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Adventures in anchoring

Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
How was the swim?
It was refreshing but short ... taking a swim at sunset when very few people are in the water definitely gives me the willies. I saw a bait fish leaping thru the surf at one point and I was definitely coming out at that point. I don't care how often I swim in the surf, I always have it in the back of my mind (and sometimes the only thing) that I don't want to be a snack!

A couple hundred yards away, there was a group of maybe 5 or 6 in the surf. The water is pretty warm right now.
 
Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
justsomeguy suggested a tripline. I think that would have solved it.

Ken
With the way the anchor holds in this material and for as long as I was holding in a lot of wind, I was concerned that breakout would be very difficult. As it turns out, with the Claw anchor, I've never had a problem with breakout and this was no exception. I think @thinwater is right, the lever arm of the shank is very powerful. You only need to get above the anchor and it breaks out readily. My biggest problem by far was hauling the chain. So far, I've never had the same problem breaking out the Claw compared to how difficult it could frequently be with a fortress anchor that I used to have.
 
Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
Hey,

Were you able to pull the boat forward by hand? I know it's easier with someone driving the boat up to the anchor, but it shouldn't take that much power for you to just pull the boat forward and get the boat over the anchor. I don't have that much anchoring experience, and just about 0 solo anchoring. My 11,000lb C&C didn't have a windlass and I was always able to pull the boat up to the anchor and then pull the anchor up. This was with 20' of chain. If I needed a break I would cleat off the rode (line or anchor) and catch my breath.

As a last resort I would have rode aft to my primary winches.

Barry
I'm pretty strong and in this wind, there was not a chance that I could hold either the chain or the rode let alone haul it in without assist. I frequently haul it all in without the windlass even in a little breeze. Not this time. I knew even without testing that there was no possibility. It would have helped some if I thought about using gloves. My hands are also pretty rugged, I don't often bother with gloves, even though I should.
 
Apr 8, 2011
468
Hunter 36 Deale, MD
I'm pretty strong and in this wind, there was not a chance that I could hold either the chain or the rode let alone haul it in without assist. I frequently haul it all in without the windlass even in a little breeze. Not this time. I knew even without testing that there was no possibility. It would have helped some if I thought about using gloves. My hands are also pretty rugged, I don't often bother with gloves, even though I should.
Concur on this. I used to own a Catalina 27 without a windlass, and if the wind got to 10 kts or greater it got really tough to haul the boat forward with brute strength, singlehanding, particularly if the boat started sailing at anchor. Scott's boat is probably significantly heavier than my C27, so I get his point about 20 kts of wind being a REAL challenge to hand haul rode. I commend him for sharing the story. Makes me appreciate doubly my electric winch (and the occasional crew to bump the boat forward and take the strain off the rode).
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,726
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
Good story @Scott T-Bird been in similar situations myself.
I've been following this thread, and IMHO it contains a lot of questionable advice. No bravado needed, there are times when the force of wind will out-pull a human, and mechanical advantage (and/or patience) is necessary. Add nearby boats, and it adds risk of entanglement or crunching fiberglass. Waiting for calmer conditions is the safest bet if the boat isn't set up for singlehanding (power winch with control switch at helm).
Sue should understand that it's more important to be safe than to keep a schedule. If it were me, the take-away would be to add a helm switch for the windlass.
 
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Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
  • Autopilot does not generally help (my last boat was a 34-foot cat). You are going too slow and the tension of the rode will keep her pointed up.
  • Try less throttle. Not enough to move the boat forward, only enough to reduce the tension to a manageable level. Then the boat will stay straight and fall off more slowly when the anchor breaks out.
  • A chain pawl might help.Chain Stopper
  • Alternatively, sit down to haul, so that you are better braced and can cleat more quickly. Work out the cleating before you start hauling.
I agree, the autopilot was no help. Powering up enough to stay on course would have made the situation completely uncontrollable (I think - I'd have to see firsthand how it's done if that's not the case). Slower and the wind would take the bow back and forth across the wind regardless and otto had no control.

I did realize that I couldn't power up enough to create slack. I could only use a little power to lessen the load. That's how I quickly got the rode under control with windlass assist. But when the chain was coming up the windlass was no good. I have a cleat at the back of the locker. When anchoring, obviously, the chain is all out and I am cleating the rode. I didn't realize it until this episode, but there are 2 sections of chain connected by shackle. The upper 15' must be a heavier chain than the lower section. Maybe this isn't such a good idea, but that's how the P.O. set it up. When all of the chain is in the locker and the anchor is on the roller, I can hook two chain links on the horns of the cleat and that is how I store it when sailing to make sure it doesn't slip off the roller. I could only haul in 10' of chain and the links in the heavier section would not hook into the horns. It took me awhile to realize this problem. I tried multiple times to hook the chain as I was accustomed to doing. I could not understand why it didn't fit until I realized there must be a different link opening. I finally managed to find a way to wrap the chain on the cleat so it couldn't slip (it wasn't easy!). After I got that right, I only had to haul in another 10' and I was free.

