Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rock and roll

We are anchored again in Long Island Sound, north of the village of Southold (map) and just east of the Horton Point Light (shown above).  Somewhere on the bluffs above us overlooking the sound is the summer cottage that belongs to the family of our good friends from California, and we chose to anchor here so we can just dinghy over to the beach and climb the long set of stairs to the cottage.

We'd have a lot more protection if we ran another 20 miles around this peninsula, past Orient and through Gardiners Bay to drop the hook northwest of Shelter Island.  That's just two miles from here as the crow flies, but we'd need to then find a place to land the dinghy, where we could also leave it all day long, and our friends would have to schlep us back and forth.  There are some marinas a 20-minute drive from here, in Greenport, where we could drop the scooters, but prices start at $3 per foot and go up, and $160 a night or more is more than we wanted to spend for a visit.

When we arrived Monday evening after a nice cruise from Port Jeff, most of which was one straight 30-nm stretch, this cove was calm and it was like anchoring on a lake.  In fact, part of the reason we wanted to get here Monday, not just one but two full days before our friends, was that we knew conditions would be calm then and we could take our time scoping out the anchorage, which is bordered by a rocky shore to the south, dangerous rocks to the east and west, a dangerous wreck to the northwest, and deep water with a hard bottom (where the anchor would not set) to the north.  It did take us two tries to get the anchor to set properly, but were were right where we wanted to be, at least 600' from the hazards in any direction.

We knew the calm would not last and that, actually, a storm system would pass through yesterday that would rile things up a bit.  No problem, we've been in rougher anchorages and a little rock-and-roll does not bother us.  But yesterday morning at 3am we were rousted out of bed by the anchor alarm, which is almost always just being a drama queen but in this case was dead on -- we were dragging across the anchorage in 15-knot winds.  Oddly, the winds were beam-on and the boat was holding its heading without flinching.

We don't normally set a trip line when we anchor.  In fact, the whole time we've owned the boat, we've only done it once before, in the Alligator River, which is reported to be foul with ancient roots along the bottom.  But we set one here, because there are massive rocks strewn around the bottom (the ones that stick up far enough to be a hazard to navigation are actually charted).  We love our genuine Bruce anchor, but one of the known limitations of its design is that it is prone to catching on large undersea objects like rocks and coral heads, and more than one Bruce has been abandoned and left behind when it could not be retrieved.  We once brought a sizable rock up from the bottom ourselves.

A trip line is basically a rope long enough to reach the surface and attached to the "hook" end of the anchor (the anchor rode is attached at the other end, the shank), and can be used to pull the anchor from the hook end to get it unstuck from rocks, roots, cables, coral, or other immovable underwater objects.  The loose end of the rope is attached to a float so it can be retrieved at the surface and pulled in to the winch.  We have several round Polyform "buoys" that double as fenders, and we use our smallest one for the trip line float.

When we started dragging Tuesday night, I turned our spotlight on and swept the sea looking for this float.  It's a good 18" in diameter and bright orange, so it should be easy to spot.  We must have looked for 15 minutes but the float was nowhere to be found -- not where the anchor "should" be (even after dragging), nor anywhere else.

It took us a while to figure out what had happened, but we finally concluded that Vector, in the process of swinging back over the trip line as the tide changed, had snagged the line on the running gear somehow and literally tripped its own anchor, dragging the anchor along with it by the trip line.  Fortunately, I had posited this as a guess early on, and we opted for that reason not to start the engine unless absolutely necessary.  If the line and buoy had been caught in the propeller that might have caused a problem -- we do now have line cutters on the shaft, but the line could have just been wrapped on a single blade, and the propeller could easily have pulled the anchor up all the way to the boat, causing real damage.

Fortunately, we only dragged a hundred feet or so before we caught again, and while I did not see the buoy pop up, our track on the plotter clearly showed us moving away in a different direction, with the boat quickly swinging to a new heading.  Being held at the bow by the heavy chain and at the stern by the trip line was what had kept our heading steady with our beam to the wind.

All's well that ends well, and our new anchor position was acceptable, still 600' or so from all hazards (we have 170' of chain out), with the anchor appearing to be well set again, so we climbed back in bed.  We awoke later in the morning to choppy seas of two feet or so, and yesterday we mostly did things that did not involve getting out of our chairs.  Tuesday, at least, had been calm enough to get a few things done, including prepping the dinghy for anchoring off the rocky beach here.

Today was supposed to be calm, with light winds and seas less than one foot.  The forecast deteriorated late yesterday, though, and this morning it is still too rough to lower the tender.  Our friends will be here by noon, and things are supposed to calm down as the day progresses, so we're hoping we'll be able to get ashore when they arrive.  In the meantime, we are still in "one hand for the boat" mode this morning.

We'll be here for a few days, visiting.  Unless conditions deteriorate, we will probably remain right here and not go around the corner to the bay.  Where we head next, though, is something of a mystery.  We'd like to be in Virginia at the beginning of October, and it's about two weeks from here to there.  With the remaining three weeks or so we might try to see a bit of New England and/or spend more time cruising the Chesapeake.  As a plan develops I will post it here.

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