Anchor Watch!

By | September 25, 2015

I’ve mentioned many times “it’s all about the weather”, but the temperature really hasn’t changed for weeks, usually around 25-28 degrees (sorry you Melbournians), so it’s really all about the wind.

When we visited the Whitsunday’s the first time way back in ’87 we had little help and little knowledge.  We were in our twenties and we were either brave or dumb I suppose. We didn’t have chain on our anchor and we didn’t even have a depth sounder. Maybe we didn’t realise there was coral down there?!  We followed our ‘new’ friends around because they had a depth sounder. No refrigeration, freezer, shower or electric toilet, not even a separate toilet (our friends didn’t really like using our porta potti next to our bed) and we rowed to shore (that didn’t last long, bought a dinghy outboard fairly quickly). But we did have fun.

How times have changed.

We now have a depth sounder and we have 65 metres of chain … and a chain counter (we used to paint the links in the chain at depth intervals to give us some idea of how much chain we had put out).

We have electronic charts with AIS (Automatic Identification System) – this is how you follow us on our “Track Us” link.  We have electronic tide charts, Navionics charts on our iPad and an app called ‘Anchor Watch’ on our iPad.  A nifty little app referred to us by Easy Tiger.

Anchor Watch is an app where we ‘mark’ our anchor location. We can also add a distance radius around the anchor. So if our boat moves outside that radius an alarm goes off.

Technology on boats has made sailing so much easier … but we still don’t always get it right!

One of the tricky things about tidal waters is allowing for the tidal range. We have dropped anchor in areas with up to 3.5 tidal range (this is nothing compared to the massive tides further north).

So what this means … when we enter an anchorage we discuss the current tide, low and high tide times, the fringing reefs to avoid, the depth and what extra chain we need to allow for the high tide when we set the anchor. Our ‘bible’ 100 Magic Miles includes a section on ‘how to anchor’ in these waters and suggests allowing three times the depth of chain. On Bossa Nova we set our anchor four times the depth.

So where is this leading?  You’ve probably guessed. We dragged our anchor last night. Actually, more specifically, at 4am this morning.

We entered Cid Harbour in calm conditions, followed all our ‘rules’, and anchored without a fuss.  Along with many other boats. We had even read the forecast.  It was to blow 20 knots at 4 am. And it did.

The forecasts up here are very accurate. We use Met Eye (BOM) and for local info, Willy Weather. It’s always annoying when we can’t get phone reception.

The wind blew, loud long gusts of wind – we call them bullets. Banging ropes, flapping towels, creaks and groans, all loud. The cap’n was up (only one elbow jab needed). The crew soon followed (we have friends Andree  and Steve on board). Jocks and nighties all on show. A quick peruse of the scene established that there were still many masthead lights bobbing around us while the wind howled but also a boat behind us looking slightly bigger than when we anchored, hence quite a deal closer.

It’s always a bit unsettling moving anchor in the middle of the night. And when your anchor decides to free-wheel the chain out right to the end of the 65 metres (lucky it was attached), things are a bit more frantic. But anchor was set and back to bed. Well, apart from our captain who stayed on ‘watch’ and enjoyed his cup-of-soup in the early hours.

Lesson learnt … not really … shit happens!