If I had a snubber to hook the chain to the cleat, I think I could have done the whole job in 15 minutes and without so much stress. The problem was with boat control and cleating. The boat was constantly hunting across the wind. On every cycle, I had a few seconds when I could haul in chain. But without being able to secure it, I lost the chain every time the bow crossed the wind and put a huge load on the boat. In a few seconds, I could haul in 10' and that was it. It only took 2 cycles once I secured it. Yes, the cleating was what needed to be worked out and now I know.

I think the chain stopper could be a good solution, especially if I am going to experiment in higher winds. I also think that ultimately, a windlass with a combination gypsy and remote control operation may be the best way to go, but I would not be thrilled with the expense for limited usage! The newer Cat 320's have a combo gypsy. I didn't really like the way it projected vertically out of the deck in the back of the locker. My gypsy resides below the cover of the anchor locker and it is mounted horizontally. But I guess that they made this change specifically for this reason. I'm guessing that it might be a pretty expensive and complicated conversion. I'd put some serious thought into this option if I thought that anchoring solo in high wind could be occurring more often!

Well, the other problem was the confined space I had with shallow water and other boats as they showed up and filled space. I could plan better on that end of it. :huh:
 
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Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
pick up the mic on the VHF radio, call the sheriff, ask for assistance, have one of them board your boat and drive you up to your anchor, done. easy peezee. that is why they are there. that is why you have a radio. :cool:
I think you're right about that ... I'm usually too shy to ask for help and I figured that they were focused on all the activity. I've been acquainted with the State Police on the water and found them to be exceptional. They certainly had enough boats in the water covering this scene. As it turns out (I wasn't aware at the time), this was the annual Floats & Boats weekend and if you go to the Tices Shoal homepage on FaceBook, there is a lot of coverage. Most prominently is the praise for law enforcement providing friendliness and ensuring safety. They were greatly appreciated by all.

oops, there is a separate page for Floats and Boats
 
May 25, 2012
3,844
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
scott, i believe most yachties are shy about calling the sheriff, the CG, the DNR, the bridge, the passing tug, the oncoming ship..... one should get used to it. use the tools available so to speak.
it's good to practice these skills

i like your honesty about being shy. ;)
 
Jun 25, 2004
288
Hunter 306 Pasadena MD
I pull up the anchor solo much of the time (whether I'm solo or not), and we don't have a windlass. My boat is also 2 feet shorter. But I have to say, I think it would be really tough in 20 knots of wind. If I can hold it with one hand, it's easy to throw the lazy side on the cleat to rest a bit. I guess I'd be careful to anchor in a really well protected cove where it would be rare to see 20 kts, and not in a place that's party-boat central. If I keep anchoring solo often enough, what happened to you is bound to happen to me too!

As far as breaking out: as someone just said, when the anchor chain is near vertical, you can either use a bit of patience and let the motion of the bow break it out, or just motor slowly ahead for a bit. Once it's broken out, haul it up a bit more to just under the surface and motor really slowly to get rid of some of the mud before finishing the job on autopilot.
 
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Oct 26, 2008
5,020
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
As far as breaking out: as someone just said, when the anchor chain is near vertical, you can either use a bit of patience and let the motion of the bow break it out, or just motor slowly ahead for a bit. Once it's broken out, haul it up a bit more to just under the surface and motor really slowly to get rid of some of the mud before finishing the job on autopilot.
In that regard, I'm very happy with my Lewmar Claw. It has held perfectly for me in every situation and it breaks out very readily as soon as I'm over the anchor. I think @thinwater is right about the effectiveness of the shank. It is a powerful lever arm.
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,958
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
What's anchor lock? I could guess, but I don't see anything when I google it.
Lock is when it's down and secure, i.e., holding. Once you start to get above it and the chain is vertical enough, it pulls the shank up and begins to and then releases the flukes from what there were holding onto. They've written books about anchoring..

Scotty, I agree with Jay's #31 in that in those conditions even Greg the Gorilla wouldn't have been able to pull against that wind, in any boat. I couldn't have done it in my Catalina 22 in 1983! :)

You should also consider finding a better place than a cleat to tie off your chain. Like suggested, a chain grabber and holder. And fix that shackle on the chain, windlass or not. You only need 1/4" most 5/16" for your boat.

Good topic for discussion. Listen to thinwater, too, a man of much experience who I have learned a lot from.
 

Ward H

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Nov 7, 2011
3,129
Catalina 30 Mk II Barnegat, NJ
All the powerboats were out in force on Saturday, which was probably the nicest weekend since early June, maybe even since May. The humidity was finally below 50%, temp mid 80s and sunshine with steady winds around 8-10 out of the east. Instead of dropping around dusk as usual, the winds moved to the south and built a bit. We passed @Scott T-Bird on the water as he headed north to Tices and we were headed back in. I remember thinking he picked a great night to anchor. As he has already said, most of the boats leave for home around dusk.
With the nice weather, east winds (perfect for Tices) and being it was Floats and Boats Weekend, probably more anchored out overnight than normal.

