I was puzzled a while back when someone asked me if I was ready for the fall. It took me a while to realize they were talking about autumn and not the collapse of civilization…Well, autumn has arrived here on Anna Maria Island, Florida.
It blew in about 3 a.m. on the Wednesday morning of September 30, 2020. I guess all the wind that The Great Orange Wart spewed during his “debate” with Biden finally made it from Cleveland to the island.
Living close by the Coquina North Boat Ramp I’m often awakened in the early hours by boats trailing their wakes as they disregard the “No Wake” zone on their way for a day out on the salt. So when I became aware of the first few bounces through my sleep that’s what I chalked it up to. But when the motion continued unabated I stuck my head up through the hatch and saw whitecaps all around reflected by the nearly full moon. It was blowing like stink. I checked the time: 3:15. I grabbed the handheld anemometer and saw that the wind over the deck was clocking in at a stead 20+mph with a couple of gusts close to 30!
I generally keep the dinghy tied up “on the hip”
instead of having it dangling astern on its painter. Since it was pounding up and down in the two to three foot chop churned up by the wind I untied it and let it bob behind in the lee of the bigger boat.
My biggest concern was for the semi-derelict, engineless power boat to windward. It has been dragging anchor for the last couple of months and worries me when I’m in its path downwind. The couple that supposedly own the boat, I call them “Itchy and Scratchy” are only aboard occasionally and were not there to help if things went belly up. I keep a large, very sharp knife in the cockpit so I can cut its anchor line if it drifts down on me. I turned on my mobile “hotspot” and checked “Willy Weather” for tide data. It was at half tide and falling. So, for the next five or six hours, with my 1-foot draft, I would be in water too shallow for the big boat’s draft to handle and by then the wind might have abated somewhat.
It was considerably colder, too. Just the night before I’d gone to bed with my 12-volt fan for a breeze but now, for the first time in months, I slipped into the comfort of my warm weather sleeping bag. And while Tuesday had a heat index reading in the low 100℉ range, Wednesday, with 15 mph breezes, remained a “keep your tee shirt on for comfort” day.
We’ve still got a couple of months before the really cold, for us, anyway, temperatures set in but it’s time to think about digging the long johns out and taking them to the laundry in preparation. It will be my THIRD winter here on the hook.
I know it seems that I’m always posting about Guabancex, the Taino* Indian goddess of wind and hurricanes constantly making life difficult for we who chose to live our lives at anchor as I do here off of Anna Maria Island, FL. But it’s not always like that. Much of the time I wake up to days like this…
(*Taino: The Taíno were an indigenous people of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage. And there’s no need for rants about what a horrible person Columbus was, and the genocide of the indigenous tribes, yada, yada, yada, ad nauseum!)
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Off the top of my head I can only think of two others of my FB friends who live on a boat full time like I do and they’re on the same boat together. On a Caribbean Island, no less. So I post things like this so landlocked people get an idea of what it’s like to live at the end of an anchor. And I have to stress that if I felt I was in any danger I wouldn’t be in this location, I’d be tucked away far up in the mangroves somewhere. I’m securely anchored in about 5 feet of water at high tide and I sit on the bottom at low. Right now that exposed oyster flat is no more than 25 feet astern. If things really got bad I can literally wade ashore.
For people who live on the land weather isn’t as personal is it is to people on boats. For them it’s “Oh, yeah, it’s a bit breezy today,” as they go from their stable home to their air-conditioned automobile. Weather is only noted in passing for the most part.
For us out here on the hook it’s much more intimate. Here’s what we’re looking at here at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL…
And while “Gale Watch” may sound quite sinister, I’ve been through thunder squalls right here much more severe. A couple of weeks ago one blew through with 60 mph winds and toppled huge lifeguard towers only a couple of hundred yards away and I did just fine..
First became aware of the winds around 3:00 am. Don’t know how strong they were, but the noise of the canvas rain tarp flapping around woke me. Trying to get back to sleep with the waves from the winds coming in from the SSE across Sarasota Bay was a bit difficult.
