February 3, 2003
Yet Another Lesson on Dragging
Ten months into our cruising adventure,
we've dragged our anchor once just a short ways, and we've
dragged our anchor once a rather long way. Enough to give
us a healthy paranoia about dragging. And enough to give us
a healthy paranoia about boats dragging into us
it had never happened. And throughout our adventures here
on our boat, Curt's always griping about the idiot charter
boats, and how they don't know how to anchor, and so therefore
we opt to anchor as far away from them (and most any boats
as a matter of fact), as we can. So I was surprised to return
to Curt and Force Five after a trip to customs with my cousin
and his fiancé to find that a boat was anchored a few
feet in front of our bow.
So wait a second. Let me back up a moment.
We had arrived in Cane Garden Bay on Jost Van Dyke (home to
the original Soggy Dollar Bar- originator of the "Painkiller")
to find a beautiful bay protected by a sliver of reef with
three small breaks to enter in. The one end of the bay by
the bar was filled to the gills with day charters and Sunsail
boats, so we headed to the (then empty) other end, and anchored
in good sand, in about 15 feet of water. And (as is our custom)
Curt dove the anchor to be sure it was dug in. Perfect. "We'll
sleep well tonight," we thought. Curt stayed with Force
Five while Greg, Heather and I went over to White Harbor to
clear-in with British Customs. So I was perplexed to find
a handful of boats around us when we returned. A white sloop
in particular, called Forever Young, was practically on top
of us when we got back no more than an hour later. This guy
was awkwardly close. Like you could comfortably have a conversation
between our decks without raising your voice- perhaps even
pass someone a beer. What's up with that? I had to ask Curt.
"They came in, dropped their anchor,
and left before I could ask them what they're thinking."
After some discussion, we reasoned that they appeared to be
a cruising boat, they didn't want their boat messed up anymore
than we did, and that as long as no one's anchor moved, we
should be okay. When the wind picked up at about three the
next morning, oh how we regretted not having made a stink
and asking them to move!
Greg and Heather were able to see firsthand
that night why we often prefer to offer our guests our v-berth
accommodations while we sleep in the salon. We're often up at
least once or twice in the night peaking out the windows to
check on our anchor, or check our neighbors', and if the weather
is bad, we're up even more. Once the weather picked up on this
particular evening, I didn't sleep again the rest of the night.
The winds were 20-25 knots, and gusting 35. Rain was pouring
down in buckets, a reef was twenty yards behind our stern, and
aside from the three enormous Mooring catamarans to starboard,
we had our lovely friends on Forever Young directly off our
I was up in the cockpit, trying to get our
bearings- trying to get those of the boats around us. The
winds would gust and shift everyone this way and that, making
everything unclear. Our anchor hadn't moved, but the white
sloop looked like theirs had, but then again- I couldn't be
sure. I'd sit and watch them until I was starting to get drenched,
and go below, telling myself that I was being paranoid. Up
and down I'd go- laying on the settee for as long as I could
force myself, and then with a big gust, I was back up in the
cockpit peeking at Forever Young from under our sopping bimini.
Even if our anchor was holding, it didn't mean if theirs dragged
it couldn't foul ours, or that they couldn't hit us at a good
clip in these winds. But as I looked around at the other boats
(their windows dark) seemingly no one else was worried. Curt
was quietly tucked in his berth below. Greg and Heather slept
in front. I chastised myself and laid back down on the couch
and told myself not to worry.
But in one of my weaker moments of succumbing
to my paranoia by going out to the cockpit, I saw that Forever
Young had slipped to a position beside us - impossible if
their anchor hadn't moved (since the wind hadn't shifted).
My heart pounded in my chest and I yelled out over the wind
that "HEY!" they were dragging! I was at once feeling
timid and not wanting to make a spectacle, but at the same
time saw them sliding further back towards the reef. Curt
was in the cockpit immediately and saw it too and he started
to yell as well. When the roused couple got to the cockpit
to hear us yelling that they were dragging, they seemed quite
annoyed and said that their anchor was still attached to the
cleat- they couldn't have moved at all
as if they thought
they couldn't move if the anchor was still attached to the
boat. If they're worried that they anchor was going to break
loose off their boat altogether, then we've got a bigger beast
to fear than if their boat might merely drag her anchor!
My heart was still pounding when they
motored forward and re-anchored back in front of us again. Curt
looked incredulous, and bleary eyed Greg and Heather had now
joined us in the salon to see what all the commotion was about.
