Last year, before I’d pull up anchor, I would raise my main sail so the anchor could keep the boat into the wind. It worked perfectly last year. I’d raise the main, pull up the anchor, leave the chain on the foredeck, sail away to an empty stretch of water so I didn’t crash into any boats, run back up to the foredeck and put the anchor chain away, run back to the cockpit and raise the genoa. Lots of running back and forth, but last year that had worked wonderfully. Last year.
This year, not so much. Why? I’ll get to that, but first here’s an account of the chaos that ensued.
To be as prepped as possible, I attached the genoa to the forestay and rolled it out, correctly tied two bowline knots, and ran the sheets back to the cockpit. In order to keep the sail out of my way when I hauled up the anchor, I tied the sail to the stanchions with bungi cords. Good job, Courtney. I properly stowed all of my things so when the boat inevitably heeled, my crap wouldn’t go flying about, breaking, crashing, and making horrible sounds. Ten points to Gryffindor.
Life vest on and secured, rubber kitchen gloves at the ready (to keep the nasty, staining mud off my skin), I climbed on top of the cabin to raise the main. Up it went, fast, and with only a few sticky hitches. It luffed in the wind. Score me.
Then I went to the foredeck to pull anchor. I put my rubber gloves on, took a deep breath, and started pulling.
I yanked and I cranked. Slowly it started coming up, but then the rode slipped out of my grip. Weird. I tugged on it. Pain in my lower back. Sweat. Sheesh, it’s warm today. Why is this so hard?
Pull. PULL. PULL!
I looked around and saw that the boat had moved forward and the anchor was now underneath me. A lot underneath me. In fact behind me.
I held tight to the anchor rode and let it slip through my fingers, then waited for the boat to point back into the wind. I grabbed rode again and pulled strong, but met heavy resistance.
Pull. PULL. PULL!
D@MN! F*CK! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
The wind took the main again and forward we went, over our anchor yet again. This is why people pay mucho dinero for a windlass. Pulling up an anchor by hand is STUPID! Courtney, you idiot, buy an effing windlass!
I pulled, I yanked. Lower back pain, pulling, abdominal pain, contorting myself, shoulder and arm pain. Sweat. Genoa in my face. Sailing sucks!
That’s IT! I’ve HAD IT! Screw this stupid anchor. This is REE-DIC-U-LUS!!!! (yes, I know I spelled that wrong).
I drop the effing anchor rode. Eff that. I go to the mast, undo the line, and let that mother-f*cker drop all over the cockpit. Eff it. This is the worst. I’m selling my boat. Sh!t. I bet people are watching me. Look at that blonde girl trying to sail. Ha! I’d be watching if I saw some idiot like me out there, that’s for d@mn sure.
After all the stowing and clever genoa wrapping, the sweating, cursing, the expending of thousands of calories in anger and muscles strain, you’re bet your sweet hynie I was still going to sail that effing boat.
Main sail spread all over the cockpit like silly string spewed by a toddler on a sugar high, I went back to the craptastic foredeck to pull up the d@mned anchor. That bastard still didn’t want to come up. Of course it didn’t. I’d twisted it and jerked around with it so much, now it was being difficult to spite me. And it was working.
Back to the cockpit. Motor on. Be smarter than the anchor. Be smarter than the anchor!
Forward baby. Into the wind. Ha! Take this, you piece of crap! Thinking you’re all low and grippy, digging into the mud. I’ll show you!
Neutral. Running forward. Tee hee hee! Up it comes. Look at how loose the line is? Pull pull pull! Weeeeeeee!!!!
Rode ends, chain begins. Here’s where you really have to yank, crank, and burn the calories and kill your lower back. All right! Pulling, pulling!
The chain is twisted. Oh this is effing spectacular. Of course. Just my luck. I hate this.
Pull, pull, pull. Up comes that mother f*cking anchor at last. Look at you, you stupid bastard. Ha! I win, I win, I–oh sh!t! The buckle gets stuck.
Twisting, jiggling, praying, cursing. You stupid thing! Get OUT! Hurry, the boat is LOOSE! I’m going to crash into SOMEONE ELSE! F*CK!!!!!
Finally it comes free. I stow that piece of sh!it and run back to the cockpit. There’s effing mud all over every effing thing. Black mud on my legs. Black mud on my shoes. Black mud all over the foredeck, on top of the cabin, that crap is everywhere.
