Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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When we arrived in Bahia Puerto Balandra around 5pm we were stunned by how beautiful the bay was, with rugged cliffs and small coves of white sand beaches. We set our anchor as usual, in 12 feet of water at low tide, and paid out 75 feet of chain. After making sure that it was set well, we jumped into the emerald green water with our snorkel gear. Mike swam over to our anchor (a Manson Supreme – the name alone helped me sleep… until now) and made sure it was nice and buried in the sand.

Snorkel reef


After snorkeling and quick showers on deck, we had dinner and a sundowner. During dinner the wind started to pipe up a bit. We weren’t too surprised as it had been forecast to blow about 15 – though we haven’t had any wind at night time for weeks.
Before heading to bed we did our usual evening checks and made sure the deck was clear of obstructions. Every night we put the spotlight in the companion way to grab if needed. Of course we didn’t think we would need any of it since we had been through much heavier winds.
Fast forward to shortly before midnight. I woke up to wind howling in the rigging. I nudged Mike to get up and check on things (I like to use the I’m not wearing my contacts excuse). He begrudgingly rose and headed up top. Not long after he came back down and said “I think we’ve drug anchor”. I grabbed my glasses and threw on a jacket (it’s been getting down to 60 at night). I started turning on instruments and deck lights while Mike started the engine. We had dragged almost a quarter of a mile and were now very close to a rock cliff on the other side of the bay with the wind blowing us toward shore. Luckily, the anchor appeared to be holding.
We didn’t feel very comfortable next to the cliff but it was dark and there are a couple of small reefs in the bay making maneuvering difficult. We decided to hoist the anchor anyway and follow our trackline back to our original position. While Mike was up on the bow running the windlass I was praying that the engine would not fail as soon as the anchor came up since we would have been blown onto the cliff in mere seconds.
With the anchor up I started heading into the wind along our track line towards our old anchor spot. Mike came back to grab the boat hook and told me that a big rock had lodged itself into our anchor!!!  Well that explains it!
With our anchor once again ready for service we dropped the hook as usual and went back inside to listen to the wind howl and the boat creak and groan. But not before turning on the anchor and depth alarms and staring incessantly at our GPS position on the iPad…
Lessons learned
  • Just because your anchor has held out through 40+ knots of wind before doesn’t mean it will do so again.
  • Check if lone rock wedged itself into set anchor in an otherwise all sand bottom.
  • Turn on anchor and depth alarms!
UPDATE (May 23, 2012): After this debacle we tried to use the iPhone/iPad as an anchor alarm. The problem is that it has to be left on (screen lit) all night and connected to power. It also seems to shut itself down after some hours which turns off the anchor alarm. I’m not a fan of having to run out into the cockpit every time we get a false alarm on the chartplotter so we now use our handheld GPS with anchor alarm. We record our track and set the audible alarm. Works great and  there is no need to get out of bed!
The rock cliff

8 Responses

  1. Hi guys… What an adventure…This kind of stuff just happens….
    I also made a post of a similar incident (rock wedged in the anchor)… and how to get plan B in action…(i was lucky enough to have some more time than you guys did)…
    Stay safe, fair winds and enjoy..
    Best rgds

  2. Oh my gosh, guys! How scary!!! Glad you are well and that you two make such a great team. Here’s to hoping for a much better night. Will be thinking of you. xoxo

  3. Oh my! geesh that was close, good thing you woke up.

    We were thinking of getting a Manson Supreme, but Tate wants to wait for the reviews on the new Manson “Boss” anchor.

    Thank goodness a great blog post was all that resulted from this ordeal.

  4. You are awesome, I think I would have sunk by now. So I stay with driving the Coaster along the shore and enjoy the ocean this way and leave the hard slogging to you.
    We love you

  5. Allison Mahaney

    So glad you guys caught it!! It’s not all fun and games, but it sure looks worth it! Hugs from the land of traffic, rain and endless winter!!

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