mala moja

Sailing round Europe

The pain of anchoring

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018. – Trapani, Sicily

Mala moja at anchor at Pan de Zucchero in Sardinia (in 2017)

Anchoring can be absolutely lovely. A remote bay with no or only 1-2 other boats. A hundred-meter swim to shore. A beach bar that serves you a sundowner while you watch the sun set behind your boat. A night swim back to your boat. A post-sundowner with candle light and finally fall asleep on a boat that is rocking you gently, like your mother was rocking you in the cradle.

Sundowner on the beach in Sardinia, with a sunset behind mala moja…

There are two designated anchorages in the harbor of Trapani where you are allowed to stay for up to 48 hours. The one in the harbor’s NW is a mere 500 meters from shore and next to the deserted light house. So yesterday, instead of paying marina fees, i decided to get out there and drop the anchor. Water tank being full, solar panels for power and 12GB of WiFi to have my video-conferences.

I combined this with a short fun sail with my polish marina neighbors and after dropping them off back at the marina i went to drop the anchor in 4-5m waters. The first attempt failed. When i tried to drive in the anchor (put in reverse and slowly speed up to 2000 rpm to drive the anchor into sand or mud) i started to go backwards like a rocket. So i got up the anchor (i have to do that manually as i don’t have a fancy electrical winch) and there was some weed on it but also mud. So off i went for try number 2. And number 3. And 4.

I never ever had problems setting my anchor before. Only once when i dropped it on seagrass, where it cannot hold (it clogs up and just slips), but usually its having a great grip. Since my anchor (a Fortress X-11, if you care) has a “soft mud” setting i decided to try that, because i could not explain it anyhow else – the Fortress anchors a regularly on the very top end of anchor-tests. So i started to dissemble the anchor and put it together in “soft mud” mode. All while being adrift between two anchoring boats and in the entrance of the harbor which is used by a lot of ferries and fishing vessels.

Resetting the primary anchor from “normal” (sand, mud) to “soft mud”

After a few minutes i had the anchor ready for soft mud. And on the second attempt it seemed to hold. I was too exhausted to drive it in, and the wind forecast was very light for the night. Hence i set an anchor alarm. It’s quite a handy help: you set a point where the anchor is (or you think that the anchor is) and use the GPS signal to see how far you are away from there. If you exceed a predefined distance, then there is an alarm. I gave it a try.

In the night i checked three times if the alarm was still working (never blindly trust electronic systems 😉 )

and if my position was still good. It was. So today i had my video-meeting and was ready to enjoy the end of a working day when i saw that the wind was picking up and i really close to the neighbor boat…

So off i went: anchoring attempt number 7. Followed by #8 and #9. Both unsuccessful. My options: go back to the marina. Or: dig out the secondary anchor (being super-heavy it’s really at the bottom of my sea chest), remove the primary anchor from the chain, mount the secondary and try again. It was a tough call. Especially since my first anchor is a super-light 3.5kg (it’s made out of aluminum), i never ever used the second one and only knew that it is really heavy (steel). On the other hand: i suspected that the aluminum is too light to bite trough the weed on the bottom.

Screwing around with da anchors while adrift in the harbour…

It was back to the lab again. Raising the anchor again, bringing it back to the cockpit (since i have to get it off the chain and watch that i don’t hit any ship or other obstacle while drifting through the harbor, i had to do it all in the back of the boat), getting everything out of the sea chest, removing the first anchor from the chain and mounting the second to it and haul the heavy anchor to the front of the ship. And ready i was for attempt #10.

Dropping in the heavy anchor was already a bit more complicated than the light one, but it worked. Back to the cockpit, putting the boat in reverse, slowly increasing the RPM. 1000rpm anchor is holding, 1200 holding, 1500… slip… well i guess you know get the title of this post 😉

More screwing around with da anchors while adrift in the harbour…

So, attempt number 11. But first i had to get the heavy anchor up – by hand. And since it’s also bigger it got stuck in the fixture which supports the anchor. Finally, i managed to get it free again and drop it. Again. This time i drove it in veeeery slowly and only went to 1300rpm. That was 2 hours ago. The wind has picked up since, but i still sit at the very spot where i dropped it. Finally.

I guess soon it’s time to watch the sunset and have a sundowner…

Watching the sunset at anchor after 11 attempts to set it properly…

By the way, if you want some more pictures of my sailing, follow me on instagram!

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1 Comment

  1. Lynn 22. June 2018

    Hello,

    My name is Lynn from Fortress Marine Anchors. I just read your anchoring saga and have just a few suggestions that we recommend.

    1. I see your anchor does not have it’s “mud palms” attached. The kit is included with every anchor we sell. We include instructions that the palms should be attached and while they in no way interfere with setting in good bottoms, they do help setting in softer bottoms. They are designed to lift the back of the anchor up forcing the fluke tips into a more downward position.
    2. Our anchoring tips (available on our website http://www.fortressanchors.com) clearly state that when setting the anchor, SLOWLY back down which gives the anchor the opportunity to dig in.
    3. The optional 45° setting should only be used when the bottom consistence is soupy or chewed up leaving no real bottom material to sit on the flukes which is what gives anchors holding power.
    Lastly, always “power set” your anchor. This is achieved by slowly increasing pull against the anchor once serious resistance is met.

    I believe that if you were to follow these recommendations and others also available on our website, you will return that heavy anchor back to the hold.

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