I finally got to sleep last night and when I woke up we were still safely hooked. I made coffee and tucked myself in a corner of the cockpit to shake out the cobwebs and read the news. Suddenly I saw that we were much closer to the boat behind us than we’d been just a few minutes ago and I stood up to assess the positions of all the boats around us. Yep, we dragged. It just happened. I didn’t feel anything. I called down to Jack and we turned on the chartplotter to see our position on GPS. Ah, we could see instantly what happened. When the wind is steady from one direction, even a strong wind, our anchor holds tight. But this morning the wind shifted back and forth, swinging us in a wide arc which must have loosened the anchor and pulled it sideways. Each swing plowed us back again so that our track was a tight curving zigzag backwards. Luckily we weren’t in danger of hitting anyone and we watched for about 45 minutes until it was clear that we were getting too close for comfort to the boat behind and to the right of us. Reluctantly we started the engines and lifted the chain. I say reluctantly because the wind was still in the high 20s and gusting which makes it hard to hold a boat with this much windage steady while we lay down the chain. The bottom here is mostly grassy with small patches of sand and we want to drop the anchor in sand for good holding.
We got the hook up and drove around the anchorage looking for a good spot.
Three times we got into position and started to drop the anchor but the windlass jammed before we had the hook in and we had to quickly pull it up again and circle back to our spot. I could see the other skippers looking nervously at us. I waved and smiled from the helm to reassure them that we were under control and eventually we got ourselves stuck to the bottom again in almost the exact place we were before. We put a little more than the normal amount of chain out which is always a gamble because you want to swing the same amount as the boats around you so you don’t interrupt the geometry and end up too close to someone if the wind shifts. But we did it anyway just to get more weight down and to keep from plowing the anchor out again if we start swinging like we did this morning.
We watched for a while; Jack took his usual bearings and drew them on a pad of paper. When we were sure we were safe again we exhaled and made breakfast. Just another relaxing Sunday in paradise.
Boy, am I glad we didn’t leave on Friday. We knew the big storm was coming on Saturday and boats have been streaming into port for the past 12 hours. The wind kicked up just before sundown and really cranked up a few hours later. It’s now close to 1am and between the howling in the rigging and the deep shudder EV does in the gusts I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep. So here I sit listening to every creak and flutter, watching the masthead lights on the boats behind us drift left, then right as we swing back and forth at anchor. I have the rain catcher hose going directly into the water tank instead of into jerry jugs because in the squalls I can’t be sure I can change jugs as fact as the rain comes down and fills them. Earlier in the evening we could see the rain blowing horizontally, highlighted by the deck lights of the tug moored next to us. Now the tug’s lights are out and the clouds have cleared enough to let the waxing moon throw enough light to make out the boats near us. Every so often I go out in the cockpit and check our position but really there’s no need. As the pitch of the wind rises I can feel EV pulling backward on the chain, then stretch the anchor bridle sometimes so far that I hold my breath, waiting for the unmistakable feeling of dragging anchor, but then she springs back with such force that if I’m standing I’m thrown off balance. As unnerving as that is, it’s reassuring that our anchor and chain are doing their job and we’re safely hooked.
Jack went below to our cabin where it’s quieter and I think he even fell asleep. I’ll be keeping watch, checking the wind instrument, filing away the various sounds and correlating them with the windspeed. All of the weather sources I’ve consulted show the wind continuing all night but with fewer and fewer rain bands, and for days to come. That means the seas will be huge beyond the protection of the harbor and that means we’re here to stay for now.
I’m happy that so far our aging cockpit enclosure is holding together. It’s what make it possible for us to go outside and see the conditions while staying almost fully protected from the storm. When I step out on the side deck to check the positions of the boats around us the force of the wind nearly knocks me down and I quickly step back to the shelter of the cockpit.
It’s now 1:30 and after a brief lull when the wind dropped down to the 20s the rigging started screaming again and we’re back into the 40s. My nerves are wearing thin. Maybe it’s time to join Jack below.