Monday, April 21, 2014

The Easter Drag

Saturday morning dawned bright, mostly clear, and without a breath of wind. We prepped the boat and cast off for a trip across Puget Sound to go visit my family for the weekend. I'd tell you it was for Easter, but really, it was for food. Mom was putting a ham in the oven and making baked beans. If my husband could have teleported to her house, he would have. The boat was the next best (though it must be noted - not the next fastest way) across the water.

We hadn't taken the boat out since Christmas. The cats had kinda forgotten that their house moves, but they were 100% clear that they DO NOT LIKE that their house moves. Despite a seasick cat making a mess in the master cabin, it was a perfect trip across. We made excellent time. A line of clouds lingered on the horizon, but the sun shone and it was warm. We consulted the tide tables because hubby really wanted to anchor out rather than pay for space at the city dock. I mentioned that the weather was supposed to turn. He squinted at the sky, shrugged and went back to calculating tides.

It's the time of year for big tidal run. On Saturday, when we got to Poulsbo, the tide was going out a long way - 11 feet in just a few hours. We were going from a high of 10 feet to a low of -1.5. He picked a spot and signaled. I dropped the anchor and 70 feet of chain to the mud bottom.

Maritime trials over. We shut down the engine and kicked back. The still air stirred, then began blowing in earnest. The clouds shuttered the blue sky and rain slanted in sideways.


The boat trembled. I got up and glanced around.

"I think we just straightened out all 70 feet of our chain in one go," I said, running to check the depth sounder. "And we are super close to shore. Super, super close. 8 feet of water underneath us."

We didn't drag - which is when your anchor comes up out of whatever was holding it on the bottom. In the case of Liberty Bay, that 'whatever' is stinky, black mud. Our anchor held just fine. The problem was the rode.

Rode is what connects your anchor and your boat. It can be a line (rope) or chain. Most people use a combination. We have 70 feet of chain on the anchor end, and another two hundred feet of line. The theory behind using chain is that it's heavy enough to rest flat on the bottom, which keeps your anchor at the proper angle to the bottom to help it dig in so you don't drag. When we anchor in Liberty Bay, we drop the anchor and then let out all of our chain. We count out extra feet of line based on weather conditions and what kind of scope (the ratio of your boat length to length of rode you pay out) we think we'll need to stay safely anchored in one place.

Thing is, if you're a boater, you already know we missed a step in the anchoring process. We didn't set our anchor. That's when you drop the anchor overboard and then gently back up until the anchor catches and stops the boat. THEN you put out the rest of your rode. Not that it would have made any difference for us. We'd forgotten the cardinal rule of boating: The wind always wins.

Because the tide was going out, we imagined that we'd swing with the current. Instead, the wind blew us against the current, into shallower water. And when the wind REALLY kicked, all 70 feet of our chain went from piled up in the mud, to straightened out in the goo and we went from anchoring in 20 feet of water to 8 feet.

Hubby started the engine. I got on my rain gear and went on deck to haul up the anchor. We could have repositioned and set the anchor in deeper water, but it would have meant rowing the dinghy into the city dock in the wind and rain. Instead, we motored to an empty guest slip and tied up for the weekend. It made the cats happy when the sun came out on Sunday morning and they could get out of the boat to roll on the concrete dock.

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