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Old 12-05-2013, 14:50   #1
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Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

My mast is down until I can afford some new rigging and have it stepped...so in the meantime I've been motoring around and practicing my docking skills. Yesterday was a bright sunny day here in Portland and everyone was out on the river so I thought I'd try my hand at anchoring. With the help of my inexperienced friend we set out across the river to drop anchor in front of some restaurants on the Vancouver side. (I assumed this was a good spot because Iv'e seen several motor yachts drop anchor there.) Turning the engine off facing the current I slowly lowered the anchor by hand in 33ft of water.

This might be a good spot to tell you about my ground tackle. My rhode is made up of 30ft of chain and 290ft of rope. At the end of this is a Danforth that is at least 2 sizes bigger than necessary (if I am to assume that everyone else has anchors proportionate to their boat size). I'm not totally new to sailing but this is my first big boat and the last time I dropped anchor was in King Harbor, with a crew of 5, and no current.

So as you might imagine the rope quickly started running through my hands as the last of the chain was submerged and the river current began pushing us back. With great exertion and quick maneuvering I got a rap around the bronze bow cleat to halt the rhode's progress. At this point we had 90ft out. So I gingerly let it out until the 120ft marker was just touching the surface of the water. After securing the rhode to the cleat I made sure we weren't dragging, put it in reverse for security, and shut off the engine. For the next two hours we relaxed, pushed off some logs that drifted down river, and enjoyed watching the anchor line hold firm even when power boaters buzzed by way too close and way too fast.

When we were ready to go I had my friend put it slow forward while I went up front to pull up the line. After a hard won 30ft of rhode was on board and my hands were good and torn up I tried to quickly get a rap around the cleat to take a break. I was able to do so after letting 20ft back out through my sore hands. This went on for maybe 10 minutes but it felt like 40. Finally I smartened up, pulled the rhode back to a cockpit winch, and pulled it in until I saw chain on deck. Then I ran forward, pulled up the rest and stowed it in the locker.

Back at the marina I quickly tied up the boat, said goodbye to my friend, went below decks, and put a pillow over my face. This may sound like a minor nuisance but for this new boater it was a little shaking. I think I learned 4 things from this experience.

1) Don't anchor in a strong current...I should have looked for a bend in the river or somewhere less ridiculous.

2) Wear gloves...by the time I started using the winch my hands were shredded and just turning the handle hurt.

3) Use the winch early...I feel like if I'm in the cockpit I could run the throttle and tiller as I was pulling the rhode up with the winch. Then once I see the chain It would be pretty simple to run forward, pull the rest by hand, and get the bow cleaned up.

4) Wear a life jacket...I know this is obvious but it didn't really occur to me until I was thinking it over this morning. Every time a boat went by the wake rocked us pretty good and it wouldn't to be hard to get caught off balance heaving the anchor up.

If anyone has any more words of wisdom to impart I'd be happy to hear it. I mostly just needed to write this down to clear my head. I want to be good at sailing and practice is the only way to do it. Hopefully my mast will be up soon and I can start scaring myself with the sails up.
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Old 13-05-2013, 21:07   #2
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I'am a powerboater on the Mississippi River and anchor out several times a week. I have a windlass & 300' of chain now, I used to have 50' of chain + 150' of 5/8" rope & I wouldn't anchor unless someone else was onboard because of having to switch from the capstan to the gypsy when the transition from rope to chain appeared. Now with the 300' of chain I anchor by myself most of the time plus I have a windlass switch at the helm so I never have to leave the helm. Without powering up to the anchor & cleating off the rhode & then pulling the anchor using the engine there is no way I would anchor in a current, and that would be very difficult without help. Gloves & using power to get over the anchor & in 33' of water only @ the last 50' when you start lifting chain would have any weight. Were you trying to pull the boat to the anchor or just pulling in the slack?
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Old 15-05-2013, 09:52   #3
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Consider that anchoring in current is just like anchoring in no current with wind. Same results. The part you missed was using more than slow idle to mover the boat above the anchor. Use the engine more assertively. I do this every week. Singlehanded. No windlass.
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Old 15-05-2013, 10:42   #4
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We have lots of current in our current anchorage. With 20 knots we still end up beam-to the wind because the current holds our keel straight.

Agreed on the gloves, I wear full leather work gloves not "sailing" gloves.

I can weigh anchor solo or with my wife in some nasty ****. If you stay stuck, that's great. If you break free, you'll haul faster and that's great too.

My advice is just to be smooth and take your time. The difference between hauling without some engine help and with is sizeable. Normally I just ask (via hand signals) for some forward goosing. If we start sliding sideways I toss a chain hook and wait until we straighten up, then ask (or run back) for a little ahead goose and haul by hand with ease.

I only use the manual windlass when it's deep and the anchor is free.
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Old 15-05-2013, 11:24   #5
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

When you are deploying an anchor with a rope rode, take a turn around a cleat (or winch, or windlass drum) *before* it has a chance to get away from you. Once that anchor starts to bite it can be too late to secure the rode, at least without major rope burns. It sounds like you may already realize this.
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Old 15-05-2013, 11:45   #6
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Yeah, sailing experinece is learned the hard way for sure. A rode in strong wind or currents shouldnt be taken lightly, nor should a Genny sheet! A lot of forces at work. A windlass and all chain rode is priceless...on the hands and back. Sounds like you ferreted it all out though. Good job!
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Old 15-05-2013, 11:47   #7
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Hey, Eric (Rebel Heart)... noticed you wearing your gloves in your Mexico video on another thread. I always kept a couple of pair of heavy leather gloves from Home Depot aboard and used them a lot more than ever thought I would aboard. Phil
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:01   #8
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Hi, Good to see that you have your boat out.

