Tonight Beetle can be found lodged between a smallish rocky islet off the bow and the oyster bank and steep drop-off off the stern. We’re up in an un-named tiny cove in the middle of Pendrell Sound, a body of water that is six miles long, somewhat deep in the middle such as 750 feet, and only has one inlet/outlet – there is no thru-flow of water here. This means there is very little current where we are as there is no water flowing past with the tides, and instead we simply get the rise and fall of water as the sun and moon pull the water about the planet.
Today was also our first attempt at stern tying the boat. It did not go particularly well, no one died, and we are here, firmly attached to the steeply sloping side of the glacier cut cliff that is underwater by the bow anchor, and firmly attached ashore to a deceased tree exhibiting a great many beetle bore holes via several hundred feet of floating 1/2″ polypropylene double braid. Getting into this position was not pretty, despite a lack of wind and a lack of current.
First pass was to ascertain that there was only one other boat here, which there was. We dropped anchor well out from the shore in 65 feet of water, and proceeded to back up towards the sharp drop off of the shore. After letting out 200′ of anchor chain it still seemed like we were a long ways off from the shelf, but I persevered. The dinghy was launched, I rowed ashore and took with me the tail end of the 600 foot spool of polypropylene line (that kind of line has a specific gravity less than salt water, therefore it floats). Landed in a bit of rocky beach in between the oysters, trudged up to the tree and got the rope around it, back to the dinghy and rowed out to Beetle. Meanwhile Kristen has been keeping the boat in idle-reverse, sort of, to try and keep the stern pointed at the now-lassoed tree. I get back to the boat, we tighten up, and it feels like we’re way out in the middle of the channel. Not so good.
We decide to up anchor and pull ourselves in via the stern line and re-drop, hoping to arrive at not quite in the middle of the channel. I raise anchor to the 50′ mark on the chain and we back towards the shelf. Down goes the hook again. Now we’ve slid sideways a bit and are nowhere near perpendicular to the shore. Hmm… looks funny. We tighten up the stern line and it feels like we’re really close to the shelf. I put the engine in reverse idle and we back up right to the shelf. I put engine in forward to keep the rudder off the oysters and rocks that make up the shelf. That clearly didn’t work well. It appears that I an not up on precision anchoring.
We decide to try again, as I don’t like being 20 feet away from the shelf by the stern. Our idea is to raise the anchor back up to the 50 foot mark, power forward in idle while paying out stern line (still run around the tree on the shore) and put the anchor back out into somewhat deeper water. Kristen isn’t keen on driving as she didn’t enjoy the proximity to the rocks and doesn’t want to deal with the stern line as well as pointing the boat somewhere while I run the windlass and do the anchor up/down business. We swap places, Kristen will be on the bow and I will do the driving. [as an important note, when we anchor, I always operate the anchor and windlass while Kristen operates the engine and positions the boat – only we have swapped ends this time… this has a bearing on what happens next…]
Kristen gets the anchor up via the windlass back to 50′. I pay out stern line and we aim towards the agreed upon spot off the rocky bit of the little islet in front of us. At what seems the appropriate point (we didn’t go far, after all, we are tied to a tree), I point at Kristen and she starts to send the anchor down via the windlass. Things went well for perhaps thirty seconds, and then the chain jumped the gypsy. An amazing grinding noise of galvanized steel over metal that sounds not unlike a chainsaw at close range erupts from the bow as 275 feet of 5/16″ G4 chain launches itself out over the bow roller. The chain accelerates as its increasing weight propels it from the anchor locker. Showing great presence of mind, Kristen does not attempt to arrest the flying chain and instead gets away from it all. I put the motor in neutral and go forward just in time to watch the shackle that attaches the chain rode to a 300′ length of 5/8″ nylon three strand… go JAM! into the chain stopper. The cove goes incredibly silent. We both stare over the bow and into the water below. Well that didn’t go well, but at least we are hook down!
We pull the anchor back up to 200′, and I pull in on the stern line. This time we have the boat more or less perpendicular to the shore, that’s looking pretty good now. We pull up to 170′ of chain, I put the motor into idle-reverse and we back up to see how close we are to the stern shelf this time. Much better, perhaps 50 feet off. We snug up the stern line and all is good. At least we’re in, but I bet the other boat in the cove had a wonderful view on how not to set a stern tie. [Later on we rowed over and talked to Dick and Julia, the other boat, and they thought it was fairly amusing to watch us until he saw the anchor chain take off and he was worried the girl on the bow would get in there and try to stop it, and he was quite relieved when Kristen backed away instead. Turns out they thought we did ok, and they’ve done much worse, so apparently all is acceptable when setting a stern tie.]
Following our anchor adventures we got observed a double-rainbow against the green evergreens covering the mountain across from us, and the clouds parted to display an amazing coat of new crispy white snow atop one of the local mountain peaks. That was a pretty darn neat sight.
The reason we’re in Pendrell Sound is that we did not like the look of Walsh Cove at all – it’s tiny, there was already a power boat anchored there (no stern tie), it was deep, narrow, and I had no interest in trying to work to anchor in that tiny place. So we considered Redonda Bay as an alternative – nope, nobody recommends it, totally exposed to the northwest breeze and open and unfun. Rats! Earlier today we had already motored up to the top of Pendrell Sound to see what’s what and perchance the water might be warm enough for a swim (note: it was three degrees warmer at 59.5 F then it was out in the channel, so no swimming] On the way back down Pendrell we saw two large power boats side-tied at anchor exactly where we are anchored tonight, thought it looked interesting, went up to Walsh, said no, then motored all the way back to that little cove in Pendrell – the two big power boats had departed, being replaced with the solitary sail boat that got to watch us make a most interesting stern tie demonstration.
And just to add zest to the anchoring experience, shortly before dark we noticed, as the tide rose, that a huge tree that had been lying on the bottom with only its roots showing, is now floating close to us, anchored to the shore only by the bottom bits of its root ball. I’ve been out and watched it – it hasn’t moved yet. If it does move, I sure hope it moves away as that would be no fun if it floated into the stern line. But I suppose it is safer than the crocodile in the marina in Puerto Vallarta.
All is well that ends well, tonight we had three cheese tortellini with pesto accompanied by spinach and feta sausage, with olives tossed on top for good measure. The heater is on and we’re toasty warm inside, outside it is roughly 10 degrees C (about 51 F), and amazing stars are out – there are zero lights out here other than our two anchor lights. The milky way is easily visible and there are no clouds in the sky. Pretty awesome place to spend the night.