[KensBlog] We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG



I am typing this at 6:40am. I have been sitting in the pilot house watching the monitors since 5:30am.

A bit of background….

Normally, Roberta and I love to be at anchor. We tend to think of the boat as a means of transportation whose primary purpose is to deliver us to the good anchorages.

However, in a complete reversal of our normal behavior I sent an email to my friend Steven Argosy (Nordhavn 62, Seabird) yesterday saying that we had moved our flights to go home a week sooner, and that a huge factor was that we were tired of being at anchor.

We have been at anchor the majority of the time over the last two months. Most of those two months have been great, but not all. We have struggled with swell and wind. There have been many nights without much sleep. We have had a couple of instances with dragging anchors, including another one yesterday.

The good times have far outnumbered the bad times, but the cumulative effect of the bad times has ground us down.

The Western Med (Italy, France and Spain) do not have a huge number of great anchorages. All of the Med is known for high winds, but wind is not a problem if you are sitting in port, or in a well-protected anchorage. In Croatia, Greece and Turkey we sat through winds over 30 knots that lasted for days, but they were non-events because we were in anchorages that offered good protection.

Starting last year with Italy, we have had a heck of a time finding well protected places to anchor. We have it better than most, in that Sans Souci is a heavy boat and we have flopper stoppers. Typically we roll the least of any boat in an anchorage. No one should feel sorry for us. That said, most other boats have options that we do not have. Most boats head to port when the wind blows, whereas we do not have that option partially because it can be hard to find moorage for a boat our size in high season, and primarily because it is hard for Roberta and I to enter a port (Med-Mooring) without assistance. It is also probably true that a lot of the boats around us are more accustomed to “toughing it out” and do not mind the roll. Most of the boats around us are sailboats in the 20 to 40 foot range, and they roll unbelievably. It must be miserable inside of those boats, but they don’t seem to mind.

One moment that stands out from a few nights ago. It was 2:30am, and we were rolling quite a bit from side to side. Normally I put a second line on the tender when we go to bed, just as an extra layer of protection. We had traveled all day and I was exhausted and forgot to add the second line. Given the swell, I decided I shouldn’t wait until morning to add another line to it. So, I went back to the swim step which was rising and falling quite a bit, only to discover that my towing line which had been sitting on the swim step had fallen into the water. It shouldn’t have been left sitting on the swim step, but … sometimes when fatigued, mistakes happen. The tow line was still attached to the boat but part of it was flopping around in the water. So, there I was at 2:30am, being bounced around on the swim step, hauling in a loose tow line, and re-tying the tender. All of that went fine, so I decided I should probably check that the swim ladder (a small ladder that comes from under a trap door in the swim step) was secured. To open the trap door I had to lie on the swim step, and as I opened the door the boat descended into the swell. Water gushed up from beneath the opened hatch and became a geyser totally drenching me in salt water. Was I happy to be laying on the swim step in the dark dripping salt water at 2:30am after a long day and sleepless night? Well …no. It was my own fault, but I can’t say it was fun.

Also helping to keep life on Sans Souci interesting…

We are in the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.) They are beautiful and fun islands, but the anchorages are often filled with seaweed, called Posidonia. Apparently Posidonia is important to the environment and is being aggressively protected. Laws have been passed protecting the Posidonia. Boats anchoring on it can be fined and there are patrols to keep you honest.

http://lifeposidonia.caib.es

Mooring buoys have been placed in anchorages and boats are encouraged to use the mooring buoys. It’s a nice system in that boats can go to a website and reserve a specific buoy in a specific bay for a specific date, and there are people assigned to see that you get your buoy. A boat could explore the Balearic islands without ever needing to drop their anchor. However, the buoys can only handle boats of a certain size and Sans Souci is beyond that size (I think the limit is 15 meters, and we are nearly 22 meters, plus very heavy.)

Dropping an anchor on Posidonia is not easy. The anchor slides across the top rather than digging in. In order to get good holding you need to seek out a patch of sand and drop the anchor on the sand. In rare bays there is lots of sand to pick from, but in many, such as where we are now, most of the bottom is covered in Posidonia with occasional splotches of sand. To anchor I had to stand at the bow looking down while Roberta drove the boat until I found a tiny patch of sand. We then put the anchor onto the sand and hoped it set on the first try (which it did.) If we had to re-anchor at night where we couldn’t see the bottom … I’m not sure what we’d do.

