Before we left for this little adventure of ours, we went through the normal thought process on where money needed to be spent. I also had heard a joke about being able to tell if a boat had spent time offshore by looking at its bow. If the boat had an anchor up there that seemed like it was physically tool large to fit on the boat, there was a good chance that it had spent some time holding its boat in place. I had owned Piko for several years before we left for cruising, and while I spent many hours racing other people’s faster boats (well usually anyway), I did get out and cruise Piko as much as I could. When I bought the boat she came with three anchors, a real 35# CQR, a knockoff 30# CQR and a large Danforth.
Anchors are one of those things cruisers argue about like money and politics, but while the CQR was a great anchor in it’s day, there were better anchors out there in my opinion. I had also drug the CQR a couple of times with reasonable amounts of scope out, but also had trouble getting it to initially set more often. Also, since we usually spend about 350+ days a year on anchor, having a good system to keep the boat where it is supposed to be seemed like a good investment. Sure, a fancy new chart plotter or a mounted flat panel TV are sexy, and arguably a galvanized hook with a bunch of chain is not, we decided to upgrade. Long story short, we ended up with a 20kg Rockne, with 270′ of 5/16″ Acco G4 chain. I think that was one of the best purchases I have made for Piko.
While our Rocna has drug, it has always been in bad conditions. Not being able to put out enough scope while anchored on a slope etc. We had one other time where we had an issue while back in Sausalito, where we were anchored in 15′ or so, and while we probably had 3-4:1 out, winds picked up and we drug in the soft mud. Outside of that, in under 25kts of breeze, we really don’t worry much anymore.
Fast forward to earlier today. Both Britannia and us have been anchored north of LaToya in a small area called Saweni bay. This bay, while open to the north is protected from everything else and has a nice mud bottom. There is a fringing reef that goes around the whole area you have to be careful with because the water is not super clear and they are hard to see at high tide. Since we were planning on being here for a little while since I had to fly back to Auckland to get my work visa, and Krister’s mother flies in tomorrow, decided to anchor close to the beach in about 12-14′ of water. Since I left the boat for a few days, we had a little more than 5:1 out, which is more that we usually use for normal weather under 25 kts.
We had been bouncing around a bit since the wind had shifted to the north, and when I look out the companion way hatch, the beach looked just a little closer than I was used to. That doesn’t mean we are dragging necessarily since if it is calm, you often end up with boat almost directly over the anchor with the chain loosely piled, and then the wind comes up the anchor may stay in place, but you pull the chain out into a straight line. Either way, it was enough for me to look at Britannia since we had been anchored somewhat close to them. Well, they were only about a boat length away and they were pulling anchor themselves. Turning on the depth sounder, we were in about 8-9′ of water at that point, and with the tide being almost high, we knew we had drug as well. No biggie, LG, aka cute Lauren got to the wheel while I stated getting the anchor up. We moved a little further out in the bay this time, in about 25′ of water, dropped the hook and waited to see. The boat was hobby horsing pretty well during this, and we did get some water in the forward hatch. I let out our standard 4:1 scope for normal conditions and put a mark on the plotter denoting where we were. About 30 minutes later, I noticed we had drug about 10-15 feet or so, so I let out another 35′ or so. I looked over at Britannia, and it looks like they had moved as well, though they were a few boat lengths further away then when they started. I called them on the radio and let them know and they moved, but it sounds like they moved just in time, as they were quite close to the reef that was behind them. We both now have more than 5:1 and all is well, outside the excitement caused LG’s headache she has been dealing with to flare up a bit.
Looking back, our bow was going up and down probably 6-8 feet during a big set of waves that was changing our scope by almost 25%. When we were in 12’ that was over 50%! I also know that while 4:1 is usually good for us, shallow water does cause issues. The weight of the chain itself has a large factor in how well the anchor holds, and 4:1 in 10 feet in significantly less chain weight than when in 25, let along 65′. I know Krister has dove his 4:1 anchor while in 50′ of clear water in 20+ kts and seen half of his chain laying on the bottom. You can do some math and calculate catenary curves for this. I am sure Krister and myself will geek out and do this one of these nights over a sundowner. I mean what else do an engineer and a not quite engineer do to pass the time? I guess I didn’t really learn anything new today, but it did cement in my mind to be careful in more shallow situations. These are not very typical in the places we stay though… It is much more usual for us to be looking for something that is less that 70′ deep, not more than 7!
Anyway, it has been way to long since we blogged about anything. There will be a second part to this talking about what can happen when things go wrong in deep water. Outside of boat drama, I do now have my NZ Work Permit and am looking for employment in Auckland. We will be staying at Bays water marina while we are there. Our friends Bill and Sue fro Dilligaf left for Vanuatu on Monday. They will be continuing on towards Australia for the upcoming south pacific cyclone season. Our friends on Britannia will be following them in a few weeks (well, we are still hoping that we can convince them to come to NZ with us, but we will have to see). This is the time of the season where this happens, and it is tough since you really get to know and become fast friends with people while cruising, and it is inevitable that you do in different directions at some point. The positive part is from talking to friends that have done this before; you are very likely to keep these people close for a long time due to the bond you build while cruising…