Back in the cockpit, I take the tiller and drive the boat forward and get the heck away from this stupid place. I’ve raised the main without help before, I’ll do it again, just when I get clear of all these anchored boats. I do not need to further humiliate myself by wrecking my boat and someone else’s. It would be just my luck.
Motor, motor, motor.
Oh of course, here come three boats. Are they making a heavy wake? Can’t tell from here. I’ll wait until they pass and then run forward to put away that muddy chain.
Motor, motor, motor.
Sheesh, hurry UP! Stupid boats. They keep coming! I’m NOT running forward and standing on top of my cabin when a wake comes along. That’s moronic. I’ll wait for the wakes, then do my thing.
The boats pass. I turn north to face into the wind and tie the tiller in place.Why look, here comes another boat on a collision course. Perfect. I don’t have the right of way, so I’ll wait for him to pass me close enough we could’ve high-fived each other, then I’ll run forward. I love boating!
He passes. Now I feel like I’m too close to the shore, but I’m done caring. To heck with it. On the foredeck, I question the designer of the anchor locker. It makes perfect sense to try to hastily shove all of this rope and chain into a tiny opening. Totally logical. And then not install a windlass. Yeah I see why you’d do that. Why put in a larger opening when the sailor can stay up on the bow and stow the line and make her feel as if she’s threading a needle? It’s just the most unstable part of the boat, so of course I want to be there and improve my balance and bolster my sense of courage. Yep.
Anchor stored. Fricking finally.
Main sail time. Thankfully it goes up smoothly, and with a couple cranks on the winch handle, I tie it up, wrap the line, and hang it on the winch.
Back to the cockpit. Engine off.
The wind, how it blows. The water, how it laps. Even with just the main, I was making 2-3 knots, the dinghy dragging behind me. So pleasant.
When I was away from any marina, clear of all boats, I once again took Libby into the wind and raised the genoa, which I can thankfully do from the comfort of my cockpit.
Pat Parelli, who teaches natural horsemanship, has said that you can experience every human emotions within five minutes with a horse. He’s right. It might be the same with sailing. One minute you’re questioning your sanity, then you’re wondering why everyone isn’t out sailing, too.
The sun was warm and bright, the wind a perfect speed, and the boat. Oh my boat. What a delight. We managed to jibe out of the bay with little effort, and hit a larger body of water for some good times.
It was then that I started to reflect about what went so wrong. Here’s what I came up with:
Last year, when the boat was new to me, it was clear she hadn’t been out sailing in a long time. Raising the main took an act of God, it was so resistant. But after I’d raised it so many times, it loosened and smoothed out. I’m sure I’m using the wrong terminology to describe the process, but I hope you get what I’m trying to say.
Secondly, I hadn’t let out the main completely, but what I thought was just enough to keep it luffing. I’d hoped to prevent my death by keeping the boom clear of my pathway. What a way to die, I thought, trying to get back to the cockpit and the boom swings and hits me in the head. Over she goes. She loved sailing, may she rest in piece. So, rather than let out the main, I had tried keeping it to the starboard side so I could run up and down the port side of the cabin and not worry about the boom. Of course, as a sailboat, when the main has been sheeted in just a bit, the wind will do its thing, the sailboat will do what it was built to do, and propel forward. As it did.
Sometimes I single-handedly put the dumb in dumb blonde.
I managed to have a fantastic sail. It was the first time I got my dinghy to plane, as the line attaching it to my stern isn’t quite long enough, and the outboard was still mounted to it. I probably cleaned the bottom of the dink, too. Since the dinghy with the outboard is so heavy, I guessed that I probably lost 1.5 knots of speed on average. I can usually make six knots at a close haul, and even more on a beam reach, but I averaged around four to five knots on the trip. Thankfully my outboard mounting block should arrive today or tomorrow, so I won’t have to deal with the outboard dragging me down for longer trips. I also purchased 50 feet of nylon/polyester rope to tow my dinghy, so it can travel better, and not cause a wake when I go sailing. Now all I need to do is make the line float.
While I have an autopilot, it’s not working. I tried replacing the fuse with a new one, but no joy. As a remedy, I experimented with tying the tiller where it needed to be with a simple rope and found it worked well when I was sailing in consistent wind, which will suit me fine in larger bodies of water like Puget Sound. I need to replace the auto-tiller, and invest in a tiller extension, but for now the rope works.
What about you? Do you have any tales of anchoring gone wrong? Do you know of a great windlass model that works with chain and rode? Lay it all on me!