Second Sail of 2012 (or how NOT to pull up anchor)

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?


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.



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.

woman screaming

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!

WTF? So small!

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.

beam reach
Beam Reach

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!


  1. Rick Dettinger May 18, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Hi Courtney,
    We have anchored well over 300 nights in the last 35 years, and have quite a few “adventures”, but we have just tried something new. It is controversial, but has worked well for us. We have “lost” the anchor chain! To do this without losing holding power, we have gone to a larger anchor than recommended, and use a longer nylon line. The main value of the chain is to be able to get the anchor set on a shorter scope. Maybe as little as 3 to 1. Without the chain, we use 5 to 1. After the anchor is well dug in, we can shorten the scope in calm conditions. If the wind picks up, we well let out some more scope. In high wind conditions, the boats all tend in the same direction, rather than dosidoing around in different directions and banging into each other. Chain doesn’t do much good in high winds, especially with the short lengths often recommended in some books. I have seen some anchors sold with 6 feet of light chain. This in nearly useless, as it only adds a few pounds to the line. But, even with all chain lines, I have seen photos that show no catenary or sag in the chain when the winds reach 60 knots. The chain was straight, just like nylon would be in these conditions, thus contributing nothing to keeping the pull on the anchor shank as horizontal as possible. More scope is the only thing that would help in these conditions. Chain is hard to handle, and makes finding a winch harder. The splice between the chain and nylon is difficult for the winches to handle. You can’t use a thimble and eye splice. The chain must be spliced directly to the chain, something that may cause chafe on the nylon.
    If your trouble was caused by the anchor being hard to break out of the mud, you can shorten the scope until the line is straight up and down. Cleat it well and use your engine to break it out. After that, its yo ho heave, until the muddy contraption is on the deck.
    As for anchoring stories, we have many. We were anchored in Gig Harbor, which has a foul bottom from all the trash that has been dumped in the anchorage back in the old times, before people got considerate. We had to use our primary sheet winch, fair leaded to blocks on deck, to raise the anchor when it got foul of an old cable with much marine crap on it. It was very difficult, even with a powerful winch. When we got the anchor near the surface, we passed a short rope around the encrusted cable and cleated it to the rail, Then we lowered the anchor to free it. With the anchor on the deck, we cut the short rope and the old cable sank back to its final resting place, ready for another day. In some of the industrial type anchorages, it is useful to attach a line and float to the crown of the anchor. Then, if the anchor gets foul, it can be pulled up by this “tripping line.” This sounds like a good idea, I may have to try it someday! Especially since we no longer have any sheet winches. This is due to the fact that we no longer have a sail boat. Just a small powerboat, with a heated pilot house to warm our old bones. But, I still put two needle and palm whippings on each end of our extra long docking lines, and we have real nautical charts, not gas station maps!


  2. Pingback: Second Sail of 2012 (or how NOT to pull up anchor) | Courtney Kirchoff

  3. Justin R. May 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Sailing, always a good time 🙂

    > I also purchased 50 feet of nylon/polyester rope to tow my dinghy.

    This tow line (which many call a “painter”) is usually made of polypropylene, which can float. This keeps it from fouling your propeller. They make polypro line with a nylon core if you’re concerned about the straight stuff not being strong enough.

  4. Bruce Blumenstein May 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Courtney and Riley,
    Lately I have had great luck with first pulling the anchor rode as close to vertical before doing anything else with getting ready to sail…except for taking the mainsail suncover off and removing the sail ties so I can always raise the main in a hurry.
    On a rising tide the boat will break the anchor free while you are busy with all the other stuff. Lower the anchor a tad if it breaks out too soon. All ready? Stow the anchor after lufting a bit of main and and off you go.

    In more exciting windage or pulling the anchor on a falling tide I use a bit of help from sailing the anchor out and then letting it grab the bottom and lufting the sail if you are not ready to go yet.

    Liberty bay mud can be all over you if you don’t have the time to shake out the rode and chain while it’s still below the water surface on a smaller system.
    I used to hitch a five gallon bucket up there to dump the chain into , rather than feed it below. Now I shake the muck and have things prety much clean.

    Last year I got ready to leave and up came a line on my anchor, then on that line was sixty feet of 5/16 chain and then a big anchor. I dumped that mess on the marina stowage float and then headed over to Port Maddison.

    Spent the night. In the morning my nylon rode was wraped around a rock or something and I spent a patient half hour powering the boat around like a clock and figuring if I was gaining ro loosing rode length. I must have flipped that rock over from the looks of the tear marks on the nylon.

    Sailed to an anchorage at Kingston and pulled anchor at midnight with a delightfully encrusted section of some vintage 3/4 line coming aboard…I could’nt toss it back in and pass it on so I stored the stinking mess on the bow.

    Spent the next few days anchored by Fort Warden near Port Townsent. Now I discovered the old piling far below the surface had my rode spun around it. A patient hour of clock rotating motoring about and guessing befor my prescious anchor came aboard.

    Now I was heading back to Poulsbo and anchored in a quiet little township along the way for the night. This time the anchor brought up two rather nice coils of 1/2 inch line. Added that to the smelly foredeck.

