Friday, May 20, 2011
In hindsight: Steps to Take Upon Losing an Anchor
Here we are back in Taiohae Bay and more anxious than ever about losing another anchor. We’re not the first cruisers to lose an anchor and we certainly won’t be the last, but it sure would be nice to know that we’ve taken our share from the anchor swallowing gods and therefore will not be visited again.
On the other hand, we know it could have been far worse. We’ve known boaters who have lost an anchor when it came loose from the chain so that only the anchor, or perhaps the anchor with only a bit of chain is left on the bottom of the anchorage. Often times this occurs in a bad storm or in huge swell, and the boat is sent drifting. This can be a much more tenuous situation, especially if the boat is adrift while you’re sleeping (you could end up on the rocks in a short few moments), or while other boats in a busy anchorage are struggling to keep control in a severe storm (collisions are bound to happen).
Fortunately, and as you know from a previous post, this scenario is not what happened to us and we feel grateful for that. Our anchor and chain were fine, but it was the rode, the rope part that attaches the chain to the boat, that spliced right through to send the chain down in heaps to the ocean floor. And we saw it happen so we could address it right away. While I can’t say what we did was the absolute model to be followed if this should happen to you, it’s a good ‘think-through’ to consider in the event you should ever find yourself in a similar situation. As you know, it all paid off in the end, and we are, once again, one with our anchor.
Steps to take:
2. Quickly mark a waypoint on your navigational instruments. We pressed the Man Overboard button, but only after about 30 seconds. While this doesn’t sound like a long time, we had likely drifted about 30 feet from where the anchor chain had dropped.
We also always mark a waypoint where the anchor gets dropped. Between this marker and the one taken when the anchor rode was dropped, we were better able to figure out the general vicinity of where to look for the anchor. In such a muddy bottom, our anchor was not clearly apparent as it had sunk a bit, so it was essential to locate the chain and/or rode.
3. Deploy a secondary anchor. Although we ultimately ended up on a mooring ball, this option is not always available. But even before we got permission to hook onto the ball, we quickly deployed our stern anchor which is always at the ready, with about 8 feet of chain and the rest rode, near the back of the boat. Interestingly but not surprisingly, we also had a tough time raising it later. We were clearly sitting in a lot of mud, but thankfully our friends helped us free that secondary anchor so that we could focus on finding our primary one. This was done by having someone tugging on the anchor line from above water in the dinghy while someone else was below the waterline wriggling the anchor itself free from the mud.
4. Find a grapnel (a clawed anchor) and some weight (perhaps some chain attached to the grapnel), attach a long line to it, and use your dinghy to dredge the general area where you think the anchor is located. It’s important to make sure that you have enough weight on the grapnel and that you are not traveling too fast or else the grapnel will not drag on the ocean floor but rather just get pulled through the water, completely wasting your time. We know this from experience.
5. Be patient. This could take hours or even days. We were fortunate to have had friends who were willing to help us with this as one can go crazy dredging in some obscure location where you think you’ll find the anchor or the chain or the rode.
6.Be methodical. Go back and forth in a pattern to make sure you don’t miss a spot. And then go back on the same spot.
7. Find a diver, or dive the area yourself. It’s easy to get disoriented under water, especially when the water is murky like in Taiohae Bay. The thing to do is drop down the dinghy anchor and use this as the baseline for the diver. The diver then takes a 3-6 foot rope and ties it around the anchor line, then searches that radius around the anchor line. This too must be done methodically so that he/she begins again in the location immediately adjacent to the one just dove. Here again, we were fortunate to have had two friends who were able to dive with Evergreen’s hookah(Evergreen’s Dennis, and Aeolus’ Yp), although there was a professional diver at the ready if we needed him.
8. Pray. It may just pay off.
-Barb, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
8 degrees 54.447 minutes South
140 degrees 06.032 minutes West
(our actual anchor waypoint)