Feedback on Anchoring in Storms
After several years of crewing on boats, and doing some basic day sailing, my wife and I recently completed our RYA Day Skipper certifications in Brittany. Wanting to reinforce what we learned, we decided to book our first charter in Turkey, and just completed it about two weeks ago. We've had some time to reflect on the trip, and analyze what went well and what didn't. Seeing as there is so much collective wisdom and years of seamanship on the forum, I thought I'd solicit some feedback on what we might have done differently, and how we can improve.
In general, we felt we had a steep learning curve based on two fronts: Meltami winds, and med anchoring/mooring. We hired a skipper for our first day out, just so we could get used to the boat and solicit some advice on anchoring. I'll just say that the skipper wasn't too helpful, and spent a fair amount of time on his cell phone. There was definite a language barrier, as he was a Turk, but ultimately it was apparent that he didn't want to be there that day, and couldn't wait to get off the boat.
The next few couple of days went well, as we cruised the Gulf of Gökova in 10kt winds, and got used to the boat. Anchoring with stern to lines was a bit of a challenge, but nothing we couldn't ultimately handle. The trickiest thing was finding good, uncrowded anchorages (even at this late point in the season).
By mid week a storm was predicted and the winds were to shift from the usual Meltemi NW to SE (25-30kts). We decided to head to Kormen, which had a restaurant jetty inside a breakwater, as it appeared well protected from the predicted SE wind. As we anchored for lunch I called the charter base about a technical problem we were having, and while talking to the base manager he informed me that Kormen was not an option as they were rebuilding the quay, and it was closed to boat traffic. This left us with two options: come back the way we came, or head to an anchorage in the very small hamlet of Mersincik. Since we wanted to explore the ancient town of Knidos the next day, which is near Mersincik, we chose the latter.
We reached the anchorage late in the day, and discovered two Turkish boats already anchored. We took up position to port of both, dropped all our chain (50m), and tied a stern line to a large rock. Depth was about 12m, and we were about 10m to the shore (which was very rocky). The Turkish pilot guide stated that the holding was suspect in places, and was sand and weed. We were able, however, to successfully set the anchor, we took transits, and we set an anchor alarm. By this point it was dark. We were closer than we liked to the boat on our left (about 10m), but the storm was starting to roll in, and it was dark, so we stayed put, rather than try to the whole process again. The skipper of the boat next to us said that there was going to be very strong wind overnight, and that we needed to have all our chain out. I told him we already did. Obviously, he was concerned when he saw a charter boat roll up next to him, but he didn't ask that we move. I put out our fenders on port and also tied our dinghy up on the port side.
Winds started to really pick up as bedtime approached. We didn't initially set up an anchor watch. However, sleep was difficult, as we were both anxious about the situation. At about 2:00 a.m. all hell seemed to be breaking loose. Wind was coming straight on our starboard beam, and the rigging was howling. We noticed both skippers were active on their boats. The skipper two boats over was pulling anchor and leaving the anchorage. This didn't make us feel much better about the situation, so we set up an anchor watch. I stayed up from about 2:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., and kept watch on our position and our lines, as the storm came through in bands of wind, lashing rain, and lightning. However, things seemed to be holding.
At 5:30 a.m. I woke my wife, and she took the cockpit. Only ten minutes later, I heard a bang, and went topsides to see what was happening. She was not in the cockpit, and I feared she'd gone overboard. However, she was at the mast working on something. A small portion of the sail had popped out of it's stack pack, and according to my wife, the boat had been pushed hard to port, as the winds continued hard on the starboard beam. We fought to get the sail back in place, but noticed the boat was now out of position and moving closer to the boat next us. We were still tied hard to stern, but were dangerously close to the shoreline rocks, and with each gust we seemed to get closer to our neighbor. I cranked up the engine and used it to guide our bow away, but with each gust we would be brought back into precarious position. It seemed obvious to me, at this point, that we were dragging anchor. I am guessing that our issue with the mainsail helped dislodge it.
The sun was starting to rise. After about five minutes of maneuvering under power, I told my wife that I thought we should pull anchor and get out of the anchorage. We contemplated what we needed to do. I suggested we abandon the stern line, but she didn't want to do so. I ended up jumping in the dinghy to release from the shore, while she took the helm. As she pulled away with me pulling myself back via the stern line, she started drifting into our neighbor, who by this time was on deck and helping fend our boat off.
We were now free at our stern, but keeping the boat in position to bring the anchor up was proving a challenge. It was a small anchorage with rocks on three sides, so I was mostly concerned with keeping the boat off the shore. As the anchor finally came up, my wife yelled back that we had fouled our neighbors anchor, and she brought it up with ours. Neither of us knew what to do. I tried to keep the boat in position, as the Turkish skipper jumped in his dinghy and make his way to our bow. After about five minutes, he and my wife were able to get his anchor free, and we finally pulled out of the anchorage.
We had nowhere else to anchor, and were fairly freaked at this point, so with bare poles, we decided to motor across to Bodrum. Winds were still about 25-30kts, and seas were about 2m. After a 3 hour crossing of the gulf, we were finally able to take a little shelter.
So, there is our story. Honestly, we were both shaken enough that the final day of our charter we decided to stay in port. The winds were still very strong, and we weren't feeling up to it. As I said at the outset, we've had time to think it over, and discuss what we think we did right and wrong. Generally, we think we've got a good handle on how we'd do it next time, but I'd love to hear from others.