Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I Did

I wanted to anchor just uptide of a bridge, so my friend dropped the anchor as I powered in reverse to set the hook. Using a 4:1 ratio of line to depth — we played out 40 feet of line for the 10-foot depth. A short while later, we were frantically fending off the bridge piling, which nevertheless scratched the gel coat on my boat. Cost of gelcoat repair kit and compound to rub out the scratch: $30.00. Cost of Motrin for my sore arms: $5.00.

I anchored on a reef and while attempting to leave found that the hook was hung up. I tried unsuccessfully to free it so I had to cut the line. Anchor away! Cost of replacement: $70.00.

I threw a length of line to a fellow boater who had run hard aground bow first. The nylon dock line fell into the water and wrapped itself around his prop which was spinning in reverse. Cost of tow for the boater: $150.00.

My friend rafted onto my anchored 20-foot boat with his 30-foot vessel for an afternoon of lunch and swimming. As my girlfriend began to serve lunch, a boat wake rocked us. It caused our raft up anchor to pull and my outdrive to strike the bottom. The deck was promptly awash in dogs, burgers, and sodas. Cost of a lost meal: $20.00. A bribe of a sundae at Friendly’s for my niece to swab the deck: $6.00.

The total cost of the misadventures I’ve detailed was $281.00, but as they say, the lessons are priceless. I’ll save you some mishaps and share my acquired knowledge for free.

The accepted anchoring ratio of a 4:1 in calm waters applies to most small craft. I forgot to add in the height of the bow (three feet) and the distance to the chock (two feet) in my calculation, so 60 feet of line was required to anchor. The ratio can be much higher, depending on sea conditions, so take a range on something fixed, such as a buoy, to see if you are drifting. I mark my anchor line with wire ties cinched on every 20 feet, or you can buy line markers to snap on to measure line. I shouldn’t have powered down astern to get the anchor to bite — I should have let the tide take out the line (in still water powering down is OK).

The use of a wreck anchor is preferred when on a sticky bottom like a reef. If your anchor hangs up, let out enough line to run slowly in a circle around it and it may un-stick itself. Some boaters attach a length of line to the anchor crown to flip the anchor should it hang up. I now keep a spare anchor aboard.

Attach a small boat fender to 50 feet of 3/8 inch yellow polypropylene line as a messenger line for a tow rope. Polypropylene floats and is highly visible.

The larger of the two boats that are rafted up should be the one to anchor (in a group of three, the center vessel should anchor). If the rafted boats don’t lay closely enough together, try turning the wheel to adjust the way they lay. Throwing a five gallon bucket attached to a short line and fastened to a stern cleat will turn the boat as well. Make sure you have adequate draft for all the rafted boats and remember to take tide into account (a little courtesy from other boaters is always appreciated — slow down by raft ups).

I’ve learned that anchoring is not just a matter of dropping the hook. Attention should be paid to having the right anchor system for your vessel and the bottoms of the areas in which you boat.  Practice anchoring with and without a winch if you have one, and use ranges, marker buoys, and even your GPS to monitor for anchor slippage.

Two free lessons I learned from others: 1. I always wear a lifejacket after I read about someone who wrapped a turn of anchor line around his ankle and nearly drowned when he fell overboard; 2. I double check before I let the anchor go — I know a guy who forgot to tie the bitter end of his anchor line to a cleat or ring. He lost the line and anchor because of this oversight.

By Paul Knieste

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