I missed the forecast for the stronger winds on Sunday until a slip mate told me late Saturday evening his ferry boat job was canceled for Sunday due to the wind forecast. That is when I texted the forecast to Scott but that was probably about the time he was enjoying his swim.

That event at Tices draws boats numbering in the thousands. The state police and CG have to mark out a special "channel" to enter the area to ensure a safe way in and out. I always avoid the chaos and I'm can only imagine how many pandemic fueled new boat owners, with little experience, converged on the area.

Actually, we found ourselves in a similar situation, without the shallow water and large number of boaters, on the Monday of the 4th weekend.
We went out late morning before the winds came up. We anchored for a late lunch and an afternoon nap in winds about 15. No big deal. When we woke the winds were 20 with stronger gusts instead of dropping off around dusk as normal and the forecast now showed they would continue to build.
While I had help at the helm, they were inexperienced at keeping the boat into the wind and countering the swing of the boat. Using hand signals, we powered forward when straight into the wind and I pulled in the slack rode. When the wind pushed us off to the side, I had to wait until we were once again were bow into the wind. Then we moved forward again, I pulled in the slack and stopped while the wind pushed us to the other side.
When we got to the chain portion of the rode, it was much tougher to quickly lock the chain as the boat swung and several times the chain got way from me and I had to start over again pulling in whatever slack I could gain. There was no way I could pull the boat forward by muscle alone, which is what I normally do when anchors in light winds.

It was a learning experience and now I'm considering the chain stopper @dlochner mentioned in an earlier post, as well as several of the other options mentioned.

Glad Scott posted this.
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,958
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
There was no way I could pull the boat forward by muscle alone, which is what I normally do when anchors in light winds.
Good point.
As the chain get vertical, it comes harder to pull, 'cuz you're not going too much forward and just pulling up. Good old high school trig. :)
 
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Jul 1, 2010
870
Seaward 25, Catalina 350 Erie, Pa
I hate anchorages like that. That aside, since windlasses aren't usually suggested to take the load of the anchor, I'd use a couple of chain hooks on snubbers. One short one to hold the chain you recovered to a bow cleat. A longer one to go back to a winch?? To recover the chain. Pull in chain, hold it, then repeat.
 
Jul 27, 2011
4,530
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
The last time I had to recover anchor chain manually, several years ago when the windlass froze up, I used a pair of chain hooks, each on a 25’ foot length of 3-strand nylon. I think I used a double sheet bend to lengthen them so I could hook the chain at the bow roller then lead the rope to the cockpit winch and winch up the chain as far as I could, then attach the second hook at the roller and winch that section up, etc. Kind of like “hand over hand.” It was deep water so I had a lot of chain out, unlike your situation. Also, someone at the helm.

I don’t know if your windlass is like a capstan where you must keep tension on the rope to pull but if so, and you are going to do much single handing at anchor, you might consider a rope/chain windlass that can hold the chain and rope, plus that can be operated using a cockpit remote. Problem solved!
 
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Oct 22, 2014
16,124
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
First, congrats for taking your boat out and bringing here home safely. Solo first experiences are always an opportunity of enjoyment, discovery, lessons in seamanship.

A lot of good information here to filter through. Ideas that you can put in your bag and consider to bring out and apply on your next adventure. Only way to become efficient at these tasks is to try and accomplish them. Keep doing just that.

First thing in my observations:
You were not prepared with weather information. VHF channels WX1 thru WX4 are usually designated on your radio.
NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) Frequencies Seven Frequencies in the VHF Public Service Band
162.400 MHz162.500 MHz
162.425 MHz162.525 MHz
162.450 MHz 162.550 MHz
162.475 MHz
Note: Channel numbers, e.g., WX1, WX2, etc. have no special significance but are often designated this way in consumer equipment. Other channel numbering schemes are also possible.




They are there to give you insight. How you elect too use that info is up to you.


I think @thinwater is right about the effectiveness of the shank. It is a powerful lever arm.
You stated this several times and I think you are spot on. You want to get the anchor to break free of the muck. Position the boat's bow over the anchor and let it bounce a bit in the sea motion. Snug the anchor up a little at a time as tension reduces.

Pulling the chain, if you have the strength, is all about pulling the slack or using a mechanical system to multiply your strength. You have used the horn of a cleat, but that is wrought with risk if the chain is under strain and you are struggling on the bow. I like the idea Stu shared. Tie a rolling hitch about the chain. Run the line to your gypsy, haul up, use the chain lock (i.e Dolchner) and then retie the line to repeat the haul in.

If you break free, you can haul the dragging anchor to the cockpit as you move back to the helm. Cleat the anchor off and then move to a safe place to finish retrieving the anchor.

Of note, Stu has a story about dragging a fouled anchor in the ocean some 30 miles sailing under the Golden Gate bridge.​

You have a great write up in your thread, with a lot of info. Keep Solo sailing. Keep Sue happy. Listen occasional to @Ward H.