People! People! Line up!

We woke up to wind and a dreary drizzle and stayed in bed longer than normal. I was trying to decide whether to go back to sleep for another hour when I heard a man’s voice, very close. “Hey!” I grabbed my shorts and ran up to the bridge deck and looked out the back door. I could see a man right off our starboard stern and he was in the cockpit of a sailboat.

“Jack! There’s a boat!” Just then the guy blew an air horn and Jack was up and out of the boat in a flash while I struggled to put my pants on.

“Fender!” the guy yelled, but Jack was already running to the bow locker for Big Bertha, our largest fender. By the time he got back to the stern and tied it on, the sailboat was drifting away from us again. With the immediate danger over we looked around. The anchorage was a mess. We hadn’t dragged but there was some kind of weird wind/current thing happening and every boat was pointing in a different direction and most were swinging this way and that. The rain had started in earnest and we both walked around the deck trying to assess what was happening. The boat that almost hit us was on a mooring but instead of swinging backwards on it he had overrun it and it was underneath his boat. We knew where we had dropped our anchor and it was stuck but EV had been pushed by the current so we were also over our anchor instead of behind it. We looked at all the other boats. Instead of being neatly lined up they were scattered all different ways.

Jack was in favor of reanchoring immediately. I thought we should stand by and wait until this weird tidal change and squall were over because it’s my job to choose the spot to drop anchor and with these conditions I couldn’t predict how the boats would line up.

Anchoring is a tricky business. You have to select a spot based on the depth of the water, the condition of the bottom, the wind and tides and the behavior of the neighboring boats. It’s a delight for a math nerd like me to mentally calculate those spatial factors and know that if you drop the anchor here in X feet of water the boat will lie there and knowing the wind direction now and the predicted wind later, it will swing in an arc from here to there.

Watching this slow-motion potential demolition derby in the crowded Christiansted Harbor I wanted to wait until I could better predict the behavior of the boats around us. That wouldn’t happen until the squall blew through and the boats settled into a pattern. As we deliberated the wind pushed Mr. Airhorn toward us again and we cranked up the engines and raised the chain.

“We’re off!” Jack yelled, as he always does from the bow as soon as we’re free. I put some way on but we didn’t seem to be moving. Jack came back to the cockpit to take the helm. This is our method. I go out on the bow to choose our spot while he drives, following my hand signals. Once I’m happy with where I want to drop the anchor we trade places; I keep the boat steady while he drops the anchor and pays out the chain. It works for us.

This time Jack came back to take the helm and said we’d picked up something on the anchor and it would have to come off before we dropped it again. I grabbed the boat hook and went forward. The anchor was dangling about four feet below the deck level and I could see there was some sea life wrapped around it. I lay down on the trampoline to have a closer look and saw that it was a steel cable crusted with shells. I reached down with the boat hook and after a few tries managed to hook the cable. But the pull of the wind and sea against the boat from behind threatened to take the boat hook right out of my hands. I was determined not to lose it and gave a good hard yank and got the cable off the anchor, but the boat hook was still hooked on the cable. The boat was moving forward away from the cable, and I was hooked onto the cable. I felt like my arm was being jerked by a gorilla. It was either let go of the boat hook or be pulled overboard. Nope. Not gonna give in. One final lurch and I got the hook off the cable, half of me dangling over the bow. I got both me and the boat hook back onboard and went back to report to Jack.

Meanwhile he’d been looking for a new spot to drop anchor. We decided on a good place based on the wind and position of the nearby boats, but as we dropped the hook the current pushed us sideways and we ended up in the channel. We took a breather and raised anchor again and did the only prudent thing in these bizarre conditions. We motored over to the other side of the channel and anchored in line with two other boats far away from everyone else where we’re in no danger of hitting or being hit by anyone. It’ll be a longer dinghy ride into town but at least we won’t find a stranger in our cockpit.

By the time things were buttoned up it was nearly ten o’clock. So much for that extra hour of sleep.

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