Heard the rain start up about 5:30. At 8:30 my handheld anemometer read a steady 20.5 mph gusting to 26.7. Looking at radar images the poorly defined eye of the storm is roughly level with me here on Anna Maria Island, FL, but far out in the Gulf of Mexico. The sooths from the sayers are predicting as much as 4 inches of rain in this area over the next couple of days. Flash Flood Warnings are up and there was a news story that one local bridge had been damaged from currents undermining the banks it spans. I’m safe, thanks, with stuff to read and food and water on board.
The solar panels are struggling, but as long as there’s light they produce SOME energy. Yesterday evening at sunset four boats were anchored here near the Coquina North Boat Ramp: A small runabout to the south, an engineless Carver 26 just to the north and a small, mastless sailboat even with the Carver bt farther our in the bay. Right now there are THREE. The heavy winds and seas broke the sailboat loose and I see it a couple of hundred yards to the north in amongst the piers.
Spent several hours doing “Salty” stuff here by the Coquina Beach North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, this sunny Sunday afternoon.
In the last year, here, with the storms of winter and the squalls of summer, my Manson Boss anchor with its 20 feet of ¼-inch chain has dragged through the muddy/sandy bottom about 100 feet or so from where I originally dropped the hook. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you have severe COPD like I do rowing a cockleshell dinghy into a stiff breeze is difficult. I’ve been contemplating relocating the boat for the last couple of weeks. Today was a good time to attempt it. The breeze was only about 5 mph out of the SE and the tide was flooding. The combination will work at helping the anchor dig in.
What I meant about “Salty” stuff is that I didn’t lower the outboard motor into position, start it up, and let it idle while going forward to raise the anchor and then rush back to the helm to then motor a hundred feet or so isn’t what I did. Where’s the seamanship in that? Instead I used the millennia-old system of moving a boat known as “Kedging.”
kedge (kɛdʒ) nautical
(Nautical Terms) to draw (a vessel) along by hauling in on the cable of a light anchor that has been dropped at some distance from it, or (of a vessel) to be drawn in this fashion.
I did it in three stages. The first two got me further to the south to about where I was originally and then I pulled myself closer to the shore. The way it worked was: I’d haul in the big anchor until the chain was “up and down.” Into the dinghy with the small Danforth “Lunch Hook” and row it forward to the full extent of the line I had attached to it. About 100 feet. Then back on board the big boat and haul the big anchor until it was clear of the bottom. No need to bring it on board since I was going to be dropping it right away. Just clear of the bottom was good enough. Then I hauled on the lunch hook line until IT was up and down. Drop the big anchor and wait for it to set.
Watch the shoreline to see if I’m drifting and my breathing has returned to what passes for normal these days. Did it a second time to get where I wanted to be but in looking aft I was right in line with the derelict Carver. So I took the lunch hook in towards shore and got it out of the way. I may have brought in a bit TOO CLOSE and will possibly take the ground at low tide But since the retractable keel it all the way up, the boat is basically flat bottomed, and the bottom of the bay is soft sand and mud without any rocks it’s okay. I’ve taken the ground before. We’ll see.
Second break in the bad weather. It started raining sometime in the middle of the night and kept on, steadily, until late morning. Stopped briefly and I was able to get about 2/3 of the water bailed out of the dinghy before it started pouring again.
What’s happening is that as Tropical Storm Cristobal swirls counter clockwise out in the Gulf of Mexico it’s sweeping its feeder bands across our area here where I’m anchored at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida.
During this second break I was able to get inside the dinghy and bail it dry. It’s going to keep on raining according to the forecast and tonight The prediction is for winds gusting into the 25 mph range later on and 1 to 2 inches of rain is possible. The dinghy wouldn’t be able to take that much if it wasn’t bailed out. Could easily sink. Might, anyway. The canoe on the nearby power boat is down because it filled up with rain water. Haven’t seen those people in close to 2 weeks. They’re new to living on a boat and, perhaps, they just decided to cut their losses and walk away. They only paid $2,500 for the boat.
