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  #1  
Old 09-28-2007
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IslandPacketYachtsNewsletter is on a distinguished road
Women at Sea

Women at Sea
“Force 10 and Alone”

Carol Pieniadz, “Spirit Guide” (IP32-20)

Everything happens for a reason.  I keep telling myself that little pearl of wisdom and now that I am back home in Florida I can almost believe it.  But during my trip down the ICW last fall and winter it was really very difficult to swallow that wisdom.  While moving north out of the hurricane zone and complying with the insurance company’s geographical requirements, I experienced one of the most physically challenging and mentally exhausting times.

"I thought about dropping the second anchor, but found myself resisting. "

I had little incentive to depart from Pocomoke, MD and head south any earlier than November.  My insurance required I stay above 35 degrees north until the 1st of December and by my calculations it would only take about a week to drop that far south.   After several months tied to a dock I set out with the tide around noon on November 1st for a leisurely motor down the Pocomoke River to anchor for the night in Pocomoke Sound.  It was a short days travel, but at that time of year the sun was setting early.  The weather forecast called for winds 10-18 knots out of NNE and I was anticipating a nice beam’s reach across the bay to Deltaville, VA in the morning.   I awoke the next day to sustained winds of 26 knots, which increased throughout the day.  So much for a gentle break in period!  I crossed the bay in small craft warning conditions averaging six knots with the jib alone.  Waves at 4 to 6 feet sent spray over the dodger and into the cockpit and air temperature was in the 50‘s.

By mid November I was ready to continue south and left Deltaville heading for Norfolk.  Everything happens for a reason.  I got a late start and motored into a headwind all day.   With a forecast for near gale force winds by evening I changed plans and headed into Mobjack Bay instead of Norfolk.   I traveled farther up the East River than on previous occasions and was glad to have done so.  That night winds were 35 knots for me but in Norfolk they were clocked at 70 knots.  More by the luck of over sleeping than planning, I missed being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But my luck was not going to last and five days later I found myself alone watching as winds over 50 knots made the water surface look like it was steaming.   

There was a strong 20 knot breeze when I departed Pungo Ferry for the Alligator River, and the forecast was for gale force winds by that night.  Planning to anchor in South Lake on the east side of the river to ride out the gale, I was already out of the sound and into the river when I realized my set waypoints were for my usual anchoring spot just off the channel to the west.  I found the waypoint for the entrance to East and South Lakes, which are off the east side of the river and entered it into the GPS.  The light was fading and I had about 30 minutes to sunset.  In the fading light I could not see the entrance to the lakes, but trusted in the GPS - a  big mistake.  When entering the waypoints I had accidentally changed the N to S.  By the time I recognized my error and turned north I could not make headway against the wind and waves and had to beat my way back north.  

It was dark as I entered the common channel to the lakes, too dark to really distinguish the shoreline.  While I have the Cap’n Voyager for planning on my laptop, the laptop is not visible at the helm.  I made my way slowly into South Lake watching depth soundings closely and using the Garmin 76Map to give me some reference to the snake like shoreline.  My first choice of anchorage was occupied by a powerboat without an anchor light.  Not good.  I finally dropped the hook with 100 feet of chain followed by 200 feet of nylon in a spot that I hoped would not give me too much fetch and gave me plenty of room to drag.  

I thought about dropping the second anchor, but found myself resisting.  I had never had the occasion that required two anchors and had never done this procedure with a crew person aboard, let alone solo. The wind was already blowing in the 30’s and with such total darkness the gut just said, “Don’t do it.”  However, I did pull the 2nd anchor’s chain and nylon from the locker and coiled it on deck for rapid deployment.

Finding three bearing points for anchor watch was not possible.  There were no houses, lighted channel markers or other reliable points of reference.  It was uninhabited dark.  I set the GPS anchor alarm but have never had faith with that system.  Before turning in for the night, I took my other GPS and entering my current position and set the instrument to navigate to that point.  By looking at my distance to waypoint I expected to get an early warning of any anchor drag.

" God answered my prayers and the winds starting dropping within the hour.  "

How do you sleep when you are alone at anchor and the wind is rising?  The answer to that question is “not very well.”   I knew that rest and sleep were essential but I was afraid I would not hear the anchor alarm.  I was also worried about waking up disoriented and not being able to react quickly.  I always have one salon light equipped with a red LED.  That night I moved it to the bunk and left it burning all night.  Sleep was easier and red light gave enough illumination to read the GPS.  I set a timer to ring hourly.  My sleep was light and I woke easily and looked at the distance to waypoint on GPS.  Finding that distance repeatedly at less than 50 feet was very reassuring.  At first I went out into the cockpit to check the wind speed but after a while I just listen to the sound the rigging made.  And so the night went until about 4 a.m. when the winds seemed to settle into the low 40’s and I set the alarm clock instead of the timer and enjoyed a nice three-hour nap.  

