Sunday, May 1, 2011

Anchor watch (David)

We are in Puerto Escondido, the most protected anchorage in Mexico. It's 2:00 am. It's blowing 30 knots, gusting 37. We are on anchor watch. WTF?

Yesterday morning, the second day of Loreto Fest,  we listened as always to Don Anderson's weather forecast on the Sonrisa net. "It's going to be really honking all the way down the Sea of Cortez, starting tomorrow afternoon," he says. When Don says "honking" we pay attention: he has an uncanny ability to get it right.

When we arrived in Puerto Escondido a few days ago, I envied the people who had reserved one of the many buoys. They looked secure and well spaced, whereas we had to squeeze amongst the 100 or more anchored boats. As the wind built up during the day I let out more chain. A little later, I hailed the ketch right behind us. He had out 150 ft, same as us. "How about letting out another 30 ft?"  I asked. He readily agreed: now we both had out 180 ft. Not as much scope as I would have liked in 40 ft of water given the forecast, but the swinging room was limited in the crowded anchorage.

I set an anchor alarm that sounds next to our bed, but cannot sleep. Betsy is also wide awake. We take turns sitting in the pilot house keeping an eye on everything. The anchor is holding: our track on the Nobeltec screen paints a wide arc as we swing back and forth, but there is no sign of dragging. I can see the two smaller arcs from before we let out more chain. Everything looks OK. I still cannot relax. I don't remember when I last checked the seizing on the anchor shackle. I ask Betsy: she says she looked at it last time we raised anchor and it was fine. I plot a course to get us out of the anchorage just in case. It would be difficult to maneuver through 150 boats in the dark with 30 knots blowing, and then exit the narrow, shallow channel, but, hell, a crappy plan is better than no plan at all.

The pre-dawn light shows whitecaps throughout the anchorage. The VHF chatter starts. Several boats on mooring buoys have chafed through their pennants and back-up lines: they are circling the anchorage looking for a place to put down the hook. I'm not envious of the buoys anymore, in fact I love our 7/16" chain and 110lb Bruce!

Just as Don forecast, it blows all the next day and most of the following night.

Tuesday morning it is calm and beautiful. No boats damaged, no one hurt. The Loreto Fest organizers offer free margaritas and food: everyone shows up. Another day in paradise.