Boats anchor where they can find a patch of sand, not where they can obtain the most space for themselves. This causes boats to anchor closer to each other than they normally would.

The bottom line:

–          Boats are anchored close to each other, limiting the amount of rode (chain) you can put out

–          Finding a place to anchor is difficult, and when you do, you can still have a problem if the boat rotates 180 degrees. When the boat rotates around the anchor it can come unstuck. This could potentially place it onto Posidonia where it will slide like on ice, rather than re-setting

–          The anchorages are open to the sea, allowing swell to enter

Yesterday was frustrating. We rolled all night making sleep difficult. Then, during the day we dragged in light winds after the wind changed its mind directionally so many times that we were spinning around the anchor like a second hand that couldn’t figure out which direction was clockwise. We noticed immediately, and quickly re-anchored, but it undermines confidence and caused us to cancel dinner plans ashore. If we can’t trust the boat to stay put, how can we leave it? We were well-set and had been here a couple days, but with the constant shifting of the wind, and constant jerking of the boat due to the swell, the anchor came unstuck. Normally it would re-set itself immediately, but Posidonia has a mind of its own.


Our view while dining on the aft deck of Sans Souci last night. As you can see, we weren’t suffering. One thing to note — see the guy that looks like he is walking on water? He is on a motorized surf board of some sort. It is smaller than a surf board though; more like a single ski. He circled the entire bay for over an hour! I’ve never seen such a thing before. Very cool! He never fell and seemed to be doing it more for his evening’s exercise than for sport.

Our view while dining on the aft deck of Sans Souci last night. As you can see, we weren’t suffering. One thing to note — see the guy that looks like he is walking on water? He is on a motorized surf board of some sort. It is smaller than a surf board though; more like a single ski. He circled the entire bay for over an hour! I’ve never seen such a thing before. Very cool! He never fell and seemed to be doing it more for his evening’s exercise than for sport.



Anyway … I am making this sound much worse than it is. There have been plenty of good times, and we are having fun. It is just the luck of the draw with respect to the weather. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. The swell has been like a dripping faucet in an otherwise beautiful home. Over time, hearing the drip drip drip can make you crazy.

This looks like my normal navigation screen — but, what you can’t see is that it actually an ipad. On nights when I want to monitor the situation closely I use Remote Desktop running on an ipad to connect to the ship’s navigation computer. This lets me see at a glance, while still lying in bed, where we are in our \

This looks like my normal navigation screen — but, what you can’t see is that it actually an ipad. On nights when I want to monitor the situation closely I use Remote Desktop running on an ipad to connect to the ship’s navigation computer. This lets me see at a glance, while still lying in bed, where we are in our “circle.” The active circle when this picture was taken is the one on the right. The circle on the left is from earlier yesterday, and as you can see in the green tracings that go outside the circle — we dragged after holding position for two days. Ignore the red. It is an old track from when we first dropped anchor.





Each ring on the radar represents 150′ of distance. As I’ve mentioned previously my normal goal is to get three rings from other boats. That is unrealistic where we are cruising. But, you can see we did fairly well and have two empty rings around us — which is much better than most of the other boats.

Each ring on the radar represents 150′ of distance. As I’ve mentioned previously my normal goal is to get three rings from other boats. That is unrealistic where we are cruising. But, you can see we did fairly well and have two empty rings around us — which is much better than most of the other boats.




I was up early because we had a couple squalls this morning (sudden rain and wind.) They weren’t bad, and under normal circumstances I’d ignore them. But, given how close we are to the other boats I’m sitting anchor watch.

Today is supposed to be the last day of the wind and swell. A period of calm should be settling in. We expect to be headed for Ibiza tomorrow at this time and these days of bad weather will soon be a distant memory.

Thank you!
Ken and Roberta Williams (and, Keeley and Toundra)
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

4 Comments
  • GAVIN HOWE
    Posted at 12:40h, 16 August

    SUBJECT: Re: [KensBlog] We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG
    Ken, I have been following your blogs for more than 10 years (since before
    the Atlantic rally in your 62). We are just back from our two week cruising
    holiday in the Med without having one rolly anchorage. We sailed from
    Scarlino via Elba and Caparia to the West coast of Corsica and then down to
    Olbia where we have a mooring for the next 9 months. We have a centreboard
    Swan 76 sailboat and we often leave the mizzen up and put the board down if
    things are at all rough. We must have been lucky as the last weeks have
    been very sheltered at night time – the only issue sometimes being wash
    during the day from the large amount of heavy boat traffic. We have spent
    last year in Croatia and I agree that there are so many good anchorages
    that you can usually find calm water. We did have a problem with dragging
    though in their sudden winds, and have just bought a 70kg Rocnar which
    seems to be more grippy. Hope it doesn”t put you off anchoring for good.
    Best Gavin
    swan76.blogspot.com (http://swan76.blogspot.com)

