Heeding Phillip’s shout for help, I scrambled out of the companionway hatch in my skivvies for a quick, chilly look-about, and he was right. We had definitely moved. The anchor light of the ‘nice and tight’ boat that had come up on us around sunset, which had once been inline with our cockpit, was now inline with our bow. Gulp. And, although it was dark, we could both make out the shoreline in the moonlight and it looked to be about ten feet closer than it had been when we had settled in for the night. Apparently, the 5:1 ratio we had dropped wasn’t enough.
You see the chart here where it says “too short – anchor may not hold.” They’re sugarcoating it. It should say, “you didn’t lay out enough rode, you dumbass – you’re screwed.” At least that’s how we felt. It was clear the boat was inching back toward the shore. We were going to have to pull the anchor up, motor forward and drop her back down. Snot was already freezing to my face, so I scrambled down below and started snatching every item of clothing I could find and throwing it on. I probably looked like a bag lady when I came up. I had on my long johns, Phillip’s t-shirt, leggings under pajama pants, a couple of scarves wrapped around my neck, a Christmas sweater, a tobaggan, my foul weather jacket and rain boots. But, I’m sure I made it look super sexy and smoking hot.
I refuse to believe I actually looked like this:
“Hey-haaay Cap’n! Let’s drop us an anchor!”
In the blistering cold, the black of night, we did it. We pulled the anchor up. Now, if you recall, Phillip has told me before that two of the most entertaining things you can watch a couple do are dock and anchor. Either is sure to be a catalyst for whatever tension might have been building between them during the trip. The process usually involves a lot of shouting, subtle (or not so subtle) insults and accusations and eventually name-calling. I am proud to say that Phillip and I have become pretty adept at it, and our process involves only hand-signals and code. Particularly after this trip, where we gained a good deal of anchor experience. Me, in particular, who works the bow. On our boat, we’ve got a windlass which pulls the anchor up by motor.
It’s a nice luxury to have since our rode is entirely chain, with the anchor alone weighing approximately thirty-five pounds. We also have a deck wash that hooks in at the bow and pulls in sea water to spray the mud off of the chain as the windlass hoists it up. From the first time he used it, Phillip always said “The deck wash is king!” And, while I agreed it was a handy little device to have when you’re pulling anchor, I wasn’t quite as enamored as he. Until, I had to learn the hard way (it seems that is the only way I truly learn) when the deck wash got clogged one time, and I had to hoist approximately 20-30 bucketfuls of seawater up to the bow to wash each link of that retarded chain off via bucket slosh, cursing it the entire time. Covered in sweat and my biceps and lower back screaming at me by the time I finished, I trudged back to the cockpit where Phillip made me reiterate it again. “The deck wash is king, right?”
Yes, the deck wash is king.
But, the only bad thing about the deck wash is that it sprays water everywhere. Particularly when the wind is howling and you’re spraying right into it, as we were that night. While my “bag lady” look was warm when dry, it was anything but when wet, and I got soaked. By the time we moved forward and re-dropped the anchor (100 feet plus this time, and nothing short of it!), I was frozen through. My fingers were barely functional and I couldn’t even feel my toes. I swore the next time we pulled anchor, I was busting out the Gorton’s fisherman outfit. Head to toe. And I did!
Misses Gorton ain’t got nothing on me! I rocked that number.
With our anchor secure, we woke the next morning to find the shore at a nice, safe distance.
With 100 feet+ out, and a clean swing radius, we felt good about the anchor and decided it was time to go toodling around in our dinghy to explore our anchorage. Now, while you all are familiar with our downtrodden dinghy that made it’s way back to us from the middle of the Gulf, while she was making that wayward trek, we had a very generous boat buddy, Bottom-Job Brandon, give us an inflatable dinghy we could use in the meantime. The thing is awesome. It packs down a little bigger than my stand-up paddleboard and fits nicely in the aft cabin on the boat for passage. Once we anchor, we break it out, put the floorboards in, air it up – and GO!!
Like Daffy Duck and the Abominable Snowman …
“I will love him and pet him and call him George.” And, for those of you with too much time on your hands – video HERE.
all summer long, Annie loved on the dinghy, rubbed on it, cleaned on it, fixed it up and made it her own.
We even got an outboard for her right before the November trip.
After some research and debate, we decided to go with a 3.5 horsepower, water-cooled Tohatsu. It weighs about 45 pounds and we lift it(by hand) from the dinghy up to a mounting board on the stern rail.
Outboards are not cheap and if dropped in the water, I’m sure they sink right to the bottom, either irretrievably so or, even if retrievable, they are likely forever ruined in the process regardless. So, you can just imagine our first nervous, wobbly-kneed hand-off from Phillip up at the stern, to me down bobbing in the dinghy. It was hairy and there were a lot of “You got it?” “You got it?” “You sure you got it?” ‘s that were exchanged back and forth – but thankfully we got her down safely and mounted firmly on the transom of the dinghy. I don’t think I’ve ever gripped anything so hard in my life. My knuckles were white and my fingers were gnarled tight around her. I was NOT going to be the one who dropped the engine. But, it’s now a fairly routine exchange and we manage it fairly easily, without all the nerves and tension. Still a death grip, though. The death grip is key.
With the sun just rising on our first morning of the trip, and our boat now securely anchored, Phillip hopped in the dinghy and fired her up for a morning ride.
We cruised on over to Fort McRae first and poked around. The fort is no longer standing, but there are some old barricade walls and tunnels to explore, and it does feel pretty empowering to stand up at the peak and look out onto the Gulf knowing this was one of three spots where massive barricades were erected so many years ago to protect Pensacola’s shores.
We then dinghy-ed back across the chilly waters to Sand Island to go exploring.
It really is gorgeous there. Pristine and untouched. We frolicked along without a care in the world. Like a goofy couple in a Kay Jeweler’s commercial. Hands clasped blissfully together, we skipped back to the dinghy and patted her gently as we nestled in. We both smiled warmly at the outboard and commented on how shiny and pretty she was and how well she was running that morning. How well she was running. She WAS running. Had been anyway. Phillip pulled the cord, had to have been 20 or 30 times, but she would not start. Refused to start, or even to try. That bitch! She had turned on us.
We sat in the dinghy looking out across the water at our boat, and I know what you’re probably all thinking. Stop your whining Nancy and row! Sure, we could row. Assuming the wind was light enough. But, we still had nine days to go on our trip and plenty of little inlets and places we wanted to explore — in our dinghy — and we bought an outboard for a reason. This was America dammit and we’d spent our hard-earned U.S. dollars on that foreign motor. I wasn’t having it. I shoved Phillip aside. Let me at her!