Starting to rain again. I might have to do a bit of bailing before I hit the sack tonight.
I often write about how I’m confined on my boat anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, because high winds prevent me from being able to paddle my dinghy the 130 yards to the boat ramp dock…
But then there are beautiful days like today. There’s a pretty blue sky filled with puffy white clouds and hardly a breath of air. I’m not leaving the boat simply because there’s no reason to. I have food, water and there’s a plague still raging on the land. I’m content being where I am…So I’ll just sit here picking at my ukulele from time to time and arguing with people I don’t know about politics on Facebook.
It’s nice to sit down to lunch and bask in the feeling that you actually got something important taken care of in the morning other than arguing politics with people you don’t know on Facebook.
When I’m going to be sedentary, like I have been over the winter anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, I like to employ two anchors. I set my 25 lb Manson Boss anchor and its 25 feet of 5/16” chain and ½” nylon rode out to take the weather coming from the south. The 25 lb Danforth with its 25 feet of 1/4” chain and ⅜” nylon rode was deployed to the north to handle weather from that direction.
It all worked as it was supposed to through the winter months, but for the past month or two I’ve noticed that the Danforth’s line has been more or less lying parallel to the Manson’s line. But when I’d pull on it from the bow it appeared as if the two were at a decent angle to provide good holding from storms coming in from the north or south. In addition to the wind blowing the boat in one direction of another the tidal currents flood twice a day towards the north and twice a day ebb to the south. Whichever direction the boat is facing depends on which of the two, current or wind, is strongest at the time. So over the course of a day the boat can swing around to all points of the compass. This can cause the lines to twist around one another even if care is taken to keep unwrapping them every day or so.
For a time this morning it seemed I might be forced to move MY boat because a fleet of semi-derelicts was drifting down towards me and the owner of the mess wasn’t around and calls to his phone went to voicemail. So I scooted up to the bow and started hauling in on the Danforth’s ⅜” line. The Danforth is my secondary anchor. It wasn’t easy. When I got to the chain it seemed as if the anchor was snagged on something below. It wasn’t, but over months of being pushed and pulled in one direction and another the chain had been dragged around and become fouled on the stock and flukes. It was one large ball of galvanized metal weighing around 50 pounds. The flukes of the anchor were NOT dug into the sand and undoubtedly it was simply the sheer weight of the anchor and chain that were providing any holding power. For the uninitiated these are the parts of a Danforth anchor…
A younger person in better health might not have been too fazed at this. But I’ll be 78 in just over a month and I have serious issues with COPD. This was going to be a challenge. One thing I HAVE LEARNED with age is to not simply plunge into something like this. So I sat there looking at this galvanized lump swinging just above the water and thought about every step I needed to take to achieve my goal. . . I cut the nylon line where it was attached to the chain through a clevis. I led the bitter end of the rode behind the pulpit railings so I could raise the anchor up on to the deck more close to amidship and left the bitter end dangling over the side.
In the dinghy I pulled myself hand over hand to where the end of the line was hanging over the side. I tied it through the clevis at the head of the stock and then went back aboard. At the bow again I let the chain that was gathered on deck fall into the water and, after a mighty heave to bring the big anchor on board, I retrieved all of the chain. It’s done it’s job. After nearly three years being submerged in salt water some of the links are perhaps only half their thickness.Time to bring it to shore.
I put an anchor bend on the clevis and for now will keep the big Danforth on deck ready to be deployed in an emergency. The Manson Boss anchors have a good record for resetting themselves if pulled out of position. But I’m anchored in good sand and mud where I am. It’s shallow, too. Often at real low tides I’ve been aground without even knowing it until I looked over the side. I’m still good here even with one anchor on the bottom.