Reality Checks off Great Guana Cay

Wind swung 120 degrees through the last 24 hours. Did the anchor? Swimming out to find out.

The reality is sailboats, while mimicking several animals and parts thereof, are un-natural beasts. They must be painted to prevent becoming calcareous gardens of fouling (well, it’s foul to us). They must be protected with sacrificial metals to prevent expensive and important metals from being damaged (and sinking the boat). They must be secured from independent wandering when not underway.

The bottom line is boats always require checking. The bottom-painted surfaces need to be checked for incipient fouling — and scrubbed if need be to “freshen” the toxic paint. Or if the  paint is dead, to keep the fouling from killing the boat’s performance.

The zinc anodes require checking for unusual wastage. We once lost an inch off the tips of our propeller (1980) after the zinc had been ravenously consumed by a mis-wired floating metal dock. Lesson learned, when docked, we drop a very large (think large can of spray paint size) hunk of zinc over the side and attach it to the boat’s grounding system. So, we have a zinc to protect the zincs that protect the bronze fittings, refrigeration heat exchangers  and prop and prop & rudder shafts.

And of course when not slipped, there is anchoring. Since beginning sailing in  Florida in 1974 we have been anchoring on faith. We bought good anchors and bought them heavy, used lots of (or all) chain, used engine power to set them and then trusted all was well. Thrice in those decades it wasn’t. Not bad considering we likely anchored five out of six times we left the slip. Here we can watch the anchor strike bottom and begin to set. But to really know what is going on requires a visit by dinghy with our glass-bottomed bucket or a swim to ensure the hook is set.

When the bottom is sand over hard stuff (shell, marl or rock) things can look good but they aren’t. The anchor never actually sets. When the bottom is grassy, the anchor can appear to be holding but is actually just held by the strength of the root mat that connects the grasses — that same mat having prevented it from reaching sand,clay or mud.

We make a point of finding a clear spot to set the anchor (the bright patch ahead of me in the photo). We use an anchor known for quick setting, and in our case it is 25% heavier than recommended for our boat type/size.  And I still swim or row out and look if we have any doubts. Back in the States we will (have to) go back to anchoring by faith.

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