I’d Rather be Anchoring
was rinsing down the anchor gear on deck, back in my home port and a dock mate walked by and asked,” How much anchor rode is that?” “300 feet,” I replied. “300 feet? Do you really need that much?” “Well, if I anchor in 50 or 60 feet of water and I put out 5:1 scope, yes I do.”
I have used just about all of it at times. In the Pacific NW we have a 14-foot tidal swing, so what is 40 foot this afternoon might be 54 feet in the evening. 5:1 is the standard scope ratio for a mostly nylon rode. It does get a little tricky and takes some compromise in a busy anchorage or in a tight spot (I do have a stern line,) so how much I put out actually varies. I don’t want to put out more than I need for both sharing sake and because the more rode is out, the more rode that is subject to chafe. However, I need to put out what I am comfortable with. I need to sleep well, or rather, I may be so tired I will sleep well regardless. I don’t want to worry about dragging anchor or swinging into others.
Have I ever dragged anchor? Only once that I suspect…..so far. It may have been just stretching under a massive wind gust. I did not need to reset the anchor. When I swung to the other side of the circle, however, I feel like I was about 5 or 10 feet shy of my previous marks. Below is a GPS track of my anchorage in Klaskino Basin waiting out a storm just north of Brooks Peninsula.
The Sailing Directions mention that if the 2 buoys are not present (they have a tendency to drift in storms,) do not attempt the entrance.
The Environment Canada weather report kept upping the ante with this front. First a “Gale Warning” then a “Storm Warning.” The last of my notes during the thick of it were:
June 12, 2018 – Time – 1730 – West Coast Vancouver Island North – Storm Warning – SE 30-40knots w/ SE 50 over headlands – Solander Island (15 NM as the crow flies to the South) – 45 knots, gusting 53. Sartine Island (~40 NM to the North) – 42 knots, gusting 52.
The Waldes and I arrived at the anchorage late the previous afternoon. We had decided, based on our guidebooks, that this would be the best place to wait out the weather. At first, having to motor out of Quatsino Sound, it turned into a very good sailing day. We were able to sail around Lawn Point and Scarf Reef, up Newton Entrance and around Rugged Island. Then between Martin Rock and Steele Reef, (read as “between the rocks”) and into Scouler Entrance. I had chosen the Basin to anchor, the Waldes chose the anchorage to the east. Can you see the red loop in the track? The river delta is where we saw the family of bears I picture in a previous post.
I calculated to put the anchor square in the center of the basin, where the bottom was thick, dark mud and shell. This is the reason why I had a good anchor set. I estimated the depth to be about 40 foot and took note of the tide level. Then let out another 133 feet. I read the depth of the water from the chart and by feel. The chart tells me the surveyed depth. The feel comes from anchoring by hand. I can feel when the weight of the anchor touches the bottom. I can feel when the last of the chain of 30 foot hits bottom. Then, I take an approximate measurement from the markers on the anchor rode. I factor in the state of the tide, cross-reference this to the chart, then assess for agreement. I do have a leadline but chose not use it this time.
After I made a satisfying meal of pasta and tomato sauce, doctored with onions, garlic, spices, and Uli’s dried sausage, the Waldes and I did some bear watching. Then I settled in for an evenings rest. The night was peaceful, and I awoke in the morning to the sound of many different birds. I’ve read this was a migratory stopover for several species. Also, the sound of what I would later learn was a logging truck. At the time, I thought it was a low flying plane, in the mountains below the cloud cover.
I did dishes and cleaned up as I expected a long day anchor watch. I considered setting a second anchor. The winds were forecast for SE and then shifting to SW. I decided to wait and see which direction the wind would actually be coming from where I was located. This worked out to be a good choice. The winds began around 9 am, with alternating calms and strong gusts. These strong gusts would come from many directions. The tidal currents were also erratic as the basin was both filling and emptying, also in many directions. I topography seemed to play a big role in the gusting winds and contrasting calms. I let out the anchor rode to 160 foot, and then 200 foot.
The boat was sailing around at anchor, yet there was more to come. As the day went on, the wind gusts built and the forecast revised. I put my foulies on to stand outside and watch the shore swing by, with an eye for it getting to close. The inflatable kayak was tethered to the stern cleat with a single painter. I was looking at it and thinking, “I really should have put a chafe guard on the towing bridle right from the start. Maybe I’ll do that now.” Then I heard the whistle of an approaching gust of wind from the South, followed a few seconds later by the whistle of an approaching gust from the East. The boat heeled to starboard, then to port, and I watched the kayak lifted out of the water 3 feet and do a 360-degree roll in the air. “And while I’m at it, I’ll attach the kayak with painters on both ends.”
