"Maverick too" at anchor in the Bahamas
First times are usually moments that remain unforgettable. For example, I can still remember exactly what it was like to set sail alone for the first time. A few years later to drive a car alone. Many more "first times": the first night at anchor (particularly impressive: eaten up by Mecklenburg mosquitoes), the first night on a new boat. The first time out of sight of the land, then at some point the first mile of our great journey and the first island on the other side of the Atlantic.
I am also aware that "first times" do not only have to be positive. But as an incorrigible optimist, something like that is always quickly faded out. But then there was another experience last week: the first time our anchor did not hold.
We spent the afternoon snorkelling on the wreck of the "Sapona", the old wreck on a reef south of the Bahamas island of Bimini. At the end of the First World War it was built from ferrocement (due to a lack of shipbuilding steel) and was then used on Bimini as a floating liquor store and nightclub in the mid-twenties. Until it broke loose in a hurricane and finally found its last resting place here in the shallow water. For over 90 years it has been an artificial reef and home to thousands (not: hundreds!) Of colorful fish.
Snorkeling on the wreck of the "Sapona" in front of Bimini
Although the day at the wreck was overshadowed by a gray sky, it could hardly have been better. The next morning the wind was supposed to turn south and increase in strength enormously, so we wanted to anchor one last night off the uninhabited island of Gun Cay, and then move to the shelter of Bimini the next morning.
There is a light southerly wind as we drive into the shelter of the small headland in the middle of a beautiful sunset, cast the anchor at a depth of four meters, pull in the engine in reverse gear and put on 35 meters of chain. Anchor light on, the pot on the stove, after work.
Our AIS transponder is one of the few devices that uses almost no electricity on board (3 watts) and therefore always runs. Also so that our readers can follow us at Marinetraffic at all times. The low power consumption is mainly due to the fact that the transponder has its own small, monochrome monitor and does not have to run a plotter so that we can display the ships around us. A nice gadget of the transponder is an anchor watch function that works great. You can set the radius in which the ship is considered "safe at anchor" and is allowed to swivel. If it exceeds this radius, the transponder sounds the alarm.
Anchor alarm on "Maverick too"
Actually, you should set the anchor point right at the moment when the hook reaches the bottom. But we always lack a third person, dCati is at the wheel at the moment and I on the forecastle, casting anchor. That is why we always set the anchor point when the ship comes to rest. In this case, the anchor symbol marks the point at which the ship was anchored. The transponder then routes through small pixels how often and how long we swore on both sides of the anchor position.
It is the same on this night. The anchor alarm is set, the alarm armed. Around 11 p.m. we crawl into our bunk.
Around midnight, the anchor alarm beeps for the first time in a vertical position. The wind has picked up and the ship has turned 20 degrees. Because of the many chains and a very narrow radius, we have therefore swung out of the circle. So I deactivate the alarm, set the radius larger, activate it again - and lie down on the bunk. Half an hour later it beeps again. Same game, larger radius, back to the bunk. It repeats itself a few times. Routine look, everything is still in order. After all, we've already had well over 100 anchoring nights behind us. 25 meters away from the anchor point, that's okay. But last time I was drowsy and forgot to reactivate the alarm. In the meantime we've turned 80 degrees.
I wake up when I realize that the ship is across the waves. "Pooh, the wind makes us swear", I still think. But the alarm remains silent. So it can't be that bad I guess. But I remain restless. Should I get up and check that everything is okay? Yet again? It doesn't take more than 20 seconds, then I hear a soft call from the salon. My sister Susi woke up. "Johannes? Is everything okay?" I jump out of the bunk, walk to the map table and look at the monitor: "136 meters." I rub my eyes, look again: "138 meters". This can not be. "140 meters". Technical error? "142 meters". Human error! Then I realize what is happening: "Alarm! The anchor is slipping!"
Cati tumbles out of the bunk, Susi doesn't really know what's happening and just pulls her legs into her bunk so that we don't stumble over it in a hurry, as if stung by the tarantula. "Turn on the engine," I call to Cati and switch on our deck lights, which bathe the whole deck and cockpit in glaring LED light. Then I crash onto the forecastle, grab the chain and pull on it. No pressure. We drift. A look aft. Auweia, the German cat "Cayluna", who was so far away yesterday, is getting closer and closer. The distance is difficult to estimate because I only recognize it by a white mast light. I reach into the chain again and can feel the anchor dragging across the grassy ground without grasping. A cartoon by Mike Peyton crosses my mind. A crew can be seen on board their yacht, wondering why their anchor is not grabbing. Under the ship you can see that the anchor fell into an old shopping cart, of all places, and is rolling over the bottom in it.
Anchoring in the Bahamas: Good to see if the anchor is buried and how the chain is lying
My eyes jump back and forth between our anchor chain and the large catamaran behind our stern. I'm slowly starting to think more clearly again. The island next to us is now on the other side than it was before bed. So the wind must have turned 180 degrees. That was actually only announced for the morning, at least according to our two-day-old weather report. We must have drifted over our anchor, broke it out. It had happened before, and up until now it had buried itself in quickly. The lights are going on on the Kat behind us. Did you hear us? Or also noticed that the wind shift came earlier than expected?
Heavy anchor gear: 60 meters of chain (8 millimeters) and a Kobra2 anchor (16 kilos)
I still can't hear the engine or feel any vibrations. "Where's the engine? We don't have much time!" - "The engine is running!", Cati yells back against the wind. - "Then hit the aisle and step on the gas!". It takes what feels like minutes, probably only seconds, for the ship to react and pick up speed. I press the button on our windlass, which immediately begins to collect the chain. The cat behind us is getting smaller. We're going to windward. Puuuuuh. That was close.
After marking the transponder, despite the new moon, we find our old anchorage again, cast the anchor again (this time in the correct pulling direction) and put on a chain. 30 meters. Oh come on, 40 meters. What the heck, 50 meters. At some point it "clicks" and every 60 meters are outside. It doesn't matter. Just be able to sleep peacefully.
We switch off the deck light and set the anchor point again, then we move out of the fresh, cold wind down into the cabin. Cati on the L-sofa, Susi on her bunk, me on the motor hatch. Maneuver criticism, at half past three in the morning. "That was … interesting," says Susi, who is still trying to understand what has just happened. Cati is somewhere between happiness, tears and exhaustion. "Just went well," she says. I go over the experience in my mind. "We can actually be satisfied," I conclude. Even if it looked like that, it took less than three minutes until we were all out of the bunk, the sea valves were open, the engine was running, the chain was hauled in and we were sailing to windward."
What did we do wrong? Should we have always gone anchor watch? Not really, because when we went to sleep it was almost calm. But at the latest when I noticed that the wind was turning earlier than announced, it would have been time to make tea, grab a book and watch the weather change. "Do not rely too much on the technology", I write in the logbook and watch for a while whether the anchor is now holding securely and the wind is not picking up any further. After an hour I am sure that everything is okay and I lay down on the bunk. Something like that will certainly not happen again.
Further information about the trip: www.zu-zweit-auf-see.de