How to Anchor a Boat

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You've mastered the art of untying the mercilessly tied mooring knots your crew has laid on to the weakly protesting dock cleat, and have managed to set yourself adrift on one of the world's oceans (hopefully you remember which one) and you're ready for ...

You've mastered the art of untying the mercilessly tied mooring knots your crew has laid on to the weakly protesting dock cleat, and have managed to set yourself adrift on one of the world's oceans (hopefully you remember which one) and you're ready for a life full of wind, sun, rain, adventure, adversity (can't have one without the other) and the occasional meal of dry ramen and seawater.

But that was some number of hours ago, and now you need to find a place to park the old girl for a bit, so you can fix something or lay there for a few hours replaying the terrors of the past few days on your eyelids, 'sleeping' as your crew would mutter incorrectly. As luck (or misfortune) might have it, you're pretty far from the nearest marina to crash around in.

What does the mighty ocean adventurer do at times like these? As you well know, they use the heavy bit of ironmongery hanging off the bow, which you've already had the foresight to rig correctly, following the circles, arrows, and diagrams in any number of natty how-to guides written by someone else. Luckily, you're not one of those people who have their anchor stowed somewhere deep and dark, buried by cans of chili and spare water pumps for the iron genny.

If, by some stroke of unmerciful luck, the last time you remembered seeing the anchor was when you dumped a few hundred cans of chili into your holds, now would be a great time to dig it out, and rig it to the chain-looking thing piled in the locker forwards (just abaft of the bow-bow, if you want to sound properly nautical). Rigging the anchor can be done many ways, but they all follow the same simple guideline: "make sure these things won't come apart". This means make sure you use those cotter pins, slap some extra wire around them, wrap that with 500-mph tape (if handy) and maybe wrap it in some more wire just to be sure.

Don't listen to the inner voice saying "that ought to be good enough", because you know that inner voice is lying. You are a serious sailor, and you know first and foremost, that hurricane force winds will surely blow within moments (you did check the weather report, right?) Let's just ignore that inner voice, and be thorough.

With a properly rigged anchor now hanging jauntily forward of the bowbow, but just abaft of the bowsprit, if your fine ship is so equipped) you're ready. From the hours and hours you spent reading the chart, you've already identified a great anchorage, using the tried and tested method of looking for a place that isn't too deep, and isn't too shallow, that isn't solid rock or full of submarines or submarine cables. You picked the right type of bottom for the type of anchor you have, and above all, you feel really good about your decision, as a proper Captain must. Those feelings aside, you had also spoken with some locals who shared some barely intelligible gibberish about the area, and being the conscientious salty dog you are, you even wrote down some notes to refer to later.

As 'later' accurately describes this point in time, it's also the right moment to think about scope, and fetch. I don't mean you should ask crew to fetch you some mouthwash from the head because you have a nasty case of the stinkmouth from endless cups of coffee, seawater, and dry ramen — no, we're talking here about the amount of ground tackle you put in the water when compared to the depth, and the amount of swinging around your natty little ship is going to do.

You've done your research though, and you know that you want at least 6:1 ratio of scope vs. depth to start with, with the available fetch to put out ten times as much depending on the terror level you feel at the darkest moment in the coming night. You know also to watch your fellow adventurers, to make sure they don't have swinging circles that will overlap yours and create what we lovingly refer to as a 'entanglement' issue (or what the insurance companies call 'making an honest living').

You know all about chain and rode, and the many-and-varied arguments for (and against) all-chain and chain and rode. You listened patiently to the salesman at the chandlery talk about the size of chain and rode your little vessel needed, then wisely bought the most over-sized gear you could afford that still fit through the hawsepipe. If there's one thing all of us wise old salts know, it's impossible to have ground tackle that is too strong. In this one thing at least, you wisely chose to go big, and good thing too... it's looking pretty grim out there.

So your properly oversized gear is rigged and ready, and you've worked out a simple series of hand and sound signals with your crew that doesn't look (to the casual observer, at least) like screaming incoherently and waving nonsensically. Your crew really appreciates that, because unlike you, they'll be holding on for dear life on the foredeck while really dangerous and exciting things happen all around them. You've explained to them that chain is heavy, unforgiving, and should never be wrapped around any of their exposed body parts prior to the anchor being dropped, because as we all know, crew make terrible secondary anchors, and a barely adequate kellet.

Speaking of kellets, because you're about to run out 100 fathoms of 3/8" HT chain with the horizon turning even more black to windward, you did remember to break out the kellet weight and the oversized bridle used previously to moor the Queen Mary during hurricane season? Of course you did, and we all know that frantic headfirst dive into the aft lazarette is just to give your glutes a bit more of a workout to give you some extra stamina for the marathon butt-clench session that will best describe the rapidly approaching night. We'll even look to windward and whistle appreciatively, while you hustle your crew around in the proper deployment of the kellet and bridle.

We won't even notice you rigging the second anchor to be set 45 degrees from (or in line with) the primary anchor, or pay even a bit of attention to you tossing the lunch hook anchor and rode into the dinghy to be hauled as far aft as possible after you get the others all set and scoped out. Why would we care? Our vessels are smartly laid by, and we're already hunkered down below with mugs of warm soup. Honestly, we're not watching you scamper about like a fiend, and we're not listening to your incoherent screaming. We did try for a bit to decipher your complex hand signals, but as none of us learned to communicate in Klingon using only signal flags, it honestly doesn't hold much more than a passing interest.

For you see, we're all in it now. We're anchored apart, but sharing the experience, and at 0300, when we're scrambling to let out more scope, you can be sure we'll scream appreciatively at the smart way you reacted in advance of need, like a proper Captain. You clearly had everything figured out, and good thing too, because it's mighty windy out there...

..and dark.

 


 

©2016 Dain White. All Rights Reserved.

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