It was a dark and stormy night and two sailboats had
anchored in what was the lee of Dog Island. Unfortunately they had
checked or listened to the weather forecast which predicted the winds
clocking around. Thus after midnight as the winds started kicking from a
new direction, they
were exposed to the brunt of both the stronger winds and rough seas.
One sailboat was dragging anchor. Although he had his
engine running to assist in keeping the boat in place, he was still being driven towards shore
by the storm.
The TowBoatUS captain from Carrabelle came out to give him a hand and
saved the boat however there are lessons we can learn.
ALWAYS listen to the weather forecast. This storm was on
the air, indeed there were small craft warnings out.
On VHF radios if you push and hold the Wx (Weather) button the
radio will show ALT (means Alert) on the screen. Then, when
an urgent weather forecast is issued, automatically the radio switches over
to the broadcast presuming your radio is turned on. You'll hear a series of beeps first, then the
Basically what happens is the radio switches from your standard VHF
channels to the weather channel. Yes, while Alert is turned on you can
switch manually to Weather.
After listening you have to manually reset the VHF to Channel 16 just as
you normally would. Aboard Seaweed I
keep the Weather Alert turned on.
It's a handy feature -- and even my twenty year old radio has it so yours
ought to as well.
The two boats, instead of traversing the channel/river to
get into a less exposed spot, chose to anchor outside. That normally would have
been a great idea for an earlier start across the gulf, however when you
have small craft warnings out and rough waters predicted it's probably
wisest to be tucked in safe and sound.
The anchor used by one sailboat did not hold.
Another clue experienced cruisers are aware of is when shrimp boats come
into harbor, it's a safe bet that recreational boaters should be in port
too. The professional fishermen know their seas so if and when they determine
the ocean or gulf is unsafe you can be assured they are basing their decision
on years of local knowledge. Too many times the novice will fail to
appreciate the signs that are quite apparent to the rest of us.
If your anchor won't hold you in all conditions, it is my
belief that you need to upgrade. I did drag, once, and believe it's best to be safe rather
than sorry when it comes to ground tackle. Calling TowBoatUS at 0300
because you're afraid you're going to come ashore is probably not very good for your
blood pressure either.
My former anchor was a 25 pound plow that the books say
is more than adequate for a 23' boat. Before Seaweed dragged I was
satisfied with it -- not thrilled mind you, just satisfied. I'd always had a hankering for
one of the more modern designs but money being money, I held off until
that storm back when I was in Pensacola.
Please note that my Seaweed uses 1/4" G4 chain. I have 100' at present though when the budget can
swing it I intend to buy another 150'. I'm very serious about anchoring. This is my home and I'm going
to protect her. When the 25 pound plow failed I went out (that morning)
and ordered a 33 pound Rocna. The Manson Supreme and Rocna are essentially
equal in holding power in my opinion, however the Rocna was a bit less costly so it was selected.
Folks who do not regularly dock at marinas must be prepared
to anchor in all conditions, safely and securely. When the hook goes down
it had better keep the boat in place. After more than 1000 nights
depending upon my ground tackle, I'm confident with this system of all chain and an
oversized anchor. By day three at anchor, I know that to get the Rocna up I'm going
to have to cleat her off, then power it out with the engine. The windlass
(a Lewmar V700) will not break it free from the bottom!
Consequently although I confirm my location and swing
radius with a GPS I really don't worry about Seaweed dragging. I'm set and
when boats get closer I know it's them not me moving.
In the above picture the chain comes almost straight down
from the bowsprit, and the black snubber extends out a bit. For Seaweed I
use a 5/8" 3-strand black rope. One end has a spliced loop and fits over the
Samson post while the other attaches to the chain.
There are a lot of fancy (read 'expensive') attachments
available to connect the snubber to the chain however there is one that
is perfect. It's a knot: specifically a simple Rolling Hitch. That knot ties easily to the
chain, doesn't loosen but is easy to remove when retrieving the anchor.
It's never come off regardless of strain (or not) placed upon it. In my book,
the rolling hitch works, and the price is outstanding.
Link to Video of Rolling Hitch by Grog:
Without a snubber the action of the chain can be too sharp.
That action is called catenary and is essentially when the anchor at one
end and the boat at the other end bounces. The sudden snap when the chain
tightens can be discomfiting to the uninitiated, and it's definitely not
Too little catenary and you're in danger of dragging
plus the movement
sharp and unpleasant. Too much and it's a lot of work to raise the
extra length of chain. A snubber will all but eliminate the sharp
bounces though of course when the winds go over gale force you're going to
have a bit of motion to the boat.
My snubber is 15' long. If worse comes to worst and the
line somehow frees itself from the boat, there is no danger of it getting
tangled in my propeller. Black was recommended by a friend so I chose it. As an aside, most of the snubbers I see are
In snubbers bigger isn't necessarily better. You want the
bounce/springiness of a 3-strand so sizing is important. I'm not an expert
but chose 5/8" for Seaweed. When I tried 3/4" braid (borrowed to test) it wasn't
as comfortable as with the 3-strand smaller stuff. And 5/8" may be a bit
larger than required however I am concerned with chafe as well, so opted
for a bit thicker than may have been necessary.
Anyway, it's great to know that the anchor holding my boat
is sized appropriately (bigger is better!) and I know when I anchor
I'm not going anywhere.
Today I watched as a sailboat anchored near me dragged. When
he finally raised the bow anchor I was not happy. The anchor (a Danforth-type)
was tiny. I'd have considered it adequate for my dinghy Algae, but certainly not for
a real boat. This guy had laid two anchors and although
he has reset the tiny one he had forward I'm concerned. Having seen his bow anchor, I
can only imagine how small his stern anchor is.
If you anchor out do not think two small
anchors are adequate.
Buy one BIG anchor, and I recommend at least your boat length in chain.
That way, you'll stay put when the hook is
The one nice thing about the boat that dragged is that he is using an anchor light. That will be handy because when he drags again at
least I'll be able to see when he gets closer to Seaweed.
Have a great time on the water and make sure if you plan on
anchoring out that you allocate enough funds to buy good, oversized ground
tackle. Bigger is better so don't skimp on this very important aspect of
I'd love to hear of your anchoring experiences.
And, have you ever run aground? Please provide details! (anonymously is
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