Thursday, February 23, 2006

Anchoring Philosophy

Bernard Moitessier entered a non-stop round-the-world sail race, and enjoyed it so much he decided to keep going halfway around again, rather than return to England to cross the finish line. But no one, not even Moitessier, can sail forever. Eventually, they say, you must anchor, if only to bring on a fresh supply of coconuts.

Every aspect of anchoring is full of danger and compromise. It involves answering a series of questions, all of which demand woeful trade-offs. It’s tempting, for example, to drop anchor very close to shore, where you can use a short anchor line and your boat will stay within a small circle. But if the wind shifts, you’ll wind up on the beach, or the rocks. So it’s equally tempting to stay way out in reassuringly deep water—but there you’ll need vastly more line, and your boat will swing in a huge circle, and it’s hard to predict what you might hit.

Probably, other people are already anchored ahead of you. If so, they own the territory inside whatever size circle their boats are going to make. You can park your boat inside that circle—so long as you’re pretty sure you’re going to swing out of the neighbor’s way when the wind changes. But if in the middle of the night your neighbor’s boat is bashing yours into splinters, it’s your responsibility. So, it’s tempting to keep your boat on a short tether—but then you increase the likelihood of your anchor pulling out altogether, and your boat drifting into your neighbors, bashing it into splinters—which, again, would be your fault.

You can make other choices. You can decide to put out chain, instead of rope. Chain is much heavier, and a shorter piece will provide same protection as a longer piece of rope. But only up to certain amount of wind. After that, the chain will draw tight, and provide no shock absorption. As the wind gusts, the boat jerks mercilessly on the chain, the chain jerks mercilessly on the anchor, and eventually badness happens. Rope is relatively stretchy and prevents this problem, but can be shredded overnight by coral or rocks. Or neighbors.

Overall, glancing at a crowded anchorage through the binoculars, the greatest temptation is to turn seaward and subsist off ship’s crackers for another night.


Anonymous Johanna said...

I like this entry very much. Thank you.

2/24/06, 9:02 PM  

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