We're anchoring a lot these days, since we're coastal cruising as opposed to sailing ocean passages. Patagonia is full of beautiful coves, protected from waves if not violent wind gusts. Similar to our home waters of the Pacific Northwest, glaciers have carved out a wonderful variety of nooks and crannies perfect for sheltering mariners. A boat could spend years exploring this area and never stay in the same cove twice.
Most mornings, weather permitting, we pull the anchor and head out. Depending on conditions, we go a long way or not – usually there is another anchorage available very close by. At this latitude the days are long, so we are never tempted to try to enter an anchorage at night. This is good because the charts are not complete so the sailor must rely on “eyeball” navigation. We rely also on the “Italian Guide” officially known as "Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide" by Mariolina Rolfo and Guiseppe Adrizzi. The Italian's sketches are quite accurate and give much more information than the official charts. This guide is really nice work, almost a coffee table book with photos, history, and advice of all sorts. It is so universally used by the sailors in this area that during the radio net reports on the “Patagonia Net”each boat calls in position by the book number, i.e. “anchorage 8.10” rather than “Bahia Borja.” We met the authors on their boat Saudade III when we were in Ushuaia.
Many of the sketches in the "Italian Guide" suggest that skippers run out shore lines as well as anchor. Some boats carry spools of line enhancing the “high latitude” look, a fashion statement sort of like huge wheels and banks of lights on a 4x4 truck.
On Marcy, we use a simpler and less expensive system. We flake our shore lines on deck, lashing them to the stanchions. We have two polypropelyne lines (floaters) and two nylon anchor lines (sinkers) that can be used if needed. As we gain experience, we are using shore lines less and less. It's a lot of work to launch the dinghy and run out multiple shore lines for an overnight. Perhaps if a long stay of days or weeks was anticipated it would make sense, but we find that the holding is usually good and swinging to the hook is comfortable and safe. And leaving in the morning is certainly easier!
We anchor carefully. There are wonderful big luxuriant healthy kelp patches in many of the anchorages here - we remember when Puget Sound had kelp (and fish!) so we try not to uproot any. We carry a machete to clear the chain of loose floating kelp mats that sometimes drift down, but we don't hack at attached kelp. We never “set the hook” with reverse motoring. This wrong headed practice doesn't make a bit of sense, because dragging the anchor plows the bottom ripping up grass, kelp, and anything else. Besides, the anchor needs time to settle in, especially in grass. Dragging the anchor around under power does nothing for security, and makes the hook likely to encounter a rock or debris to foul and jam. And what good is it to choose a precise spot to anchor in and then motor around in reverse all over the bay? We've seen some remarkable performances.
We also set scope carefully, the ratio of rode set to water depth, so that there isn't an excess of chain lying on the bottom. As our friend Darrell on "Wiz" pointed out to us a long time ago, chain on the bottom isn't really doing much good for holding. And in this environment, dragging chain across fragile grass isn't doing any good for the flora. So we usually set a three to one scope, unless it's blowing a gale with waves, in which case we run out a bit more chain until it doesn't snub with violence anymore. Using too much scope is also sort of antisocial because the boat charges all over the anchorage (especially with rope rode) making it difficult for the next guy to figure out where to anchor.
Our day to day anchoring equipment has proved to work well in all sorts of different conditions. We carry 300 feet of 3/8”chain on a 66 pound Bruce on the bow. Only once (on an open roadstead in South Africa) have we wished for a longer chain, and then it was easy enough to add a rope rode on the end of the chain. In most anchorages we use less than half of the chain, which is marked with paint and bits of spinnaker cloth in a code indicating length. We have a little 35 pound Danforth that we often use with rope rode for a stern anchor or a second anchor on the bow to prevent swinging to gusts.
Sometimes on long passages we store the anchor down below – to remove weight from the bow for better sailing and to plug the hole in the deck that the chain goes through for better watertightness.
Ginger does most of the anchor work on the foredeck. She knows how dangerous chain and rope under load can be, and works very, very carefully. We've encountered several sailors with injuries caused by anchoring equipment and don't want to have any incidents onboard Marcy.
So far, knock on wood, our record is very good - no real injuries (a bruise and a sprain or two) and no real dragging (a couple of feet here and there.)
Labels: 2010 - 01-04 Chile