We all clucked our tongues about our neighbors and for once,
I felt glad that I'd been out in the cockpit worrying. Danger
had been diverted one more day, and perhaps now I could rest
easy. But of course, this wasn't so.
As the winds gusted and the rain poured
outside our boat, I tried to lay on the settee and sleep.
Unfortunately however, now all my worrying felt horrifically
vindicated. Before tonight, it had been for naught and I could
remind myself that my worrying had done no good. But what
if I had gone back to sleep earlier? What would the outcome
of the night been then? So now as I tried to keep the worrying
at bay, there was no reasoning it away. The storm outside
continued, and I tried to lay there and sleep - thinking only
that surely this little incident would leave them startled
enough to keep watch of their own anchor the rest of the night.
The adrenaline surge must have rattled Curt
too, because now he was taking his unspoken turns standing
in the cockpit assessing the anchorage as well. But of course,
wouldn't you know - it was on my turn when they dragged again?
I had resigned myself to just sitting in the cockpit rather
than feign sleeping, and as a gust of wind raced through the
bay, I watched them come flying directly towards our beam!
I called for Curt - they're dragging again! He was in the
cockpit in a flash, saw that they were perhaps twenty feet
off our starboard side and still moving, and he started blowing
Again, the wife emerged in a flurry half
asleep- "What, what, WHAT?" she squawked. We yell
over the wind that they're dragging again at which she seemed
dumbfounded and which I can't believe at all since she's right
next to us and we used to be behind them. She shouts to, "Eddy!"
below (since they're next to us now, we can see clearly into
their cockpit that whoever Eddy is, he's still not awakened
by all this) as we tell her to start her engine. By now Curt
has ours on as well, Greg and Heather are up, other boats' lights
are on too, and we're on the bow telling them to just please
their move boat away from us for goodness sake! This is ridiculous-
we can't get any sleep because they're putting us in danger,
even if we could see fit to quit worrying about them! There
were no words of apology or anything else from them- they merely
motored off to re-anchor.
Now we have our deck lights on, and Curt
and I are on our bow with flashlights standing there in the
seemingly to stake out our territory and making
it clear that we don't trust them to get lost and anchor somewhere
else. We run through our options: re-anchor ourselves (trying
to avoid the reef and other boats in the dark), try to pick
our way through the channel markers and just leave to sail
on to Culebra as we'd planned for tomorrow anyway. Or institute
an anchor watch system, where one of us stays in the cockpit
to be sure all is okay until daylight when we can leave safely.
This last seems to be the only reasonable option- and since
my heart is pounding through my chest, and my temper has got
me all worked up, I figure it might as well be me.
As I sat there in my yellow raincoat watching
the sun take its sweet time coming up, and watching the other
boats swing on their anchors with the gusting wind, I realized
that it was no use. In my state of mind, they all looked they're
dragging to me, and I was just working myself up into a frenzy.
Curt took over and I lied below trying to sleep to no avail.
When the sun finally did rise, we could
see that the sky was filled with slate gray clouds as far
as the eye could see. From where we lay at anchor, we could
see where an unidentified crunching sound we'd been hearing
had been coming from: the three Moorings catamarans were literally
clumped together now, banging up against each other with the
swell. I merely shook my head in wonderment that these people
don't know- or worse, don't care, that they're smacking against
other boats? I guess that's the difference if you rent a boat
for the week versus take out your own home on such adventures.
We sat in the cockpit and tried to decide if we should still
make the thirty mile passage westward to Culebra or find another
anchorage here in the BVI? Perhaps this would blow over soon,
and we'd have a lovely sunny downwind sail? We knew we wanted
to leave in any event
so we started our engine, zipped
up our foulies (foul weather gear), and headed out.
As we motored past Forever Young, we
saw that the wife was on deck having a cup of coffee (assumingly
on anchor watch?). Curt asked where they're from and she replied,
"Here" (wherever that is meant to be exactly). In
the light, we could see that they had all the telltales of a
true cruising boat: wind generator, jerry jugs on deck, topsides
a bit tired. She timidly relayed her apologies for the previous
night's mishaps. "The shackle broke off our anchor chain.
Looks like we'll have to go diving to look for it this morning."
Of course, we weren't sure if she was referring to the first
or the second time they cozied up to our starboard toe rail,
but it left me feeling even more insecure than ever. It's not
just the charter boats we need to keep our eye on after all
I suppose, but fellow cruisers as well. If there are boats out
there that can't even manage to keep their anchor attached to
the boat, than the cruising world is a far scarier place than
I'd ever imagined it could be!