By the afternoon, I let out the rode length to 225 feet. With the tide, this was oscillating between a 5:1 and 6:1 scope ratio. It was all I could dare to put out in the basin. This means the swing circle is 500 feet including the length of the boat. I could run the Pythagorean theorem, and get a more scientific answer, but I have found it to be quite unnecessary. I just use the rode measurement as the difference is insignificant. I lowered the outboard motor and checked that it would start, in case I needed to move the boat. With alternating calms and gusts, I felt I could haul the anchor up if I needed to pick up and move. My escape plan, if necessary, was relocating to Klaskino Anchorage, just south of the basin. It looked more exposed and the depths were greater so it wouldn’t improve my scope ratio. However, it was not as confined. Here, every shore was a lee shore. The calms were great, but the gusts were very violent. I could hear the whistling through the trees, see the trees bending over, water spray lifting from the water’s surface and the parade of wavelets racing across the water. The sea state was never too bad, though I could see the small chop created by the wind against the tidal flow. The Flicka wants to float broadside to the wind so the gusts would make the boat heel over and sail across the basin. I measured the boat’s speed, at times, over 1 kt.
I inspected my grab bags and assembled a third. “If I had to leave the boat immediately, what would I want to take?” My normal grab bags have some good gear, but no personal items. More batteries, the backup GPS, cash, water, Larabars, passport, keys, and wallet were collected into a 3rd dry bag. In my present location, I was isolated but not alone. When our placements were in line, I could see the Walde’s boat through the trees. We were the only ones around for miles. If one of us were to have trouble with our boat, there would not be much the other could do initially, but it wouldn’t be a search and rescue scenario.
The Waldes were having their own experience. The morning before, they attempted to lift their anchor in North Harbor, Quatsino Sound, only to discover it snagged on a mass of large, discarded line. They spent two hours leaning over the dinghy, with a swimming mask and snorkel on, a saw attached to a boat hook, cutting the anchor free from the line. I was to learn later, during this storm, their anchor dragged and they needed to reset it.
In the late afternoon, there seemed to be an extended lull. I thought, “maybe this is it.” I went below into the cabin, took my foul weather gear off and was contemplating some warm food. Just after I was undressed I heard a gust of wind coming. Down below in the Flicka, the world is quite cozy, even though it can be raging outside. The fact I heard the gust coming as well as I did was a sign that it would be a massive one. The boat heeled to port and sailed to the end of the anchors slack, heeling even farther as it came up bow to wind. I heard a throaty, unfamiliar sound come from the bow roller. I quickly looked at the GPS track and it showed me just outside the circle I had been tracking in. I jumped up on deck to see how the boat lie. There was an islet nearby, to the SW with shoal water around it, that I was interested in staying away from. I had been checking periodically with the leadline. Everything seemed to be OK and the anchor seemed to be holding. Stretch or dragging? With a new rush of adrenaline kicked in, I put my foulies back on and entered a new shift of anchor watch.
Besides being on the alert for a dragging anchor, other items I had to watch out for were the anchor rodes’ lead. The boat will not only tack back and forth across the wind, but it will spin and jibe too. As the boat sails around, influenced by the wind and the currents independently the anchor rodes’ lead changes, putting varying degrees of stress on the bowsprit, platform, and cleats. There is not much I can do about this, but sometimes the rode wanted to foul between the Flicka and the kayak tied alongside (a disadvantage of the two painter system.) Other hazards were around too. The night before and in the morning I had spotted a deadhead floating around in Klaskino Anchorage. I was hoping it would not enter the basin during the storm as I had no interest in tangling with it. This was also a consideration if I needed to move the boat to Klaskino Anchorage.
The weather continued on as advertised, until about 11:45 pm, for nearly 15 hours in all. At that time, the front seemed to pass as forecast and the gusts moderated. I went to bed but left the GPS on, a red flashlight close at hand so I could check it whenever I stirred. It wasn’t a great nights sleep, but by morning the weather had passed. I planned to take in the anchor rode as the mornings’ low tide developed. In 21 hours, the GPS said I traveled 4.99 NM at anchor. The anchor gear did a great job, even with a short scope. I can say that the holding in Klaskino Basin is very good in thick mud and shell. Due to katabatic winds, topography, and currents, it is an awkward place to wait out heavy winds from the SE. But apparently feasible. It was a good test of the gear and I now have the experience to draw on as I consider anchoring in the future.
Sampaguita at rest in Port Townsend. 40-50 ft depth with 250 ft of rode.