We were aware that as newcomers to boating, we would have many things to learn. However, being reasonably intelligent people, we concluded that even novices can learn, and we committed ourselves to acquiring knowledge from books, advice from others, and… from our mistakes.
The first time we anchored out, we pulled into beautiful Echo Bay at Sucia Island. There were a fair number of boats already anchored there, but we found a spot which wasn’t too near the others, and not to near the coastline (boats at anchor pivot around the anchor as the wind changes directions, so you need to allow room for your boat and other boats to pivot). We were getting all set up to drop the anchor, when we noticed that the man in the boat closest to ours was outside and yelling at us. Finally, the word “reef” became clear to us. We checked our chart and depth finder: no rocks or reefs were noted. But we decided to heed this man’s warning just in case. Sure enough, at low tide a rock was exposed – just where we had planned to anchor. It does pay to listen.
We dropped our anchor in another spot without incident. Sucia Island has an abundance of trails through forest and along waterfront. The views are beautiful, and the walks are not difficult. We took our kayaks to the island, hiked for several hours and were headed back to the boat when we heard a loud grinding sound coming from our boat. This was a sound we had become familiar with over the past week. Allow me to introduce our windlass.
A windlass is the heavy-duty motor that winds up the heavy chain attached to the anchor. It is not uncommon to let out 200+ feet of chain when anchoring, so this motor has to be up to the task. We have affectionately named this vital piece of machinery Chain Biter, due to the growly-chewing noise it makes while operating. Our windlass had been enthusiastically jumping to attention, even when we had no need for it. Midday or middle of the night made no difference to our trusty Chain Biter. We could even imagine the mad motor chuckling as we ran to turn off the breaker switch to stop the horrible noise, and secondarily, any undue wear and tear to the motor. Imagine the speed of our kayak sprint, then, as we heard the ghastly rhar! rhar! rhar! echoing across the bay after our hike. We may have set an Olympic record getting back to the boat!
New switches have been ordered for Chain Biter. We’ll do our best to prevent her from overworking herself.
Ahhh… What a lovely day kayaking, hiking and ending with a sunset dinghy ride to explore the rest of the bay. We arrived back at Voyager pleasantly tired, leaving the kayaks and dinghy tethered to the swim step at the back of boat. Ahem, that’s the stern. We watched a movie and then tucked into bed for pleasant dreams – NOT!
Seasoned sailors know to check the winds before going to bed. We’re working on that seasoning business. Shortly after retiring, the wind picked up, and picked up some more. We were bobbing forward and aft, port to starboard, up and down. It was an E ticket ride! In addition, the kayaks and dinghy were BANG! BANGING into the stern and making a terrible racket. We lashed them as securely as we could (the seas were too rough for us to get up top and winch them up). The winds and waves kept growing, and there was no way we could sleep. We wondered if our anchor would hold. Would the other boats’ anchors hold? It was time to institute the night watch. I could have sworn that the lights of the other boats were coming closer, or we were drifting toward them. But our GPS showed that we had not moved, nor had the other boats. It’s hard to judge distances at night. And did I mention that everything in the cupboards was sliding and slamming? BANG! BANG! Turns out that’s what throw pillows are for. Stuff them in the cupboards to keep the peace.
These have been some of our bigger lessons. Smaller lessons, of equal importance, have come our way daily. Such as:
– When casting a rope while docking, be sure to stand on the end of the rope (line), so that you can draw it back in after lassoing the cleat.
– That Roman Numeral I on the chart (map) is really the letter I, as in Island. As in James Island, not James the 1st.
-When docking, be sure your fenders (big air-filled buffer tubes) hang down low enough to reach the dock. They belong between the boat and the dock for protection. Not gaily swinging in the breeze above dock level, pretty though they are.
Adventures and misadventures. Learning from mistakes. Living to try again. Hopefully a little bit wiser.