This is the view of Oriental, NC from the Green’ s creek anchorage. Sure doesn’t look like that tonight.
Never happened before. I guess I knew it would some day. Hoped it never would. Skylark dragged anchor. In the dark.
I motored the few miles from Broad Creek to Oriental on a beautiful windless Friday morning. There was only one boat in the anchorage near town but it’s really tight there and there’s quite a few large commercial fishing boats going in and out all the time, big diesels and bright mercury lights running 24 hours so I decided to go under the 45 foot high bridge (Skylark is 42 feet tall including the radio antennas on top of the mast) and anchor in Green’s Creek. I don’t like anchoring I tight spots or with a lot of other boats around, I don’t feel comfortable judging the distances correctly and Skylark swings at anchor. A lot. More on that later.
Green’s Creek is a nice quiet spot and the days were warm with the nights quite cool. I met up with Erich, a sailor from Florida I had met on the eclipse trip, we had dinner and did some work on his boat. Sunday the 29th was windy and very rainy so I stayed on Skylark, made biscuits, read and napped. There’s a weather system work in up most of the east coast, a combination of a tropical storm and some other lows bringing high winds to the area from Florida to NY. Winds in Oriental were forecast to be in the 20’s gusts to 30. Skylark and I had done it before and she always stayed where we anchored. We might drag back a bit but the anchor was digging deeper when that happened.
Tonight it got really busy around 8 PM. I had made dinner while it was pretty calm but before I finished eating it was blowing 25kn from the west. I checked our position visually and on the GPS and we hadn’t moved, just shifted with the wind direction. Skylark was swinging pretty hard in the gusts and Patch the dinghy was swinging along with her. I suspect this swinging and jerking puts stress on the anchor and might loosen it’s grip.
It was gusting hard, over 35kn and in a little while things felt funny. I wasn’t sure exactly what, but I didn’t like it. I looked out and Patch was almost alongside. Hmmmm. And we were broadside to the wind and waves. Uh oh. When that happens while you’re anchored it means you’re not anchored. The bow is blowing downwind and the anchor isn’t stopping it. Crap. It’s dark. I’m alone. Feeling afraid and unprepared. GPS now says we’re 300 feet from our anchored location. The creek runs close to east-west from where I am with a little tilt south. The wind is blowing from a tiny bit north of west so I won’t get blow onto a shore or piling right away. As quickly as I could, I grabbed a jacket, a flashlight, slapped on shoes, turned off the cabin lights so I could see the shore better and ran for the secondary anchor stored at the stern and the bag of anchor rode stored in the lazzerette. Run back in the cabin for a shackle key to attach rode and anchor. Dump the drawer, oh here it is. Start the engine. Drag anchor and rode forward. Realize that even though i know the bridge must be behind me, the boat is twisting around so much I’m not exactly sure where i am. Point the boat away from the near shore as best I could. 600 feet dragged now. Creek is around one thousand feet wide from shore to shore, and it’s definitely not deep enough for Skylark all the way. Where was that dock that was behind me again? Run forward. Remember to feed the rode overboard properly first, then attach it to anchor. Shackle the anchor to the rode. Over it goes. Fall back on the rode and hope I’ve moved south enough to avoid fouling with the primary rode and anchor. Hold my breath. It held. Whew. I’m leaving the primary down tonight as I still believe it’s holding somewhat so should contribute something. If I pull it up it will be hard to deploy it again as the secondary is south of the primary and I don’t have much room to the north. Theyre in something of a Y configuration now so I’m not going to be able to do any better. There’s a risk the primary is fouled but I’ll leave it be.
Skylark stayed put after the second anchor went down but was still sailing around quite a lot. The wind dropped back a few knots as well but I was still anxious so I stayed awake till 2 or 3 am checking for chafe periodically and finally went to bed with my clothes on in case we dragged again. I didn’t sleep much. In the morning it was still gusting 25 and I pulled up both anchors, moved to a better spot further from the Lee shore, put both anchors back down, adjusted them and put up the riding sail which I haven’t used much so didn’t want to put up at night. The riding sail adds windage aft so the boat should weathervane into the wind and be more stable. As soon as this was all done, secure and I felt satisfied the wind dropped back. Gusts to 15. Sigh. The riding sail helps a bit but Skylark still swings more than I’d like. Next to try is a long bridle to the rode from each side of the boat.
What happened? Not sure. Had close to 100 feet of chain and snubber out in 6′ of water. Did the jerking motion of sailing at anchor break it free? Was the soft bottom mud just not enough to hold in 25-30 knot wind? Did the anchor not reset after the wind shift? I dunno.
Being prepared. I wasn’t terrible but I feel I could be better prepared. Shackle key in the bag with the rode. Maybe move the second anchor and it’s rode forward and find a way to stow the rode there? Mark the lengths better on the spare rode. Couldn’t see them in the rush and the dark. Make a written note about orientation of visible features and hazards? I had trouble with that one.
Before I left home port for my first trip I met a Canadian cruising couple with engine trouble stuck in Haverstraw that said cruising is one of two things: mind blowingly beautiful or it really sucks. Last night was no fun but could have been a lot worse so I’m very grateful.