    ————Reply by Ken Williams – August 16, 2015 ————–

    Gavin — we did get roll a few times in Italy, but generally there was always enough wind to keep us into the swell. This is the first year I can remember where swell was such a major factor. We’re sitting in Ibiza now getting pushed around by the swell, and Roberta just said, “We had better get used to it, because it’s likely to be this way for the rest of our time in Ibiza and Formentera.” I hope she’s wrong.

    It is definitely frustrating!

    I’m amazed that the 70kg Rocna is large enough for your boat. But .. these days I realize that 90% of holding has to do with the rode, not the anchor. With heavy enough chain, and enough out — it’s hard to drag. I’ve managed to do it a couple times, but I had to work at it.

    Thanks – Ken W

  • MichaelRobson@shaw.ca
    Posted at 23:59h, 15 August

    SUBJECT: Re: [KensBlog] We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG

    Dear Roberta and Ken:

    I have been enjoying your blog since the start. I always read every word and enjoy reading about your adventures. The last post makes me believe that you would be wise to hire someone to crew on your boat. They could watch the boat at night, watch the boat when you go to shore, help you med moor the boat, ( not difficult with 3 people) clean the boat during the day, help with passage making, do the oil changes etc. I know you don’t like crew members but after reading your blog today, you don’t sound happy. If you ever think of having someone on board to help you, I would volunteer my services for free for a month. I am a huge boating enthusiast and have extensive boating experience. I live in Vancouver B.C. and have taken my own boats from Vancouver to Juneau Alaska twice. Nothing like the travels you have done but it shows I enjoy travelling on boats. I am married with two kids, 18 and 15 so I couldn’t go for more than a month without getting divorced ( Ha ha) but being semi-retired from the real estate business gives me lots of free time so I thought I would mention this to you. I have lived on the oceanfront in Belcarra for 23 years and am currently teaching my neighbour how to operate a 40 foot Formula that he bought with zero boating experience. (when he first got the boat I caught him using Google on his cell phone to search the internet on how to tie up a boat with the bow line in his hand !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.) That is when I told him I would teach him. He is getting quite good at docking it now. Anyway, my suggestion for next cruising season is to get a crew member to do the stuff you don’t enjoy doing ( like staying up all night on anchor watch) and enjoy the good parts of boating more. Take care and keep up the great blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mike

    From: Passagemaking with a Nordhavn
    Sent: Saturday, August 15, 2015 7:00 AM
    To: michaelrobson@s…
    Subject: [KensBlog] We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG

  • Larry Twomey
    Posted at 14:49h, 15 August

    SUBJECT: Re: [KensBlog] We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG
    Get an Ultra Anchor! It has never failed me.
    We have a 60ft Semi-displacement Sharp-Defever, and it has been perfect as long as I set it perfect with a big tug, before backing down the rest of the way.
    Larry Twomey
    Midnight Voyage
    San Diego, Calif. SWYC/CYC

    —————Reply by Ken — 2015-08-15———–

    Larry – my Rocna ALWAYS sets … except on this Posidonia. Have you dealt with it? I know that the Ultra is popular here in Europe. You may be right that it has some magic power on the Posidonia .. but,I suspect that nothing cuts through the seaweed. Regardless of the anchor, the only safe option is to find a patch of sand.

    -Ken W

  • Roy
    Posted at 13:29h, 15 August

    SUBJECT: REPLY TO;;; We’re having a SWELL time at anchor, but occasionally it’s a DRAG
    hi ken and Roberta,
    Ken yourbeginning to sound like the headlines from the sun newspaper in uk with comments like that. a tatty tabloid daily news very popular hear.but good on ya. bucking bronco”s is a yank thing to do ennit.
    best of luck roy and Leanne palmer in London England.

    ———–Response by Ken — 2015/08/16—————

    Roy — always good to heard from you. I agree with you on the British papers. I read them online — they do a better job entertaining than the US ones…

    -Ken W