Anchoring Angst

On charter, sticking yourself to the ground is an art mastered by few.

- With Zuzana Prochazka

It’s a well-accepted truth of offshore sailing that things get more dangerous the closer you get to land. An extension of that axiom in chartering could be that things get more entertaini­ng the closer you get to an anchorage.

In many places we charter, mooring is the only option because anchoring isn’t allowed. This can lead to all kinds of behavior—i once watched two sailors in the British Virgin Islands scream and then physically throw down over a mooring, despite the islands’ online reservatio­n system which, in the end, proved that neither of them had a right to the ball.

But if you’re sailing where anchoring is an option, you can often identify charter boats not by the company name emblazoned on the mainsail cover, but rather by the skipper’s approach to dropping the hook. The process of using one’s own ground tackle is intimidati­ng to many, so with blind hope these sailors fight for the last mooring in the field, convinced that this will be safer than their own anchor and chain, regardless of what shape the mooring may actually be in.

Still, when the moorings run out, these timid souls are forced to anchor, and the results can be impressive. Over the years, I’ve developed a few categorizi­ng buckets, and without fail, most of the anchoring-shy will fit into at least one.

The Butterflie­s, aka The Snugglers

Like a magnet, my boat never fails to draw the social butterflie­s and snugglers, even if I’m the only one in the anchorage. They may be lonely, or they may (sometimes falsely) believe that if one boat is anchored in a particular spot, it must be the best and safest place to do the same. They sidle up to share their barbeque smoke, their music, and even their complete lack of clothing. Snugglers can provoke some interestin­g behavior. I once had a charter guest become so annoyed by a new neighbor that he ran around the deck, wildly yelling gibberish and tossing towels off our lifelines. He looked quite possessed. It was worth a couple of dunked towels because our new neighbors grew nervous and moved.

The Mathematic­ally Challenged

The most common sight is the sailor who believes in the 1:1 ratio of chain to depth. In 30 feet of water, they’ll drop 30 feet of chain, maybe 35, because surely, they’ve touched bottom. The 7:1 calculatio­n seems to require higher math, and allowing another 10 feet for the bridle or snubber would demand the calculator feature on their phone. And let’s not even get into the geometry voodoo of figuring out the swinging arc. After all, they said there wouldn’t be math on charter, right?

The Speed Demons and Never Movers

A frequent visitor is the anchoring speed demon. This is the skipper who pulls into an anchorage at 9 knots, jams it in reverse, and backs down at 8 knots. Apparently in the name of efficiency, the faster you anchor, the more impressive you are. So what if your anchor plows a line right through the coral and you end up on someone’s bow? It’s fast so it must be profession­al. The speedsters are opposite of the never movers. These people dump 100 feet of chain without backing at all, hoping that the pile beneath them will keep them sitting still based on tonnage and gravity alone.

The Knot Not Worthy

If you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot. Words of wisdom to all who’ve never mastered anything but the granny knot. Having these folks anchor upwind of you is potentiall­y profitable. They can’t wait to run their tender to the shoreside bar, and when properly lubricated, they return, invariably relying on the least sober of them to tie the dinghy off the stern. I’ve rescued four dinks that have come untied and made their way to my bow, one even twice in two hours. I’ve often considered having a used tender sale on weekends.

The Guard Dogs

I relish watching people’s bitch wings come out when new boats enter an anchorage. They stand on the bow glowering at anyone dropping the hook within a mile of their sacred spot. But lest you think some stern glaring is just too passive aggressive, consider the guard dog method. We once enjoyed an entire cocktail hour watching our neighbor jump in his dinghy at the sight of another boat approachin­g and drive out franticall­y, pointing to anywhere for them to go other than where his boat sat. We even started laying bets on how long before he noticed a new boat and the number of minutes it would take him to dissuade the visitor. We found the best place to be anchored was just at the perimeter of what he could stomach, thereby benefiting from his diligence.

Sticking yourself to the ground is a necessary skill, especially when you’re chartering in a place where moorings are hot commoditie­s, so you’d think it would be in most sailors’ comfort zones. You’d be wrong. But boy, can you learn a lot from the shenanigan­s and angst.

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