Night Maneuvers

My resolve to stay home this weekend to work on getting the house ready to list evaporated by Friday morning when the forecast for Saturday called for sunshine and temps in the mid to upper 60s (we have only had 3 or 4 days over 60 this year and I think I had to work on each one). We decided to try to get out of the marina Friday night and either anchor a short way downstream (plan A) or tie up at the docks at Sand Island (plan B). I left work at 6:20, rushed home and we packed up my stuff and the groceries Devon had picked up after work and we headed to the marina (a 40 minute drive). The sun set a few minutes before 8, we were at the marina at 8:05, and had the boat out on the water by 8:30. Twenty five minutes may not seem like a big deal but it was a record for us (we had to get the dinghy off the dock and into the water in addition to loading all our crap onto the boat). So there we were in the rapidly fading light deciding between plan A and plan B. Anchoring out is more appealing than tying up to a dock, on the other hand it was getting dark fast and the anchorage was 20 minutes away vs. 5 minutes to the dock. Also, we had never been out maneuvering at night and we had never anchored in the plan A location which had some pilings and shoals (though we had explored it a bit one day and had some GPS tracks to guide us). So what did we decide? We chose adventure and went with plan A. It was pretty dark by the time we were getting close to anchoring. We were creeping slowly along at about 1 knot while scanning the water with our newly purchased spotlight to (hopefully) spot any debris or pilings when we felt our keel touch the bottom. We were in charted depths of 8 feet but our depth sounder was reading 14 to 18 feet and then suddenly it went to 4.7 feet and our depth alarm sounded. The alarm was set to 12 feet but the water shallowed out so fast it barely flashed 12 before stopping at 4.7. I’m glad we were going slow. So we backtracked and dropped the anchor in 18 feet. It wouldn’t have made any difference if it had been broad daylight, you just can’t see into the water around here, but the dark definitely made it more stressful. But we got the anchor set without further incident and had a uneventful night. The wind kicked up a bit and was opposing the current so we were a little concerned about getting the rode wrapped around the keel. We debated setting a stern anchor or improvising a kellet (sentinel?) for the primary rode but the wind died down and wasn’t forecast to pick up again so we didn’t worry about it.

One thing we do need to figure out is a good anchor drag alarm. We currently have 3 options: Our Garmin 441S chartplotter, our handheld DeLorme GPS, and the Anchor Alarm app on my iphone. None are ideal. We haven’t really used the Garmin because there is no way we could rely on hearing it in the cabin until we put a speaker inside (and it seems like a very rudimentary system but I haven’t really looked at it too closely). The app on my phone is easiest to set and monitor but the GPS isn’t very robust so the accuracy is pretty poor. The DeLorme is a great GPS and works great for monitoring your location but it doesn’t actually have an anchor drag alarm. We used a combination of the DeLorme and my phone.

The ball of yarn that was our path at anchor, sorry for the blurry photo, it was taken on my phone.

Saturday was even nicer than the weatherman predicted. There was no wind to sail by so we just stayed at anchor all day hanging out in the sun. It was fantastic and very relaxing. We explored the area a little by dinghy and took some soundings with a lead line. The wind started picking up Saturday afternoon so Devon took the dinghy out for a sail and had a great time. He also rowed out our stern anchor (a first for us) and the next morning he had to retrieve it using dinghy because our primary rode isn’t long enough for us to let out enough slack to retrieve the stern anchor from the big boat. That was interesting in a hard dinghy, I was a little worried he was going to capsize while breaking the anchor out but he didn’t, which is very good because the water is very cold.

Devon chillin’ in the sunshine.


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