    Had a rather pleasent stay in Kingston again and spent a couple days anchored there. I was quite taken a’back by a clean getaway this time as the anchor held no surprise.

    I cut some short pieces of that smelly rope I had aquired along the way and sold them as scent wicks and gifts to some of my car driving friends ashore.

  5. andy May 19, 2012 at 12:39 am

    I remember one time sailing on my boat with a friend. We had the rode all layed out on deck ready to run. He accidentally kicked the anchor over, I’ve never seen the guy move faster to grab the bitter end. Saving the day.

    A windlass won’t solve all the problems, just new and different ones. On Lake Union, tripping the breaker multiple times I’ve pulled up old mooring cables, parts of wooded boats, logs. Getting that crap to the surface takes lots of time and then the messy fun of getting off my anchor starts.

    I use all chain rode now. Last boat with a manual windlass I used a rope to chain splice. I did it myself, wasn’t too hard. It went reasonably well over the wildcat. Having chain lets me sleep better. The “experts” say minimum 1′ of chain for each foot of boat length, I think double that is a better place to start.

    There are usually used manual windlass available at second hand boat stores. Second Wave in Seattle maybe?

  6. Donn Christianson May 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    One comment….I have read that some without the benefit of an anchor windlass will run the line back to a large winch in the cockpit. They claim it works great.

    From this entry:

    “Soon we were all sharing breakfast, cooked on each boat, in side the cockpit of S/V Clarion. The kids spent some time rowing their dingy over to the woods while Kerry and I toured the cove in Wee Brigadoon, our little dingy.

    Breaking off was easy. S/V Clarion and the Islander 36 cast off and headed north and home. Kerry and I idled Brigadoon and hoisted the anchor.

    Then it got hard to lift. I thought I had really dug in, so I switched to the lowest speed on the manual windlass and hauled away to find…

    A big dark shape in the water with my anchor chain wrapped around it.

    It was a stump. It was about seven feet tall. The trunk was two feet in diameter. The root ball was about eight feet in diameter. It sat there, on the end of the chain, just under the water.

    It took some work to get it to rotate off the chain and finally fall below, but eventually we were free.

    Thanks to the rich bloke in his little sportboat who stopped by to help me free the chain from the first part of the snag, to my trusty first mate Kerry for waving them down while I figured out what I needed to do, and to my trusty manual windlass and chain, which took an incredible load.

    I just wish I had a pic of that huge stump, partially out of the water, with another old anchor rode wrapped around it.

    We learned a lot on this trip, Kerry and I. We dealt had our first raft-up. But mostly, we learned how to deal with a problem (it wasn’t a crisis as the boat was not sinking, wasn’t on fire, no one was hurt, we weren’t drifting ashore) as a team. That’s the best lesson of the trip.”

  7. Captain Andrew July 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    We were anchored at the Captain Cook Memorial Monument in Kealakekua
    Bay, Hawaii where Captain Cook was killed.
    It’s a volcanic crater so you let out 150 feet of anchor chain and
    back to the Monument. Your anchor finds a grip on the rising cone and
    your stern lines go to bollards at the monument; easy, peachy.
    We’d done this several times, no sweat.
    When it comes time to depart, you slack off your anchor chain, drop
    the stern lines and the anchor falls into the deeper water as you
    power into the center of the crater, again easy peachy.
    Hello Murphy.
    Did all as we had before, but things did not go as planned. The anchor
    would not come up. OK, I’ll power it out, that always works.
    Put the pedal to the metal, so to speak and off we went towards the
    center of the bay and crater at 5 knots. But wait a minute, we were
    sliding sideways back toward the original spot where we’d dropped the
    anchor. The more power the more quickly we returned to the monument.
    At one point we had a heel of 25 degrees and we were sliding sideways
    at 6 knots, again back towards the monument; how odd!
    Now you have to understand how things are in Hawaii. The native
    islanders have a great many superstitions, which even in this modern
    world, seem curiously real and powerful.
    Kealakekua Bay was, long before the death of Captain Cook there, a
    burial place for their kings and shaman. It was believed than any who
    possessed anything of theirs or a part (bones, teeth, etc.) of these
    powerful people, gained their power. Therefore, when these powerful
    people were buried, they were buried in a cliff face and those who did
    the burying, were thrown to their deaths to keep the location of the
    cave secret.
    So here we were, in a very spiritually powerful place, on a 65′ gaff
    ketch built in 1909, unable to leave. This was a big, heavy wooden
    vessel and throwing all her tonnage against the anchor chain to break
    it free, or just plain break it, at this point, was not happening. So
    we retied to the monument feeling that some higher power did not want
    us to leave.
    The next morning, after a rather sleepless night for me, the captain
    of another boat there offered to scuba down to see what was up.
    We had hooked into a gigantic, very old anchor chain. With it’s
    weight, but not being firmly attached we had just been lifting that chain
    until it outweighed the boat!
    Our diver friend had us slack off our chain and he slipped our anchor
    free and we were off in an hour.
    For a while I was pretty worried that I had angered those Hawaiian
    gods and we were never going to leave that place on that boat.