|Anchors where they should be - dug in to the sea floor.|
Well, it finally happened. Last weekend, we woke up to the whirring/whining of the anchor alarm, which sounds almost insect-like, alerting us to the fact that our anchor was no longer in the spot we had so carefully placed it. Rain was pouring down in buckets, and the wind was blowing 20 knots. After a couple of attempts, we got it re-set and settled back in to enjoy a little precipitation. But then the winds changed.
Key West is an interesting anchorage. I mean, we like it because the scenery is spectacular, and you get to watch all the action off of Mallory Square while eating magnificent grilled Key West pink shrimp complete with mangoes, cilantro, Vidalia onions and jalepeno all wrapped in a corn tortilla. Delish. Last night, we got to watch the Coast Guard have a water cannon fight with the sunset cruise boats and several dolphins playing in the harbor all from the comfort of our cockpit.
|This is pretty much the scene every night.|
Unfortunately, while our anchorage beside Wisteria Key scores high on the entertainment scale, it's kind of lacking on some other key fronts. For one thing, the holding isn't the best. There's also quite a bit of current that likes to spin us as well as a lot of wake from powerboats going by (Vlad is considering getting a paintball gun.) But all of those things we could have and had survived. That is, until the wind started blowing from the west. At 37 knots.
The island has no protected anchorages from a west wind, and boats were going everywhere. Boats got beached on sandbars and got blown into the shore. One even wound up on the jetties, shiver the thought. We didn't do too terribly, though we did drag about 25 feet which was just enough to get us close too close to the channel. The Coast Guard came by and told us we were dragging, so we decided to re-set the anchor. I went to the bow, but because the wind was blowing so much and the waves were bouncing us all around I couldn't get the big metal hook that holds our anchor chain in place off of the chain. Oh, and did I mention that we didn't get much sleep the night before because we were so worried about the wind and the dragging. Yeah, not the best of circumstances.
Anyway, Vlad goes up to try it out. We both tried to help each other by driving the boat slowly forward, thereby creating slack in the anchor chain, but being the novices we are and in not so great conditions that maneuver wasn't working too well. Then, this happened.
As Vlad was manhandling the anchor chain, his foot slipped and hit the button that powers the windlass (which is the electric winch that brings up our anchor) and his pinkie finger was pulled up into the windlass, mangling it in a pretty horrendous way. Of course, we didn't go to the doctor because Vlad claims that you can't stitch up a wound like that. He first thought was that he had lost his finger, so it definitely could have been worse.
Anyway, we got him bandaged up with butterfly strips, and then, to continue the not-so-comic comedy of errors, he decides to go to town to pick up a few things we need. We started up the engine on the boat in case the anchor dragged again while he was gone, and I proceeded to sit there for the next 30 minutes positive that we were moving inexorably closer to every nearby obstacle. Vlad made it back to the boat before we ran into anything, tied up the dinghy and climbed back aboard. Alas, though, the line we had for the dinghy had kind of a long tail - long enough to reach our propeller, which it promptly wrapped around.
So now we are in quite the pickle. Vlad's hand had been through a meat grinder. It's still gusting 25 to 30 knots from a bad direction, and we have an incapacitated engine. Vlad considered getting in the water to cut off the line, but there was a lot of current and swell and wind. He didn't think it looked safe for either one of us. Not to mention that his hand was a bloody mess. So he made what I consider to be a very fine executive decision. He called the Key West Bight Marina, which is where we dock our dinghy, and asked for a slip. And then he called BoatUS and asked for a tow. (The tow boat people took a while. Evidently, they were having a busy day!)
We spent the next few days happily ensconced at the marina. Though staying at the marina was very expensive (transient rates are more than $100 a day), the folks at the marina were super nice, and it gave Vlad's hand a little time to heal without infection or further strain, well worth the money, I think.
One more funny thing. My brother texted me saying something like, "Heard you went to the 'drag race' this weekend." I couldn't figure out how he knew that conditions down here had been so rough, and I immediately called him, spending 20 minutes regaling him with our anchoring woes. At the end of our conversation, though, he said that he had actually meant a different drag race. It being Key West and all, there was a drag queen race on Saturday. It sounds like it was way more fun than the one we were in!
If you want more anchoring stories, here's another tale of trouble from Pacific Sailors.