The following day I had my first look at my anchoring choice.   In the light of day I could clearly see I should have anchored farther to the north closer to the tree line.  My perception of distance and proximity to the power boat anchored in that general area, as well as the distance between shorelines, had me err on the side of caution.  My penance for arriving after dark was to endure the waves constantly rolling down on me.  The motion of the boat was not comfortable, but bearable.  Winds increased throughout the day to 40-45 knots and with heavy rainfall.   Spirit Guide danced on her anchor and rolled in the increasing waves but never dragged.  I went to bed that night feeling comfortable that my anchor was holding and a forecast projecting the gale would blow itself out soon.  

I was too tired from the prior two days to do anything but sleep well and deeply that second night.  But I went from comfortably relaxed to near panic when I reached for the GPS and found the distance to destination was 200 feet.  Rushing to the cockpit, a quick visual confirmed that I had indeed dragged.  It was no longer raining and I was mesmerized by the sight of foam and mist falling off the top of the waves.  I expect that the heavy rainfall had dampened that particular sight the day before.   Wind speed was now 52 knots.  I had slept comfortably thinking I had reached the height of the storm.  Now with about only 100 feet astern to the shoreline I became concerned for the first time that I might be in trouble.

Re-anchoring in that much wind alone would not be easy and could prove dangerous alone.  I considered dropping the second anchor but was not sure of the continued depth of the 100 feet astern.  Since all my anchor rode was played out I would need to motor forward to drop and set the second anchor.  The deck was too unstable for moving rapidly with any degree of safety.  I began considering ways of dropping the second anchor, which was not on the windlass, while I remained at the helm driving forward.  Deciding that breakfast and coffee were the first priority I mulled over the situation and said a prayer for conditions to improve.  God answered my prayers and the winds starting dropping within the hour.  By 9 a.m. winds were abating, by 11 a.m. winds were at 10-15 knots and by noon I was traveling south again.  

Given what happened I could have spent two days tied up at Coinjock and lost a day’s travel but been well rested after the storm.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  I have learned a number of things from this experience.  First, I can survive a full gale by myself without panic or fear.   Second, I’m going to have to practice setting and retrieving two anchors alone in calm conditions.  Next, I’m thinking about a buying or making an anchor kellet and using it routinely.  I have already sewn an anchor sail.  And finally, I’m going to find an insurance company who will permit me to drop down to 31N before the high winds of November.  


Please feel free to visit Carol’s blog at www.sailblogs.com/member/spiritguide .

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Old 10-17-2007
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Women at sea - I can relate to that

Oh how I can relate to this wonderful article. As a middle aged women who loves sailing but who spends much of the time, when the wind is high, hanging on for grim death with her eyes closed.I could relate to everyones fears and anxieties about cruising. I love the grace and freedom of a yacht skimming across our beautiful Tasmanian bays and when the wind is light it is a period of indescribable joy. My husband and I sailed when we first got married 38 years ago but sold the yacht as domesticity settled in. We purchased a trailerable yacht in 2000 and had 4 years of pleasure although mostly just sitting on it for a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the Marina. When moving to Tasmania in late 2004 we again sold the yacht - but I really missed her. My husband has been racing with an elderly gentleman here and I occasionally got to sail with him too. In June this year we purchased a Columbia 27 and have been sailing quite a bit before the racing season started and only when the weather is good.

Recognising that I need and want to do more I emailed a female yachty at another club seeking someone who was willing to train and race with some amateur women against the men. So now we have an all women crew to race in the weekly Sunday pennant series and in fact I have more women like me who want to sail but need to build confidence. Thanks to our fantastically patient expert Anne, we will be taking the men on for our first race this week.
I cannot guarantee that I wont sail with my eyes closed for a while - but here goes nothing - maybe in 12 months I will laugh at the nerves that I show!
Thanks ladies for a laugh and a realisation that I am not alone.

Pat
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Old 08-01-2009
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nice post, thanks for sharing, glad it all came out in the wash alright!
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Old 08-04-2009
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I am new at this, and am wondering if anyone has any advice as to cooking on board. Will be doing a passage from Brazil to S. Africa as cook. There must be a book out there, or at least lots of information from those who have done this.