The spring on the Columbia is a time of fast currents. But there are always currents.... Not too far up stream is one of the few special anchorages in the US at the tail end of Government Island.

The shipping channel is close to shore there where you anchored and on rare days a tug and barge has been known to swing close to the riprap. Of course having Who Songs and McMenamin's a hop away is an advantage.

No need to break your back or hands when weighing anchor on the Columbia even in a current. Just agree on hand signals with your helmsman and direct them to motor up against the current in the path of the rode. As you move toward the anchor you will be able to pull up the rode easily. It should be slack and not drifting under the boat. Only the actual weight of the rode to lift.

As you reach the chain you will motor forward pulling in the chain as it comes under the bow until the bow is directly over the anchor. Then snub off the chain and let the forward motion of the boat break the anchor free of the bottom. You will then be able to pull up the anchor. The only weight to pull will be the weight of the anchor and of the chain equal to the depth of the water (plus roller to water length of chain).

Something to keep in mind are the facts of the shipping channel - stay clear. And that the prevailing summer winds are from the NW. The current runs to the west and is opposed to NW winds. On strong wind days with lower current you may ride up stream past your anchor which may pull a Danforth out and which may not reset before running aground or hitting something.

As I recall from the time I visited you in the yard you have a full keel and fairly low windage so this might not be a problem. Often I will toss a bucket off the stern to help align the boat more with the current. You can buy or sew a larger drouge which will work well to prevent the winds from pushing you around.


Regards

PS if you are interested the Fort Vancouver Sail and Power Squadron teaches a lot of classes. You get some great advise on all aspects from seamanship to celestial navigation.
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:31   #9
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

I definitely needed to be using the engine more...once the anchor was up I spent a little while feeding the rhode into the locker and when I got back to the cockpit we hadn't moved an inch. So we were just powered enough to stay still.

I saw two barges go by while we were there but I was just inside the red buoy so I assumed we were clear of the channel. But maybe not. Thanks for the advice on the wind direction. It was hardly blowing that day and from the north but that can always change quick. Definitely something to be mindful of.

I will be getting an all chain rhode and manual windlass someday but until then I suppose I'll have to make do with what I have.

Thanks for your input.
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Old 15-05-2013, 12:46   #10
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Quote:
Originally Posted by david7 View Post
I definitely needed to be using the engine more...once the anchor was up I spent a little while feeding the rhode into the locker and when I got back to the cockpit we hadn't moved an inch. So we were just powered enough to stay still.

I saw two barges go by while we were there but I was just inside the red buoy so I assumed we were clear of the channel. But maybe not. Thanks for the advice on the wind direction. It was hardly blowing that day and from the north but that can always change quick. Definitely something to be mindful of.

I will be getting an all chain rhode and manual windlass someday but until then I suppose I'll have to make do with what I have.

Thanks for your input.
The red buoy marks the north side of the channel that goes under the fixed span of the I5 bridge. When there is a bridge lift the channel is north of the red buoy.....
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Old 15-05-2013, 13:01   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Phil View Post
Hey, Eric (Rebel Heart)... noticed you wearing your gloves in your Mexico video on another thread. I always kept a couple of pair of heavy leather gloves from Home Depot aboard and used them a lot more than ever thought I would aboard. Phil
For sure. They're garbage for fine work like knot tying but for gross manhandling jobs they rock. I think they were ~$15 at Ace Hardware? I can't imagine how many pairs of $50 sailing gloves I would have burned if I used them on ground tackle.
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Old 16-05-2013, 11:16   #12
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

So just a quick question on the channel markers...I was under the assumption that the Red Buoy marked the north edge of the channel and the Green Buoy marked the south. But your saying that if the bridge is up then the channel goes north from the Red Buoy to the shore?
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Old 16-05-2013, 12:32   #13
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

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Originally Posted by david7 View Post
So just a quick question on the channel markers...I was under the assumption that the Red Buoy marked the north edge of the channel and the Green Buoy marked the south. But your saying that if the bridge is up then the channel goes north from the Red Buoy to the shore?
Here in the US red right returning is the norm. You need to look at chart #18524.

Buoy "4" is the northern most red buoy on the east side of the bridge. This marks the right side of tomahawk channel which is the one that go es under the lift portion of the bridge.

The Green buoy "3" to the south is the left side of the alternate barge channel.

So there are 2 channels with buoys that "appear" to mark green right returning. Confusing till you look at a chart. And I did make it more confusing by mis-stating "The red buoy marks the north side of the channel that goes under the fixed span of the I5 bridge. When there is a bridge lift the channel is north of the red buoy....."

I should have written: The red buoy marks the south side of the channel that goes under the lift section of the bridge. Sorry for the confusion.

In any case the main barge channel runs from red buoy "4" clear to the north bank of the river.

Regards
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Old 17-05-2013, 10:14   #14
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Re: Anchoring on The Columbia (or why I can't properly grip my coffee cup)

Thanks, I did pull out the chart and that cleared it up for me.
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