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2011 - Bahamas
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2009-2011 - Florida Keys
Conch Life
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Conch Life
The Florida Keys
2009 – 2011
Brown Pelican
~ Brown Pelican ~
Anchored Off Fleming Key
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 our dinghy.

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."

Our Bowsprit
~ Our Bowsprit ~

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 scopeScope is the length of anchor line relative to the distance from the boat deck to the sea bottom. 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.

Lessons in Anchoring
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.

Shish-Kebabed!
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 rodeRode refers to the line that attaches the anchor to the vessel. and snubberThe snubber line is used to reduce the shock load on the anchor rode, especially on all chain rodes..

"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.

Key West Anchorage
~ Key West Anchorage ~
Poseidon Snubs the Snubber Line
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.

Rooted Don
~ Rooted Don ~
Abashed for the Bashing
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.

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.