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Cortez Bay, Cortez Island, British Columbia

Dec 25, 2000
Hunter Passage 42 Shelter Bay, WA
A few years ago during one of our two month cruises into BC, our flotilla consisting of Bob's Cal T2 Mariposa, John's Freedom 32 Freihet II, Colin's 34 Pacific Seacraft Wassail and our boat Belle-Vie were doing a circumnavigation of Cortez Island just for kicks. Cortez Bay is a notoriously poor anchorage consisting of a thin layer of mud over hard shale, but we made it one of our stopping points along the way.

Cortez Bay is good sized with water in the 20-25 feet range. The north side has a good sized dock for a Royal Vancouver Yacht Club out station and the south side the beginnings of a Seattle Yacht Club out station. We arrived in a gusty blow that remained throughout the night. We all set our anchors and headed over to Colin's boat, each in our dinghy, to begin the flotilla's skippers night ritual...beer, wine, finger food followed by a dinner. We usually rotated between boats each night.

We were just settling into our after sail frivolity, when I poked my head up to do a boat check for the third time. Gusts were coming pretty hard and I just wanted to make sure Belle-Vie was holding. Well, she must have decided that it was time to pay the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club out station a visit. She must have been drawn to all of the boats gathered there for a rendezvous.

When I poked my head up this time she was doing maybe a half knot. So much for a good set. I made a mad dash for the dinghy and rowed like crazy the 200 feet over to Belle-Vie, made it aboard and managed to get the engine going as we were coming upon the other boats. Whew! Just in time before things got really serious.

This time I went further out in the bay, put what I felt was a good set on the anchor, then decided to stay on board for the night. I let out about 250 feet of rode, which should have been plenty, under the circumstances. Well the next morning the Bay was quiet, but in checking my landmarks determined that Belle-Vie had moved maybe 100 feet during the night. Our Danforth just would not bite into that hard shale. No harm no foul.

Normally, in a blow the Danforth will dig deeper into the bottom, to the point that when it came time to bring it up the windlass will grind to a stop. Then I have to take another pull or two before it breaks loose. Even in a wind or tide shift it will reset itself. Just never had an issue before like this.

As our flotilla was making preparations to get under way, Bob over on Mariposa was having some trouble getting his fifteen pound Danforth up. He was getting ready to cut her loose when I offered to take his rode and let Belle-Vie give it a pull. I first tried it in reverse, but no luck. His anchor was set hard into something. So I turned Belle-Vie forward, secured his rode to a stern cleat with some slack, then motored forward.

Belle-Vie displaces 35,000 pounds and she was moving forward at maybe a knot. For a moment I thought his anchor rode was going to snap, for it was as taut as a piano string, then pop, his anchor dislodged. We still do not know what it was dug into; a log, a rock, shale.

In all the years of anchoring hundreds of times all over PNW waters that was the first and only time the 40 pound Danforth with a 20 pound kellet would not hold. I have made a few changes to our anchoring system, but still like the Danforth with the kellet. These changes include more chain and rope just in case we need it.
Jan 8, 2020
brentswain 31 31 twin keeler Easystreet Heriot Bay BC
I have had no problem holding there, but it is a blow hole in SE gales. I'd go to Refuge Cove or Squirrel Cove, if a strong SE was forecast.