When the worst-case scenario turn out ok
One of my favorite expression goes like this:
“Everything is ok in the end. If it isn’t ok, then it isn’t the end.”
I have no idea who is credited with saying it, and I’m sure I could look it up, but that isn’t the point. The point is to just keep going until it is ok, because then it is over.
Dragging at anchor is most people’s second worst anchoring fear. Their first being dragging at anchor and ending up on the rocks.
So last night I knew a storm was coming in, I could feel it in the air. And when I checked the forecast, ‘GALE WARNING IN EFFECT’ came up in a big red banner.
I checked the tides (high tide at 2am), checked my chain (80 feet), checked my depth (15 feet, plus 5 for the tide) and hummed and hahed about putting more chain out. Decided not too. Why? Well having thought about it for all of today, I have these reasons:
1) I thought the 4:1 ratio was enough and that we had a totally awesome anchor (which we do… but it isn’t a super hero)
2) I didn’t want the noise to wake the baby (lame excuse, she would fall back to sleep easily)
3) I wasn’t confident about doing it so late at night and as we were already snug with the seawall, I didn’t want to pull back and be grinding with it…
4) If I’m being honest, I was being too passive and didn’t take ownership of the situation.
The wind picked up right on schedule, around 11:30pm, and the noise woke me up. So I got out of bed and check the anchor. Everything looked ok. Went back to sleep with an alarm to go off in an hour. 12:30 I check again. Still good. Fall bad asleep, this time with an hour and a half alarm. 2 am I check yet again. STILL GOOD! A noise wakes me up at 2:58, so I check again. Clearly I do not trust my anchor. Cleary I should have put more chain out last night. But it is too late for that, I am half asleep and not ready to put more out now. Surely, I think, we have held this long. Surely we can hold till daylight.
A noise and I bolt upright. 4am. “That,” I think to myself, “is not the noise the chain was making before.” The next 20 minutes are a total blur. I bolted out of bed and raced on deck, but stopped to grab my coat and check the time!! We hadn’t just dragged. We were dragging. And getting super close to another boat. I don’t actually remember starting the engine, just driving Asunto away from the other boat. Suddenly I realized we were going to swing into each other. “I wonder if I can push the two boats away from each other?” I remember this thought running through my head as I lean over the pushpit. I also remember being surprised at how easy it was and how well it worked. Once I felt that we were an adequate distance away, I pulled up the anchor and raced to the bow to remove the bridal, then raced back to start bringing up the anchor. My heart was pounding and I have that tightness feeling in my chest. In short I’m scared. The sound of my engine must have woken the other boat owner. He is on deck in his housecoat. “Need any help?” He calls. Grateful for the offer I holler back “Yes please!” “I can come over in my dinghy and tow you!” he hollers back. Confused by this comment I simply reply, “That isn’t the help I need, my engine is working fine!” By now Asunto had turned and we where flying towards the Cambie St Bridge (which out mast does not have clearance for). In daylight, we were not that close, but in the dark and the wind I was spooked. I’m not sure what housecoat man heard me say, but I never saw him again.
Fighting the effects of the windage, and the mess of boats around me (and my fear of the bridge) I whipped Asunto around and pointed her noise back into the wind. I had the engine roaring to execute a tight turn. This is not the best time or place for my first windy driving experience.
With her nose into the wind I head back to my previous anchoring nook, there are few other options and at least I am familiar with it. I drop the chain, with Asunto actually in forward gear to slow my reverse. This is another new one for me (and probably my 4 time anchoring ever). Actually we have never had to anchor with the boat in forward gear but with enough wind that we are still moving in reverse. Anyway, that technique worked, and helped me maintain some control of the boat as I ran back and forth to figure out how much chain was out. And one point I had to manhandle the wheel and throttle as a gust tried to grapple for control. With the anchor down and 120’ of chain out, Asunto started to settle. I, on the other hand, was still pretty amped up. It is now 4:30 am and 7:30 pm in China. Grateful for the chance to debrief, I text Kolby for the next hour until I feel more relaxed. Finally, at 5:30 I decided we are not going anywhere and turn the engine off. Expect to race Kyber ashore; I didn’t leave the boat until the wind had settle at 12.
Here is what I did wrong:
1) I miscalculated my ratio. When I read a depth of 15 feet I forgot we had a 10-foot offset. So really the depth was 25 feet, going to 30, which made my ratio more less that 3:1. Definitely not sufficient
2) I should have put more chain out earlier in the day, so that I would be comfortable with our new position as the wind picked up, before it got dark.
3) I could have had an anchor watch alarm on, to alert me that we had been dragging sooner. Would have prevented the second boat chaos. (Note I had all the instruments off to conserve power due to the failure of my new battery charger)
4) Oh and I probably should have practice more with Kolby on board. This is tricky as when he is around, he is the captain and I am the crew. It can be messy to reverse roles.
What I did right:
1) I didn’t panic, but I did let myself go into ‘survival mode’. This is a documented state where you can intuitively know what to do and then do it almost instantaneously, even if you wouldn’t know what to do in a calm situation. I trusted my instincts and myself.
2) I re-anchored in the same spot. In the near dark, trying to find a new spot would have been unsafe. Even though I had just dragged from that spot, it was still the right place to go back.
3) I put out lots of chain and stayed on watch until I was certain we were ok.
Thankfully, Fynn slept unawares through the night and woke up a chipper as ever at 6am! Now it is peaceful and calm in the Creek. My worst fear – dragging in a storm without Kolby on board happened. And I managed the situation with competence I didn’t know I had.
Morning sunrise- the calm after the chaos.