As I sat on Shiloh’s back step this morning, looking out at the unbelievably turquoise water on the sand patches in the reef nearby, my face buried in a bright orange mango, juice poured down to my elbows and onto the bright white gel coat surface. I actually smiled while contemplating our anchoring experiences.
After being released from the mosquito infested boat-hammock-on-the-hard on Tuesday night, we decided to try to find a less rolly spot out in Prickly Bay to anchor, which meant finding somewhere tucked in, close to shore.
So we found a spot where some monohulls were nestled in behind, swung Shiloh around and dropped the anchor. Only the depth metre started reading freakishly low numbers. It claimed we were in less than a foot of water!
We played around a bit – letting out more chain and watching the boats behind us, but wondering how they had managed to get in there with their deep keels.
Finally we had moved behind the most shallow section and were in a few feet of water.
I was at the back of the boat taking a GPS reading so we could determine whether we were stuck in on the anchor when JW shouted from the front,
“If anyone’s going to run aground, it’s this guy!”
And just as soon as he’d said it, I ran up to the front to see a monohull, motoring at full speed, right in front of us, heading into shore on the wrong side of the concrete bouy marking the channel.
Seconds later as we locked eyes with the couple on board, their boat went from speed to stationary with a tremendous jolt. The boat and it’s occupants were shocked and the couple nearly lost their footing, sunglasses flying, hair blown forward from the swift reversal of movement.
“Oh my God!” I shouted.
“I can’t believe they did that!” I probably spoke loud enough for them to hear me, as I’m known for that, but they didn’t seem to notice as they had a boat keel smashed into a shoal and were busy hitting reverse gear with gusto.
The water churned wildly below them as they sped backward, dangerously close to some moored boats.
JW calmly motioned for them to go around the concrete marker in the safe channel.
They waved and seemingly unphased, they went past and headed toward the slip we had been hoisted in the night before.
It taught me a few things right away.
1. We are not the only ones who find ourselves in dangerous and embarrassing situations on the water.
2. We were definitely anchored on or near a really shallow something. Was it a sand bank or coral or a wreck?
3. Boats are much stronger than I imagined – having watched that boat hit at such speed and managed to get away unscathed.
We left the boat and headed to town. Later that night, after a great night and winning the trivia challenge with our cruiser team over at the Tiki Bar, we dinghied back to Shiloh and turned in. Only as I lay in bed with my book I kept hearing what sounded like bubble wrap being popped. It was subtle yet constant. I altered JW who was just about to dive into a deep and well deserved sleep.
We moved around the boat listening until we isolated it’s source. Under the floor boards, the sound was quite loud. We were definitely sitting on something and the popping noise was very unsettling.
We turned on the depth metre and discovered we were in less than 1ft of water. Judging by the noises, we were in no feet of water!
We were both exhausted and didn’t relish the idea of heading out into the rough bay in the dark, but in the end that’s just what we did. Luckily we moved easily from our shallow patch and headed way out into the channel. JW was determined that I relax about the depth, so he wanted to find somewhere with at least 20 ft depth.
It was really dark and our super flashlight barely helped. The wind was whipping and mooring bouys plus fishing nets lurked around us like a mine field.
I ran around the front of the boat, bouncing over the trampoline from corner to corner, on the look out.
We found an empty spot and dropped the anchor. We swung back and found a spot with exactly 20ft depth!
So after 30 minutes of GPS readings and eyeballing our position, we retired to bed. Rolling and bouncing, the rains came all night and I never fell into a deep sleep.
But by morning we were in the same position and no barnacles or wrecks were damaging our under side.
There are many trade offs with sailing and I’m learning it applies to the whole anchoring experience as well.
Last night after a rough trip through 8ft waves and sea spray over us, we were back in our favourite spot at Hog island. We had trouble getting the anchor to hold and motored forward raising it and dropping again until we held. And the depth metre read about 1 ft of water! But there was no crackling noise and there were no rolly waves throwing us around. And I decided to relax, and accept the payoff.