Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #40 Blessings Great and Small

In any anchorage there are two kinds of boats—those that have dragged anchor at one time or another, and those that will. Dragging anchor (where the boat moves as the wind blows stronger, usually inexorably toward another boat) is one of those experiences that, like getting caught speeding or being reminded that you forgot to use mouthwash, keeps you humble. Although there’s no better way to get noticed by your anchored neighbors (short of sunbathing au naturel), woe be to any boat that drags in a windy, crowded anchorage.

In our sailing history we have managed to drag on at least two memorable occasions. (Surely there have been others, but they have blessedly faded from our aging memories.) One night many years ago in a small cove on Lake Monroe, we spent an enjoyable evening rafted with two or three other boats, but we foolishly neglected to have the largest of the boats drop an additional heavier anchor. We awakened to a freshening breeze in the middle of the night to find ourselves—still rafted—drifting quickly out to the middle of the lake. We were fortunate that there were no other boats in our path. Another time, while Caloosa Spirit was in the British Virgin Islands, we squeezed into a crowded anchorage by using too little scope (length of the anchor rode). Sure enough, in the middle of the night we were awakened by the shouts of the boat occupant directly behind us. Both occasions required resetting the anchor—in the dark of night, of course. (Incidentally, there is a cruising axiom that says that an anchor will only drag in the middle of the night.) Additionally, however, both of these occasions contributed to our cruising experience, and we learned some significant things about how not to drag from each of them. These days we use a 44-lb. Delta with an all-chain rode for heft and weight; we religiously back down to set the anchor, even in light winds; and we always use sufficient scope (6:1 or 7:1 [length of rode:depth]).

Last night, as the wind began building to the 20-25 knots predicted for today, we were awakened once more by shouts from behind us. Actually, the trawler behind us was close enough that shouting was unnecessary; a whisper could almost be heard. The skipper was sure that we were dragging our anchor, as he watched our stern approach his beam with each swing of the wind. As we glanced around the anchorage, however, we saw that his was the only boat not sitting toward the wind, and that our position hadn’t changed in relation to everyone else. Just to be sure, we sat for a while and watched the boats swinging, wondering if yet again we would have to reset on a windy, dark night. Distances are more difficult to see at night, so we kept peering into the dark toward other boats to assess our position, seeing no change. But there was no mistaking the proximity of the trawler behind us. What was apparent, though, was that that boat was sitting to the current rather than to the wind, and that’s why we were so close together. The current wasn’t due to shift for another few hours, and he was pressuring us to move, still convinced that the fault was ours. What he neglected to take into account, however, was that we were the only boat in the anchorage when they entered, and he chose to anchor that close to us—it seems to be some kind of herding instinct. He also seemed oblivious to the fact that his was the only boat not sitting to the wind. Granted, no one wants to reset an anchor in the dark, but anchoring etiquette suggests that the boat at fault and second to arrive is the one who should move. It wasn’t us this time, so we stood firm.

Eventually, the skipper had the good grace to move his boat, and we could finally return to bed. We don’t know if he ever did figure out that the problem was his, or if he just decided that we were being too stubborn to move. We hope that, for the sake of his future anchoring peace-of-mind, he learned something from last night’s experience—that current can be just as much of a havoc-wreaker as a dragging anchor. As for us, we’ve added another nugget to our experience treasure chest. In the future, when a trawler anchors close enough to us to pass hors d’oeuvres, we’ll say something before the wind picks up at midnight.

We’re back in Sarasota. With winds at 10-15 knots out of the northeast we had a very pleasant sail back down Sarasota Bay. Actually, we furled the headsail, killed the engine, and drifted in the bay for a while just enjoying the sunny mid-day, while the watermaker pumped away. Running the watermaker in the open water of the bay is preferable to running it in the anchorage.

We’ve decided to stay here through Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with Mike. Our plan is to then head south. We’ve decided to forego the extra refrigeration system at this time. Despite two phone calls the guy still hasn’t gotten back to us with an estimate, so we figure he can’t be too desperate for our business. If he’s that busy, we could be waiting here until spring! So we’ll try to take care of a few things over the next week, then head for warmer climes.

For the last two days we’ve been on a quest—an unsuccessful one, so far. When we returned to Florida from Indy a couple of months ago, Jim mistakenly left his windbreaker at airport security. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize he didn’t have it until a couple of weeks had passed—too late to get it back. Jim really liked that windbreaker, even though it had seen its finest hour some time back. So its replacement must pass muster in several ways—the right color, fabric, style, and design. Jim liked the bright red color for its practicality in case of MOB (man overboard), the nylon fabric for its wind resistance, the full-zipper front for its versatility, and the hidden-in-the-collar hood for its stowability. These all seem like reasonable features to once again find on a rack. However, this windbreaker clone is proving to be quite elusive. We’re pretty sure it’s out there somewhere, but not at any of the department, beach, or specialty stores here in Sarasota. It seems like we’ve been to almost all of them in the last two days! Via bus, of course. The quest will continue at some future time.

In our travels today we stopped off at Siesta Key Beach for a walk, and found another example of the delectable white sand on the shores all along the Gulf Coast. So often walking in the sand here reminds me of snow at the ski resorts we once visited—a similar color and consistency. But I never walked barefooted there, so I still prefer the sands of Southwest Florida to the snows of Colorado or Michigan.

Amid reports of the threat of nuclear expansion in Iran, casualties far higher than the Pentagon admits in Iraq, escalating genocide in Sudan, and brawling on the basketball court in the U.S., the future looks bleak indeed. And this is Thanksgiving Sunday. So today we went to church at First Congregational Church in Sarasota. On our two previous visits there we felt invisible, as no one attempted to engage us in conversation. Today, with low expectations and a shorter walk due to finding a closer dinghy landing, we decided to go just for the worship experience. Our reward was manifold. First, we heard a professional quality brass quintet and a 40-member choir perform a seldom-heard Copland piece and one of my favorites, The Promise of Living. It was breathtaking. The Mayflower Compact was a part of the service, similar to today’s Pilgrim Heritage service at First Congregational in Indy. And we heard an excellent sermon on the importance of continuing on a faithful journey, based in part on the concept that “God is still speaking”, and that there is more truth yet to be found. Again, no one bothered to chat with us, but we’re still thankful that we didn’t miss what the church offered, especially in these times.

The turkey has been purchased, and the pie will be baked on Wednesday. Mike will join us on the boat for Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, and we will give heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to share the day together. We wish to all the blessings and “the promise of living” that are the very essence of Thanksgiving Day.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

P. S. Don’t forget to look up Reaching a Far Horizon at www.lulu.com!

Posted Monday November 22, 2004

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