|~ Brown Pelican ~ | Scope and Weight
“Excuse me – but I think you may be anchored
a little bit too close to us.” Don and I were returning to Re Metau after a night on shore, when
we found the distance between us and a newly arrived catamaran to be just slightly wider than
I extended some pleasantries; where are you from, how long have you been cruising,
etc. to soften the blow of our abrupt accusations. We went on to explain that, unlike other
anchorages, Key West Harbor had a wickedly whirling current that often caused the boats to swing in arbitrary
directions. The cat crew lamented that the Navy had just made them move from their previous site, declaring
the restricted area to be 500’ from shore.
“We pointed out all the
other boats anchored further in” the skipper asserted, “but they claimed they weren’t
able to move those boats because they could never catch their owners on board.”
I felt bad for these displaced travelers, but not bad enough to ignore the potential danger to
Re Metau. We updated them on the latest weather report – strong winds coming out of the north by
nightfall. They promised to be diligent in their watch, and offered to reduce their scope should any more concern present itself. We started to share our divergence with this tactic, but felt
we’d badgered these people enough, so extended a welcome and went on our way.
|~ Re Metau's Bowsprit ~ |
To the uninitiated,
the weight of the anchor holds the boat in place, and the flukes help it dig in. The slightly more educated seem willing
to provide an opinion about which design works best, indicating their belief that shape alone determines the
anchors ability to perform. But this is only a small portion of the overall system. The missing link to this nautical
knowledge seems to be scope, and even more absent is the need to have an appropriate amount of horizontal pull,
provided by the weight of a chain lead or sentinel. Applying an appropriate scope-weight combination causes
the anchor to dig in. Without it, windy swaying or wavy heaving will likely lift any type of anchor up. Thus concludes
the ground tackle lecture.
At 2:00 AM, Don and I were abruptly wakened by a ‘SKEERUNCH’’.
The now infamous early morning utterance of ‘What was THAT?’ escaped my lips. The second, more distinctive ‘SKEEE-RUNCHHH’ confirmed the sound was real,
and sent us scrambling for our skivvies.
Up on deck, we discovered the catamaran impaled on our bowsprit.
The skipper was frantically trying to retrieve their liberated anchor while his wife took over the
helm. I looked down from the bow and discovered their port hull was firmly wedged between our anchor rode and snubber line.
“I’ll have to remove the snubber line to free you, but once you’re freed, you
will have to put it in forward so you don’t blow into us!” I shouted over the din of the wind, engine,
and panic. I had intended to just loosen the line and let them slip out, but the skipper pulled it from my hands,
ran it out from under the hull and tossed it in my general direction.
Previously, we’d had
some difficulty with our snubber line staying attached to the rode. Don had just spent a fair amount of money
and time installing new swivel shackles to rectify the situation. Regrettably, I watched it all sink under the
surface. We tried in vain to fish it out with the boat hook, but it disappeared beyond our reach.
With little hope, Don began cranking up the rode to find the snubber line miraculously still hooked to the chain.
Crisis and costly replacements averted!
Once our vessel’s ground tackle was put to rights, we
turned our attention to the catamaran, still adrift and trying to set an anchor in 25 knot winds. They
had a very close call with a channel marker affixed to a firmly planted steel beam, a treacherous rocky seawall,
and another moored vessel. Don considered joining the rescue party of dinghies that began to form, but before
he could launch our inflatable the catamaran began motoring out of site up the channel and the tenders turned
back to protect their own vessels.
The following morning, the considerate crew of the catamaran
stopped by to apologize and recompense for any damages we’d incurred. Luckily, neither one of us had
even a scratch. The skipper admitted to shortening his scope upon seeing our 10 ton vessel swing around
toward his lightweight craft the night before. “I guess that wasn’t a very good idea” he confessed.
|~ Diana Sitting in the Cockpit ~ |We all make mistakes
and it is far more embarrassing when there are witnesses to them. I won’t profess to be a more skilled mariner than
this humbled captain; rather I respect his willingness to own up to his actions. The scope of knowledge to be a sailor is
voluminous, and the weight of responsibility to ensure the safety of your crew and vessel is immeasurable. But should anyone
want to know, the scope of anchor rode for deep water on a windy night is 8 to 1, and the weight needed to keep your anchor down can be provided by 5/16” chain no less than the 20’ long.