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Old 28-08-2014, 07:02   #1
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Anchoring, Unmanned Boat Dragging -- What Would you Do?

I suspect that most of us rehearse in our minds what we might do in various situations (ie. what if my motor failed NOW?). Recalling past situations and analyzing what we might do if it happened again can help us prepare to act decisively.

I had a situation last month, and I was wondering how others might have acted.

Last month, I came into a new harbor for the first time. We draw 8', and the chart shows soundings of 7'-9' on the entrance to the harbor, and 9' in the large anchorage (2000'x1500'). Because of the skinny water, I planned my arrival for high tide (about 3' range). There may have been some shoaling since the charts were prepared as even at high tide I saw only 9' of water in places.

We picked a spot at one end of the anchorage in about 12' of water. There were perhaps 4 or 5 smaller sailboats and powerboats at the other end of the anchorage. With plenty of room to swing, we put out 125' of chain and set our anchor. Wind was out of the southwest at 12-15 knots, but forecast to shift to the northwest that afternoon. I felt confident that we were holding well and we had at least 300' to swing in any direction. I packed my crew into the dinghy for a 1 mile dinghy ride to a marina and then a 2 mile walk into town. As we were leaving I saw another large sailboat, perhaps 50-55', a new beneteau, motor into the anchorage.

We were gone for about 5 hours. When we returned, now nearly low tide, we noticed that the Beneteau had anchored very close to us. They were less than 50' off our port beam. After cursing them for a for a few minutes (in such a big anchorage, they had to anchor so close?), we observed there was no one on board. Furthermore, the Beneteau was dragging (backwards, obviously) at a significant rate.

What would you do? Our boat was not in danger, but the other boat had 300' (now decreasing to 250' as they dragged behind us) until they were on the beach. If I were to take the dinghy back to the marina and ask around for the boat's owners, the other boat would probably be on the beach before I returned.

I didn't know these people and could imagine they would be very upset if I tried tying up along side them and hip-towing/re-anchoring to hold their boat off the beach. Even if I were comfortable doing that, at low tide now, I might go aground myself. Things might go from bad to worse if the attempt at saving their boat failed.

I had a good dinghy, but am not confident that I could reposition a 50' boat with it. Never mind that they might get upset that I had tried. They weren't asking for my help.

What would you do in such a situation?
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:12   #2
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Dinghy over, jump on board, start the engine, weigh anchor, reset it in a good place, check it and leave it.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:13   #3
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Is this theoretical or did it happen? If it happened what did you do?

Depending on conditions and available crew I may try to retrieve their ground tackle with someone on board their boat and possibly tow the boat with the dinghy and drop their tackle letting the wind set it in.

I once towed a 30' sail boat with a aluminum row boat and a 3 HP out board 4 miles back into port so it wouldn't be fun but it could possibly tow it a few hundred yards.

If they came back in the middle of you doing this it would be rather easy to explain they were about to loose their boat and you are helping them.

If I were them and I were to come back and find someone on board my boat I would be extremely concerned but it would only take a few moments to realize what the problem was and what their intentions were.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:13   #4
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Call or radio the marina or otherwise try to find the owner. Call the CG with an explanation of the situation.

I wouldn't let the boat hit the beach but if I saved it I'd want some form of evidence that I tried other avenues first, such as contacting the owners.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:24   #5
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Get on board & lay a bunch more rode out. The key may or may not be available to start the engine but odds are reasonable you can let out more rode.

The radio sounds a good idea if there is anyone to call at your location.

What did you do? And what was the result?
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:27   #6
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

This wasn't hypothetical -- it actually happened.

In retrospect, I think what I should've done was to run a line from my stern to their bow with my dinghy. I trusted that my anchor was set well. It would have arrested their dragging before they hit the beach. The wind was relatively low, so I didn't have to worry about huge forces on that line. The water was shallow, so even if their ground tackle got tangled in mine I would've been able to dive on it and manage that.

I like the idea of calling the CG too. No harm in that.

I didn't feel comfortable boarding their boat. I didn't know if they left the keys in it. I didn't know how much water they drew -- what if I grounded it in attempt at re-anchoring? How many of you would feel comfortable boarding an unmanned boat, starting up the engine and re-anchoring it?

What actually happened was that as I stood there with my jaw down pondering what to do, a small speedboat (17'?) approached rapidly, tied up to the Beneteau and a couple boarded it, weighed anchor, and attempted to re-anchor. After a few failed attempts, the woman got into the speedboat and came along side us, explained that they lived farther up the harbor but were leaving their boat anchored here so that they could get an early start in the morning and not have to worry about it being low tide then. She gave us her cell phone number and requested that we call if they dragged again. I said I'd be happy to call, but suggested they leave one of their cellphones aboard and install an app that will text their other phone if their boat drags (I often do this). They proceeded to try to re-anchor -- only 150' straight upwind of me (!) for a while before they gave up and simply left the harbor. I'm not sure where they went.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:30   #7
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

The radio is a good idea but I would say radio after you have stopped the boat or have someone else radio while you are trying to save it. Obviously no one wants to trespass on some ones boat and avoid liability but save the boat and worry about a confused/angry owner later, he will be far less angry after finding out you helped him.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:30   #8
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Oh, and as to retrieving their ground tackle -- that might have been possible if I had boarded their boat, started their engine and used their windlass. I'm not sure the size of anchor they had, but it'd be hard for me to lift 100'+ of chain and maybe an 88# anchor by hand into my dinghy.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:32   #9
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

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Oh, and as to retrieving their ground tackle -- that might have been possible if I had boarded their boat, started their engine and used their windlass. I'm not sure the size of anchor they had, but it'd be hard for me to lift 100'+ of chain and maybe an 88# anchor by hand into my dinghy.
I didn't say it would be easy
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:33   #10
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

Does anchoring etiquette allow boarding another boat in the owner's absence, starting engines, moving it to a safer (in my opinion) place, and reanchoring?
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:34   #11
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

So did the anchor hold? I would have not gotten any sleep that night for fear of collision with them. Could they not have stayed on board for the night? Seems they were a bit neglectful but I don't know the whole situation. The story is left that they weren't successful at anchoring and just gave up.
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:34   #12
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

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I didn't say it would be easy
Would I be allowed to send them my chiropractor bills afterwards?
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:35   #13
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

if the boat is in danger of grounding then screw etiquette. if it is just they are d bags and anchored to close then you move and don't disturb their boat
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:35   #14
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

It does for me
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Old 28-08-2014, 07:37   #15
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Re: anchoring, unmanned boat dragging -- what would you do?

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Does anchoring etiquette allow boarding another boat in the owner's absence, starting engines, moving it to a safer (in my opinion) place, and reanchoring?
IMHO, absolutely not. I wouldn't board someone's boat unless it was in imminent danger.
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