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Old 12-17-2015, 12:03 PM   #1
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Captain Oscarís fireside stories: How the anchor saved my day.

It came up in another thread, and folks said:”Yes, Captain Oscar, tell us that story!” So here goes:

The boat is a Catalina 42 (yes, that’s a sail boat). The crew is my lovely bride, the two urchins and myself. The trip is a relatively short one from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton. Since the wind was out of the East at 20 or so knots and thus a perfect beam reach, rolling out the genoa gave us a respectable 8 knots. No need to get the main out. Nice and tucked in on the boom. Whooshed past Hillsboro in no time and were approaching the Boca inlet. I have included a piece of the chart.

Now I’m smart enough not to try and run a small Atlantic inlet with tide and wind opposing, so I had timed our arrival to coincide with incoming tide. Still, even then there’s a nice standing wave over the sand bank, as well as a partially submerged jetty which would make a navigational error quite consequential. Depth was adequate, but there was not a LOT to spare.

So, as we approached I fired up the Yanmar and gave it some time to warm. At the appropriate time I turned in, rolled in the jib and put the engine in gear. The next sound can only be described as an angry midget cousin of Neptune whacking on the hull with a sledge hammer. Then the motor died. I put it in neutral, and started it. It ran. I then proceeded to put it in reverse, but the angry midget was still there…… and then it died.

So here we are on a leeward shore (I can hear the surf on the beach) with no motor. Clawing our way off on the jib alone was a dicey proposition, throwing out the anchor would only delay our arrival on the beach by a little (6+ footers) and the main, well remember the main was all tucked in and covered so that would take a while, not to mention the inability to get the bow into the wind to get it up without snagging on spreaders etc. etc. Getting Towboat US there quick enough was a gamble and then some.

Time was going to run out. Meanwhile my lovely bride had sensed that the plan was falling apart, and had taken the urchins down below to stay out of my way, and they had donned life vests. (She’s a smart one, yes she is). I did the same. (Donned a life vest, not going below.)

Soo, after some short deliberation with myself I looked at what I had and decided to run the inlet. Wind and current were in my favor, and it was right in front of me. Once inside things would calm down and I could work on plan….. well, we’re way into the alphabet now. So I rolled out about 6 feet of jib, which gave me 3 knots and plenty of steerage. We rode the surf “Hawaii-5-Oh” style and suddenly all was calm, and we were slowly floating into the inlet, like a little swan boat at a Disney ride.

Now, if you’ll direct your attention to the chart you’ll see there’s a 90ļ bend in said inlet. As I come around the corner there was a LARGE dredge, blocking 90% of the water. On the side there was a sign that said:”Call me on CH9”. Now, as I didn’t have any brakes, I just kept going and aimed for the 10% he had left open. This got the barge driver quite agitated and although he did try to slide over a little, he hung out his window and shook his fists at me and said very uncomplimentary things. (Good thing the kids were below.) I yelled back at him “GOT NO MOTOR”

This had an interesting result. The entire dredge operation came to a halt and all able hands ran to a work boat and started chasing after me. I swear I saw the word “salvage” in their eyes. You see, not 500 feet further down was a bridge. It’s vertical clearance was 23 or so feet. I needed 63. Anyone could see that I was going hit that bridge at about 2-3 knots, with the hull trying to continue under it, all in quite a spectacular fashion.

When the workboat got close I yelled at them “NO” and some other workboat speak that they would understand telling them to stay the hell away from me. The look in their eyes was priceless. Then I ran to the foredeck, and pulled the one slip knot that held the 35# Danforth to the pulpit. Then I opened the chain locker and kicked the thing overboard. As programmed it went for the (nice sandy) bottom and took the 100’ of heavy galvanized chain with it. The beginning of the line was belayed on a heavy cleat. All this in about 4 seconds.

As planned years ago, the bow dipped, and then she slowly did a 180ļ and just sat there. I went back, opened the companion way, and said: "You can come out now, and I’ll have a large shot of Vodka, my snorkel and a sharp knife please". It took me a good half hour to get the 1” rope, and some sort of large cork float (the sledge hammer) off my shaft.

The dredge crew disappointedly returned to their toil. I later heard that at the height of the action the bridge tender was seen hurriedly leaving his post, no joke.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:26 PM   #2
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Great story Capt Oscar.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:47 PM   #3
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Wow...eerily similar to an experience I had going into Swan Creek on the Chesapeake one Mothers day in my Bristol 35.5. Blew onto a leeward shore (no engine, bad wind direction) and got hypothermic unwrapping the prop. Happy ending though with minimal damage. I never want to do that again and I'm sure you don't either!
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Old 12-17-2015, 02:00 PM   #4
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More like - The captain saved the day using the anchor. When the day comes that I find myself in a similar situation, I can only hope I have the presence of mind and the clarity to perform as well as you did. Good job.

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Old 12-17-2015, 02:09 PM   #5
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Thank you. The key is having the right setup, and having it ready to go.....NOW.
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Old 12-17-2015, 03:54 PM   #6
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Very captivating tale Capt Oscar.


Ahhhh yes, many of us have one or more "rope around the prop" stories that we all look back on.

Mine happened one night on the Columbia River. Long story short, a friend was tending a line from my bow to a mooring buoy and somehow dropped it overboard as I was motoring forward for him to unhook it from the buoy. Naturally it got caught up in the props. Yup, both of them.


I went overboard with no mask or wetsuit, a steak knife in my teeth, a Maglite between my knees and proceeded to cut the lines away from the props/shafts.


Oh, did I mention it was at night? In October? And the water was 53 degrees?


It took just over 1/2 hour to remove all the line so we could get underway.


Yup, I look fondly back on that evening's adventure and hope to hell it never happens again.
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Old 12-17-2015, 04:05 PM   #7
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Capt. Oscar thanks for posting the story. Shows you how we need to be thinking way ahead all the time!
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Old 12-17-2015, 04:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GFC View Post
Naturally it got caught up in the props. Yup, both of them.


Yup, I look fondly back on that evening's adventure and hope to hell it never happens again.
I was about to post "And that's why I want TWO props..." until I read that.

The water in Boca was obviously fine, but later I added two pieces of equipment that came in handy in colder climes for similar operations, albeit in much less spectacular conditions: A "shortie" wetsuit and a scuba bottle with a 60 foot hose and a regulator. Good for cleaning bottom, removing crap from shaft, replacing zinks etc. etc.
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Old 12-17-2015, 05:00 PM   #9
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Great story. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:10 PM   #10
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Thanks for a good story well told Oscar!

It's a valuable reminder that having ground tackle that you can rely on in all circumstances is an essential part of good seamanship.
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:14 PM   #11
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Thanks for a great story well told Oscar!

It's always good to be reminded that having ground tackle that you can rely on in all circumstances is an essential part of good seamanship.
I call it the "freeze button".... (we have one in the simulators we use for flight training..... )
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:14 PM   #12
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Scary story, nice seamanship, good ending.
I was taught sailboat under sail anchoring similar to your method. Sail downwind, drop the anchor, lets the sheets fly, wait for an almighty jerk as the anchor grabs and the boat rounds up into the wind.
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