any speed. This is not the correct way to deploy an anchor, but in the scenario you describe a perfect drop is unlikely. The Excel would be a better than the Danforth as the second anchor.

This leaves you free to choose a new primary anchor.
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Old 23-09-2018, 14:43   #15
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Re: What a drag!

Hi, Kelkara, thanks for answering my question.

One time, we had to leave an anchorage, when the wind shifted and was coming into it strong enough to peg the anemometer (at 60). We were unable to make headway under engine alone, and so, what we did was to hoist the storm jib, and motor sailed, tacking out of the lee shore in that way. It worked quite well, and after we got out and had sea room, we hove to, under storm jib alone, and had a more or less decent night's rest. Sometimes, even when it's night, you might have to abandon the anchorage and go on to a better shelter.

Ann
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