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The Big Wind

Last weekend we had a big Norther come through. Every once and a while these systems form in the sea and send big gusts heading south from the cooler temperatures of the north. This one was a particularly big blow with 40 mph winds being clocked in various parts of the anchorage and one reported gust of 50 mph.

la paz sunset_KQ9C0008-Edit_140402The result of this was a lot of drama and at least two sunk boats.

As the wind started to pick up in the morning we were sandwiched between two big ketches of the CT of Formasa type. They were dragging almost immediately, so much so that I was constantly checking our anchor alarm to make sure it wasn’t me. We had set our anchor really well following our simple rules.

  1. Only drop a 1:2 scope at first, then slowly let out more chain till you get in the 3:1 region. We try to make sure that our chain is laid out nicely and not just dumped in a big pile on the bottom.
  2. At 3:1 we we hang out for a bit and see if we are holding. If so, we put a little engine on it to really set the hook.
  3. let out more chain till we get to 5:1 or 7:1 and then give it a really good hit in reverse. We figure if it holds at 2000 rpm for as long as we give it to her we will be good.

Anyway, as the winds were picking up, our methods proved themselves. Too bad we couldn’t anchor the boats around us though….

la paz sunset_KQ9C0025-Edit_140402

As we watched the drag race going on on either side of us, I started to get a little worried. One boat had tried to deploy two anchors, but after swinging in the current for a day or two, the chains were completely wound up. They wouldn’t hold and, worse still, they couldn’t retrieve them onto the bow rollers.

At the time we weren’t sure why the other boat was dragging, but he was moving back quickly through the water and nearly collided with the boat behind him twice. Both times he would power up the engine and drag his anchors forward. He was singlehanded, so I guess he couldn’t get up the anchors, move, and then reset by himself. The boat with the twisted anchors was taking the same approach: powering his engines, dragging his anchors beneath the boat and hoping for the best.

All of this was terrifying enough to watch, until they both started coming  to a point straight upwind of us and very nearly had a high speed collision into each other. It was apparent to me that if they didn’t take out each other, they were both going to drag directly back into Silent Sun. So, in 35 mph winds, I went forward and started hauling in the anchor while Jess expertly kept up with me on the throttle and steering. We had worked out hand signals ahead of time because there was no way to hear each other over the wind.

I think this sort of point is when many couples start screaming at each other, but Jess and I were having too much fun. It felt like adventure, and thankfully we were both confident enough in our efforts to just see it as a well executed escape.

In the end, we found a bit of breathing room, reset our anchor, dropped an anchor locker worth of chain out and then went back to bed. The whole storm lasted maybe 12 to 15 hours with the worst of it lasting about 5. Jess and I both got a little seasick on anchor!

Almost everybody fared well. Three boats ended up on the beach. Only one was rescued (by our friend Brian from Ayla May). The other two sank and those were both in my little section of the bay. It was a hell of an exciting day and satisfying in that we are both confident in our anchoring and ability to work well together in a high stress situation like that.

Comments (6)

  1. Elaine

    Yikes! I’m so glad you’re both ok and impressed by your ability (technically and emotionally) to function as a team under pressure. Loving the updates and the video projects. Xoxo!

  2. Nancy

    You’re all three a bunch of “salty balls.” Glad everything worked out for you. Bruce watches a show called “Wicked Tuna” and some of those characters turn into screeching screamers when they find themselves under pressure. You could teach them a thing or two about chilling out and riding the waves. It is scary during a storm on the sea, true enough.

  3. Helen Sink

    Hi Jess and Chris – you guys are amazing with your skills and sense of adventure. I got your blog update from Charlie, but would you please add me to your distribution list? Thanks! Helen Sink helen.sink@att.net

  4. Kristine

    So glad that you made it through this safely and SO admire your awesome teamwork! Keep it up, you two! Love it!!


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