Tai Chi in Heywood

This may not be what you think from the title. No cross dressing, music, drinks, fun. But lots of action at this drag party. Anchor dragging, I mean. Fortunately not ours!

We came to Heywood Island two days ago to hunker down here from the strong winds predicted. We anchored in the more protected east end, down a narrow channel, only one other boat, a power catamaran anchored deep in the cove in the shallows. The next morning several other sailboats joined us seeking protection.  One anchored a little close for comfort in front of us. We watched our relative positions warily from the cockpit as the wind increased. A newer 50’ Jenneau anchored to the side and a couple of more seasoned cruisers anchored a little further away.

Steve not looking too happy – and I am about to play all 7 letters!

By mid-afternoon the wind was 20 knots, gusting to 25, the rain coming down in sheets. Having “worked” at various projects in the morning, we played scrabble and drank tea in the cockpit. (Aside: Those who know us well will understand the degree of alacrity with which I took Steve up on his very rare offer to play Scrabble with me rather than cribbage. Sadly I had good tiles and played 3 bingos – one on a triple word – essentially sabotaging any future offers to play again).

That is when the action started. Coming up the companionway with cups of tea we noticed the Jenneau bearing down on the ketch Whisper, with no-one above decks. Just as Steve scrambled into his foulies to get into the dinghy to alert them than their anchor was dragging, they came up on deck, started their engine just before colliding with Whisper, and reset their anchor.

A little later the Hunter in front of us started dragging, aiming for our bow. Steve scrambled again, I shouted out, and the boat behind us blew his air horn. The couple on the Hunter scrambled, and re-anchored a couple of times, finally setting – at Steve’s request – a little further from us. Meanwhile we laid out more rode – already generous and all chain, we dropped out more. Even then, not complacent about our own position, and definitely a little nervous about those around us, we watched carefully as the light faded and the storm intensified. We felt badly for those whose anchors had dragged as they likely had a worse night than we did. It was lucky in retrospect that we got all the dragging over and done with and anchors re-set before dark.

Steve set our searchlight out in the cockpit and made sure it worked. He set an alarm and got up every couple of hours to check on things until the wind calmed down. Yes, a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money. But if you are a cruising sailboat there are some things you don’t regret spending money on. One is good ground tackle. Our heavy Spade anchor didn’t move an inch even as the boat swung and bobbed and the wind changed directions. We are confident enough to sleep at night, but not enough to be complacent in storms. We mark our position and watch carefully. Keeners, yes, but safe ones for now! It could have easily been us.

We witnessed a more major issue as we left the Sault. A large freighter had somehow ended up on the wrong side of a barrier of buoys and shallows above the rapids in the St. Mary’s River on the approach to the Sault. A helicopter hovered nearby and the coastguard and a crane boat were helping out. Not sure how it got there….whether its anchor dragged or…? Yikes.

This morning in the calm between the storms there was another shuffle. Boats leaving for more protected anchorages or ones with clay as opposed to mud bottoms (probably more crowded too) and others coming in from less protected places. The two boats that dragged left for parties elsewhere! We have stayed put and feel OK about the 25 knot westerlies forecast for this evening. I look forward to the next sunny day, while planning our winter-here summer-there getaway in South Africa!