I’m not sure what prompted me to sit up wide awake in the middle of the night. Sure, the breeze was strong, but it had been for hours, so I had grown accustomed to it. Daphne’s anchor was set deep into the mud and hadn’t budged an inch, and I don’t recall any strange motion or sounds. Still, something wasn’t right so without getting out of my sleeping bag, I slid open the hatch, stuck my head out, and looked around.
To my right I saw Elizabeth anchored reliably despite the howling wind. Slightly between us and closer to shore were our cruising friends aboard Sabbatical. They were also steadfastly anchored. The three of us had set our anchors early in the day before the storm came through.
As I glanced around the anchorage, I saw a large catamaran swiftly drifting straight for Sabbatical! Panicked, I called Nicole’s phone. “Wake up, there is a boat headed straight for you,” I told her, but they were already up and aware of what was going on. It was a close call, but the catamaran drifted past, and almost landed on the beach before they got their engine started.
With a sense of relief, I watched them motor around the anchorage as I dialed Ben on the cell phone. “Benji, there is a catamaran wandering about the anchorage,” I told him, “I thought they were going to crash into Sabbatical. I’m not sure what they are doing, so you better stay awake until they anchor.”
“I’m awake,” he told me, “I woke up when they hit the side of Elizabeth. I knocked my head pretty hard as I bolted out of my rack. Thankfully I haven’t noticed any damage.”
“To your head or the boat?” I asked, as I watched the catamaran make a large circle to my left and round up into the wind just ahead of me. “I gotta go, Ben, I think they are going to drop their anchor right on top of mine.” I hung up the phone, and dashed into my forward cabin. By this time the rain was pouring and the wind was honking. I grabbed my brightest spotlight, my whistle, the engine keys, and the windlass handle and went forward to the bow.
“Hey,” I shouted and shined the light on my anchor rode so they could see it better. “You’re anchoring too close.”
The woman driving the boat didn’t even glace back to me. “Hey,” I shouted again. But no response. So, I blew my whistle. At this she turned and looked at me, then shouted toward the man on the bow who was lowering the anchor, “This girl is trying to tell us something,” she shouted to him. I ran back to the cockpit and hailed them on the VHF, but there was no response. This went on for a while. Me running between the cockpit and bow, hailing them on the VHF, shouting toward the catamaran, lighting my anchor with the spotlight, and the woman relaying the message to the man at the bow who didn’t respond much more than a grunt.
I was freezing and wet by the time they had their anchor down. Their boat pulled taught against the rode was only about one boat-length away. Too close for my comfort. And with a wide open anchorage, room for twenty more boats, there was no reason we needed to be anchored so close to each other. I knew I needed to get the message to the man at the bow. Once he saw how close he was, surely he would re-anchor. But when he returned to the cockpit of his boat, he and the woman retreated into the cabin without even a glance toward me, despite my shouts and whistles. I tried once again to hail them on the VHF, but they had turned their cabin lights out and I could tell they weren’t interested in hearing from me. I didn’t want to be anchored directly downwind from them. There was nothing I could do but re-anchor myself.
The wind had been blowing strong for more than fourteen hours and Daphne’s anchor was set well. I pulled on my foul weather gear and began the long effort to weigh the anchor. It took me about thirty minutes to get the anchor up, and as I pulled the chain in, Daphne drew up close to the catamaran. So close, I was able to knock on their hull and try once again to alert the owners that they had dropped their anchor nearly on top of mine. But not even a rustling sound came from the cabin.
A few hours after my initial stirring, I was re-anchored a mile up the river. Ben joined me, and our new anchorage was more cozy and secure than before, lending to a more peaceful night sleep. The next day, as Ben and I headed out of the harbor, we motored past the catamaran for one last look and to take a mental picture.
I’m not sure why the sailors aboard the catamaran were having problems that night. I’m just glad that everyone was safe and no one was hurt. Sailors face multiple causes of stress and things like wind, fatigue, rain, hunger, sun exposure, equipment failures, cold, injury, etc can compound resulting in trouble even when using your best judgment at the time. The key is to understand your body and mind so that you can anchor and rest when you need it. But sometimes when you’re out sailing, the anchorage just isn’t close enough when you need it most. It’s so easy to complain about other sailors when they appear to make mistakes or disregard the mariner’s etiquette. But it’s times like those that I have to remind myself to be the person that I want to be and recognize that I don’t know the full story about what happened that night so I should not place blame and instead put it behind me and remember it only as a learning experience. Someday, it might be me who’s anchor is fouled and starts dragging in the middle of the night.
Thank you, Terry, for suggesting “Don’t Anchor So Close To Me” when I asked for writing prompts on Facebook. I almost forgot this story, but thanks to your suggestions, I now have it written down to be remembered forever.
If you have a topic you would like me to write about, please join the Facebook community and post it on my wall, or in the comments below.
Oh, yes . . . we definitely had a “boat magnet” somewhere aboard Que Tal. Huge open anchorage and the second boat in would decide that we “knew something” about where to anchor and would anchor on top of us. Once when we moved, the offending boat decided to move with us even.
What is it with the herd mentality??
WOW !!! That was close and we are so happy it all worked out. I love reading your blog.
Teresa, I just wanted to drop by and mention that your blog really inspired me to get into sailing. On a student budget, I managed to afford a 27 foot fixer-upper. I don’t have the benefit of years of experience. I can count the number of times I’d sailed on the fingers of one hand, and still have a finger left over. I’m probably not one of those people who should even be on a boat, but here I am, living aboard, having the best time ever, and counting days (and repair tasks) until I sail solo for the first time in my life—later this week. Thank you!
…. and I’ll try not to crowd anyone at anchorages.
I remember that night. There was a 180 degree wind shift and I guess their anchor didn’t reset. I guess we’ll never know what happened on board their boat during the reanchoring drama. That boat was a beast.
What kind of anchor set up are you using these days?
Hi Teresa , Thanks for that story, but that happens when you are cruising , all tooooo often !
I would like to screw in to my rubrails , 3″ long conical spikes at 6″ intervils, when I see a new boat anchor too close to Calliste .
Usually I find the European registered boats with family aboard are the worst offenders, especially the French families.
I now put a reflective small float on a short tether to the anchor, independant of the anchor rode, to mark the spot over where my anchor sets. This has helped numerous times when I have to challenge a new boat coming into anchor too close.
This small float also acts as a trip line if my anchor won’t break loose.
I wish this kind of thing didn’t happen as much as it does, do you think we could tag the hull in some way , that would embarass those boat people, in an expressive way ?
Some of the power boaters I know who suffer from the same problem, tactfully approach the offending anchorer , and say they are sorry for the noise and diesel smoke , but their batteries are flat and so have to run their generators all knight long.
Another anchor out problem I have encountered in the Pacific North West is crab pots being set in the anchorage among the anchored boats,,,, great for fouling your prop when departing early like 0400 ,,,, ouch !
Thanks for your blog post ,,, the more the word gets around,,, I hope the less we have to deal with these situations !!!
Years ago I was anchored at Trellis bay in the BVI at Beef Island on a charter. At two in the morning a loud BOOM woke me up. I ran up into the cockpit to see a charter sloop drifting off with a few people frantically trying to get things under control.
They took off into the night and I never saw them again. The name of the boat was “French Kiss”!
You not knowing the full story or not, we as a society have to follow rules about behavior. Your response was great, however many too often forget their ignorance, or apathy, puts other’s lives in danger. Shame on those who do not put in the time and effort to learn their skills correctly.