A is for Anchoring, At Anchor

Some time back, the Cal 40 Chaparral carried her crew to the ancient port of Paphos on the south western tip of Cyprus, where Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and passion, is said to have risen out of the foaming sea and floated ashore in a clam shell.

We found ourselves in Paphos on a bright morning with a fresh southerly blowing Chaparral into the old port, open to the S, SW. It was packed with vessels anchored bow and stern, riding in the chop.

We picked what seemed to be the best spot in the crowd, behind a ketch with a hard-shell dinghy tied alongside, and ahead of a large red sloop, and boats all around. Under the many watchful eyes of already anchored crew, we dropped our plow anchor off the bow and the Danforth off the stern, luckily providing little entertainment, and took our bearings from nearby landmarks.

The ketch ahead of us was named Renaissance and its dinghy Nuisance. I waved to the skipper and a woman, presumably his wife, and a small boy with a black dog. The red sloop astern of us, Tabasco, had several young men on board, drinking beer for breakfast.

After Chaparral had settled in, we pumped up the dinghy and set out to find the local harbormaster, check out the fuel dock, and forage for fresh victuals in town. Threading our way carefully, we rowed between boats that had sailed here from all over the world. The Full Tilt, Serendipity, Address Unknown, Vanira, Aeolis, and many others, huddled together at rest, each with a story to tell.

At the open air market, filling our shopping nets with potatoes, onions, apples, olives, some kind of sausage, and beautiful looking eggs, we felt a hot, dry wind building, coming from the SE now. We decided to save the rest of our shopping for the next day, after taking on fuel and water. This wind and its sudden gusts made our skipper uneasy and we hurried back to the anchorage, where small, steep waves were already running.

Soaking wet from the wild dinghy ride, but greatly relieved to see Chaparral dancing up and down – she hadn’t moved – we noticed the Renaissance had dragged. She was still ahead of us, but closer and more off to the side. We let out chain at the bow, hauled in line at the stern, to drop back from her.

By late afternoon, the wind had increased to about force 7, frequently gusting higher. We watched our position and the boats around us, so far so good. When the wind took a breather and slowed, I decided to make an early dinner. Just as I was breaking some of the eggs into the skillet, our skipper called all hands on deck. The Renaissance was dragging, again, and coming straight at us, but her crew was on board.

We jumped to hang all fenders to port. With the roar of their engine at full throttle and a big exhaust cloud rising, mother and boy furiously hauled in rode at the bow, while the skipper eased a lot at the stern. As soon as their bow anchor was free in the water, the wind blew them sideways and even closer to us. The Renaissance‘s  skipper screamed for his crew to leave the bow anchor dangling, get back, now, and deal with the stern anchor. The dog was running back and forth, barking, snarling, ready to attack, ignoring his yelling master’s threatening commands.

We could do nothing but brace for impact and fend off, but shouted “back!”, anyway. Instead, the skipper opened throttle, lurched forward spinning the wheel to port, barely missing our bow, but ramming his stern into our side. All our fenders, and breaking the rule of never using any body parts to separate a heavy boat from an obstruction, saved us from serious damage.

The Renaissance had its stern anchor down and couldn’t get it up. The skipper sent his son into the Nuisance, un-cleated the stern anchor rode and handed it to the boy to hold it tight. Then he drove off full throttle downwind, with the dog howling at the boy, tossing up and down in the dinghy. The mother stood frozen. In the wake of Renaissance, the boy tied the rode to the dinghy painter and watched his world leave him behind.

Still dangling its bow anchor, the Renaissance cut too close to the Tabasco, snaring their bow anchor chain. The quick thinking Tabasco crew tied a fender to their stern rode, let it go and hauled up the bow anchor hard, to free it and get away. With a clear path, the Renaissance now drove over the chain of the Vanira, hooked it with the dangling bow anchor and, going great guns, picked up Serendipity’s rode as well, making, in short order, a fine mess of tangled ground tackle and ripped out anchors.

There was shouting, loud engine roar, and grinding and cracking of fiberglass from the dragging clump of boats. It took a long time to sort things out before they all could re-anchor, with the innocent victims keeping as far away as possible from the menacing Renaissance.

We were getting ready to row our dinghy over to the boy, who was crying and dangerously swamped with waves, when the Tabascos, after re-anchoring further down, came in their dinghy to retrieve their floated stern anchor. We hailed them, pointed to the boy and they drove over and took him on board. Shortly after, the Nuisance turtled, but held fast the Renaissance’s stern anchor rode.

With the wind blowing, and feeling like we had been spared, we kept checking our bearings, still good, ate our well-deserved dinner, best eggs in a long time, and made a list of what not to forget on shore the next morning. I had my heart set on some of those fresh anchovies I saw in the market. Then, the wind fury returned. Surely, it wouldn’t rage like that all night long? But if it did, it was good to know that our anchors had held through the blow in the afternoon. We assigned anchor watch and quietly turned in.

At 0230, with a carpet of stars shining brightly above, the untiring wind picked up speed, screeching gusts came stronger, and Chaparral started to drag, jolting us on deck. With so much excitement earlier, nobody had noticed that the dangling bow anchor of the  Renaissance charging at us had gone under our chain, messing with our well-settled plow anchor, too.

Our skipper said: “Let’s get out of here.” We brought in our anchors faster than ever and pointed Chaparral out to the open sea. We would be safer out there, away from grounding land and tight anchorages. We would catch rain for fresh water and find fuel and anchovies on the Island of Rhodes, if the wind would blow us there. The sea was foaming, but Aphrodite and her clam shell were nowhere in sight.

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4 Responses to A is for Anchoring, At Anchor

  1. Peter Detwiler says:

    Marianne: Thanks for a great tale, told well. Prudent seamanship wins every time. Peter

  2. Marianne Wheeler says:

    Thank you, Peter and yes, it is better to know and practice our anchoring skills.

  3. Eric says:

    Riveting story! – chaos following Aphrodite like a tempest only the gods could understand.

  4. Marianne Wheeler says:

    Thank you, Eric. All in all, the gods favored us in the Mediterranean and we were visited often by Neptune’s messengers, dolphins playing in our bow wave.

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