Monday, June 25, 2012

Anchored out

I can count the times I've used my anchor on one hand. Until now it has only been utilized for afternoons at Redfish Island or evenings out watching the fireworks and often during those events I've actually been tied up to a buddy boat sitting on their anchor instead of mine. Most of my sailing has been done from the marina and back to the marina.

This weekend I finally reached a longtime goal by spending the night anchored out.

Obviously, the dream of island hopping throughout the Caribbean is shattered if you can't spend the night at anchor. But it's not that I haven't wanted to spend the night out. The boat just hasn't been ready.

With the alternator no longer shearing bolts, the fuel system no longer sucking air, the heat exchanger no longer blowing white smoke, the holding tank no longer leaking, and the anchor light shining bright, I had every confidence in the Seahorse this weekend. I knew that if we had some sort of emergency in the middle of the night, she'd start up and get us home.

We left the marina around 4 p.m. and motored out through Clear Lake only to find the wind was blowing South-Southeast -- directly from Redfish Island.

We hoisted the sails and began tacking across the bay. Redfish is not that far away, but at 4 knots and being unable to approach it directly, it was a four-hour sail. Thankfully, the days are very long, so even though we got there after 8 p.m., we still had plenty of daylight to set the anchor and then relax as we watched the sunset.


(My apologies for the terrible, grainy iphone photo, but I managed to get the Leica to Redfish without a memory card in it. D'oh!)

I was proud of the anchoring job. We were well inside the protected crescent of the island, had plenty of room to swing, and the anchor wasn't dragging. My anchor light was shining bright, my new 12v plugs were charging our iPhones, and my portable lantern was working great in the cockpit.

We toasted with a rum and coke, then turned in for the night.
It was hot. And humid. It was very hot and humid. The cool breeze that should have been blowing through the hatch and out of the companionway had disappeared. It had gotten so still that we weren't even pulling on the anchor line, we were just floating.

Since it was too hot to sleep, I decided to grab another bottle of water and stare at ships passing in the darkness. I saw the jellyfish glow.

I'd heard about the glowing jellyfish, but I assumed it would be a faint all-the-time glow -- as if they were glow in the dark toys. Wrong. They flash a bright green like lighting bugs. It was very interesting.

The breeze began to pick back up, so I returned to bed and did my best to sleep -- until the banging.

I went back on deck to find the wind was now blowing very hard. The boat was straining against the anchor line, and the water felt like it was rushing underneath us and then crashing against the rocky shore of Redfish Island.  This made me very nervous, but the anchor seemed to be set and holding. We had not drifted at all.

The banging was coming from the flag halyard. It was too loose and was flapping in the wind, rattling the blocks at each end and banging against the mast. I grabbed an unused halyard, wrapped it around the flag line and cinched it all into place. Then back to bed.

It was 2:50 a.m. when I the next banging started. Except this was a bigger bang. This bang shook the entire boat.

The tide had gone out, and while we were still floating, the keel had started bouncing off the bottom. If the tide had gone out fast enough that we were just settled on the bottom, that would have been fine, but the bouncing was intolerable. There was nothing to do but pull anchor and move to deeper water.

I saw more jellyfish flash as I was hauling up the anchor line. Apparently they were leaving bits of tentacle on the line, which left a welt on my leg after the line brushed against it. I might be the only person who can never get in the water and still get stung by a jellyfish.

Setting the anchor at 3 a.m. was not as coordinated as it was when we did it several hours earlier in the daylight. I was rather wary as to whether or not we were dragging. 

I had downloaded the iPhone app Drag Queen to use as an anchor alarm, so I could tell if we were dragging, but due to complications with our anchoring effort, I did not get the position set correctly. I kept watch for a few minutes but then went below.

By this point in the night, the temperature had cooled to a nice 75 degrees, and it was rather comfortable in the boat. Unfortunately my paranoia wouldn't let me sleep. I was up every few minutes to make sure we weren't drifting onto the rock or out into the ship channel.

When I checked again around 5 a.m., the wind had shifted completely and was now coming out of the north. The anchor seemed to be holding, and I finally fell asleep.

I woke up at 9 a.m. I totally missed the beautiful sunrise and early morning coffee that I'd been looking forward to. After I'd checked that we still hadn't wrecked into the rocks, I slept for another hour.

When we finally pulled up anchor to sail home Sunday morning, I found it in a very different place than I had dropped it. The shifting wind had caused us to drag anchor but thankfully swung us away from shore instead of into shore.

It was an easy sail straight home and only took us about an hour and a half to reach the boardwalk.

I can cross one thing off the bucket list, but I'm going to have to get much more proficient at anchoring because  anchoring with no sleep is no fun.

On the upside, the holding tank is holding. We successfully pumped out Sunday morning with no surprises.

Now if only it wasn't 104 degrees in Houston.
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