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Archive for July, 2008

Anchoring Etiquette

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

There is an etiquette to anchoring. Vessels already at anchor have precedence, so the place you choose has to be clear of them. Do not be like the yacht that anchored right on top of us, and when I indicated that we would hit, responded, “Don’t worry, we will put out fenders.”

If the boats in the anchorage have dropped a stern anchor, you must also. Do not be the only boat without a stern anchor, or the only boat with one. Yachts with all-chain rode will swing differently from those with rope; ketches will be different from sloops; full keels are different from fin. It is polite to ask the boats nearest you how much rode they have out, and what type, as this will, in part, determine how they will swing.

We discovered a delightful little bay in Southern Spain, with room for about five boats, dropped anchor all alone, went below for a nap, and came back on deck to find we were in the middle of about 20 charter boats. They had limited knowledge of scope, apparently believing that, as long as the anchor was on the bottom, all would be well. Thankfully it was a low wind night, and creative fendering got us through without damage. Up-anchoring was not an option as we had at least three anchors on top of ours.

Anchoring Without a Divorce Following

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Carole and I began our anchoring life together heading straight for a divorce. I shouted; she shouted; it was ugly. We tried voice-activated two-way radios, but these were useless in any sort of a breeze. Finally we hit on the technique that has made us the envy of the cruising world, and restored tranquility to our lives. Carole drives; I stand in the bow and with not a word spoken, just use of six simple hand directions, we have anchored flawlessly many hundreds of times, in almost every weather condition.

Perhaps the most stringent test of our technique occurred in the Red Sea. The weather got really bad about midnight one night, so we decided to try for the Ras Gharib anchorage, which is behind a projecting reef. There were no navigation aids, just the way points provided by the Red Sea Pilot, which on my charts plotted as right in the middle of the reef, and the darkness was almost total. Deciding to trust the Pilot, we gingerly felt our way in—if the movement of a blind, bouncing cork can be so described. I was in the bow with a spotlight to see if I could see the reef, perhaps by waves breaking on it. Carole was driving, shining a flashlight on me to see my signals, watching GPS and radar, holding on to stop being thrown about the cockpit, and totally distracted by two huge black cockroaches which chose that moment, and our cockpit, to mate. No other system but ours could have coped. The morning light revealed that we had dropped anchor on the reef, but were swinging over sand.

Spend five minutes learning the hand movements. It is much more effective than a marriage counselor, and much cheaper than a divorce.

Marking The Anchor Chain

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Anchor chain does no good in the locker, but it is important to know how much chain is out, hence the need to mark the chain.

Paint, and those commercially available markers, last about three drops, and in any case can’t be properly seen at night. We finally settled on using plastic wire ties – one at 30’, two at 60’, three at 90’, one at 120’, two at 150’ and so on. They do not interfere with the anchor winch, last many months, can be distinguished at night and can be easily replaced in seconds while pulling up the anchor on a calm day.

I usually let out a lot of anchor chain at times, when I am uncertain about the bottom or the weather – how does 250 feet in 20 feet of water sound. The aim of anchoring is to allow you to wake up in the same anchorage you went to sleep in. After many thousands of anchorages, I am very happy to say that we have dragged only three times, two of those because I went brain-dead.

One of my anchoring errors occurred in Sicily, when I let out 60’ instead of 150’. I lost count, and my only excuse was that the two women sunbathing on the boat next to us were totally naked.

Charts Are Worth The Paper They Are Printed On

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I am constantly surprised by sailors (not you of course) who believe their electronic charts are accurate. They are exactly as accurate as the paper charts they are copies of, and the paper charts are, in turn, just as accurate as the surveys they are based on. Many such surveys were last done before 1900 using, shall we put it politely, less than precise instruments.

GPS, on the other hand, is very, very accurate. To put this into a perspective that may be a little clearer, your GPS will precisely record your position aground on the reef the chart shows to be a mile away.

I tip my hat to the old surveyors, because they managed to place almost everything within a mile or so of where the GPS says it should be. In practice this meant that I never set a waypoint less than two miles off any charted land, reef or obstacle, three miles if the waypoint was to be approached at night, and even then I held my breath.

Sail Away Soon Ready Or Not

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Why not sail away soon?

A common response is, “But my boat isn’t ready.”

Will your boat ever be ready?  No, of course it won’t. By definition there will always be items on the To-Do list (I am not superstitious but I never have an empty To-Do list, just like I never leave port on a Friday.  Why take the chance?), but that is why there are days at sea and days at anchor. Where is it better to polish the stainless – in a slip where all you can see is other boats, or at anchor in an atoll in the Tuamotos? In which place can you stop, roll over the side and snorkel with glorious coral, lovely fish and warm, clear water? Why do I even need to ask that question?

Bad weather can be avoided – really it can. Pirates are not a concern, except for the land based ones that own shops. Children are an incentive, not a deterrent. The stories and tips in Chasing Sunsets and Steering You Straight tell you everything you need to know.  Every excuse has been eliminated.  Go now!

Why Not Sail Away Soon?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

The most common response is, “I don’t have enough money.” This is almost immediately followed by the question, “How much did your trip cost?”

The simple answer is that cruising costs what you allow it to cost, just the same as living on land. Certainly living at anchor is less expensive than existing on the solid stuff a few hundred yards away, but it isn’t free. In six-and-a-half years of sailing around the world, we had one month when we spent almost nothing, and we know of some cruisers who had two or three such months, none consecutive.

There are certainly cruisers who claim to have lived on $500 per month, and good luck to them. We didn’t live that way on land, so saw no reason to do so on a boat, particularly as divorce would have been an almost inevitable result. Anyhow, most such stories are based on selective memories, or faulty math, or both.

We did a lot of land cruising which meant hire cars and hotels. That is the point of cruising, to fully experience the country you are visiting. The cruiser who stays on board in port certainly saves money, but sees only other cruisers.

We spent (for 3 people) around $40,000 per year including every expense.


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