Pat60
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Old 10-28-2009
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[QUOTE=Pat60;510958]I am new at this, and am wondering if anyone has any advice as to cooking on board. Will be doing a passage from Brazil to S. Africa as cook. There must be a book out there, or at least lots of information from those who have done this.

Pat60[/QUOTE]

what kind of fuel is stove using?? is just as cooking in house only galley is smalller....and cannot waste as much cooking fuel......each boat has its own idiosynchrasies....have fun!!!!
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Old 03-10-2010
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Zeehag,

As a former professional cook, my best advice is to cook ahead and freeze. A moving boat is no time for creativity and presentation. The next to consider is shelf life: which veg or fruit will go bad fastest and use that first (hint lettuce and salad veg). Plan soups last with the long lasting carrots, celery, squash, etc. I keep lots of healthy snacks onboard: granola, B&J, raisins, crackers and cookies; sometimes it is just to rocky to cook.

Let us know how your trip goes! Good luck, Sanderling
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Old 03-11-2010
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Does anyone else find it ironic that a bad-arse sailing story written by a woman was accidentally turned into a cooking thread?
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Old 03-12-2010
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What's an anchor kellet?
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Old 04-16-2010
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[QUOTE=Sanitie10;579196]Zeehag,

As a former professional cook, my best advice is to cook ahead and freeze. A moving boat is no time for creativity and presentation. The next to consider is shelf life: which veg or fruit will go bad fastest and use that first (hint lettuce and salad veg). Plan soups last with the long lasting carrots, celery, squash, etc. I keep lots of healthy snacks onboard: granola, B&J, raisins, crackers and cookies; sometimes it is just to rocky to cook.

Let us know how your trip goes! Good luck, Sanderling[/QUOTE]
is alll good to be a former professional cook..lol.....too rocky to cook?? ye donot reside aboard do ye?? ye has access to fridge and such in a land based operation. nopt all of us are as wealthy insofar as material goods is concerned--i choose not to have a house on land. i have a 41 ft dedicated cruising boat.
freezing stuff is all good if ye has a fridge on board that works.and if you are not a live aboard sailor...LOL... many who cruise do not have refrigeration..many do---i choose not to......be real about cruising on a budget..LOL....finger foods are great--but they arent a regular diet. the challenge is being on boatrd 24/7/365 and providing nutrition to all on board in a variety of ways. isnt like cooking at home but isnt camping out either. the potholders that come with many marine stoves do a decent job of holding the pots and pans on a stove. if one can cook in 30 ft rollers or in the gulf of mexico in a storm, then one is a good cook...lol--not everyone worries about presentation while cooking at sea LOL--i just have concern as to whether it gets into the bowl that is going to be used to hold the foods that are eaten ..LOL
must be nice to have a house AND a boat--but isnt my desire..lol...i prefer to be at sea rather than stuck in a dock or at home in a land based prison called a house. yes i am experienced at this!!!! i just choose not to write about it instead of experiencing it..lol--writing takes time away from actual sailing time.
we have anchored in brisk winds(*30 kts) with only one anchor--a 35 cqr, in a 37 ft sloop without problem--second anchor? no....not needed during these for us..some will need some will not need. depends on your choice of ground tackle and what you personally consider comfort.
in port of san diego in the alleged cruisers anchorage, 2 anchors were almost a necessity to keep from dragging into rocks at 0300. wind gets to be around 90 mph at times and the seas in that particular anchorage are very rough--can be 3-4 ft in height depending on wind direction. if from south---hold on--lol...have fun. be safe--if the little voice in your head says second anchor--then do it. if it is quiet in there--yer prolly fine.....trust your boat and trust the little voice that nags during a storm or other situation. is same as reefing before the big wind knocks ye down......

Last edited by zeehag; 04-16-2010 at 11:17 AM. Reason: boatkat knows badass and isnt askeered of sailing alladatime...broakd speelchix
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Old 04-26-2010
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[QUOTE=brokesailor;579747]What's an anchor kellet?[/QUOTE]

It is a weight that you attach to your rode to make the rode pull on your anchor more in the horizontal plane to reduce the risk of your anchor dragging. You can make one up by attaching a weight of say 20 pounds to some kind of roller that goes over your rode, and then attach a pennant to the roller so you can control where the kellet is on the rode from your boat.

Some swear by them, others think they are an unnecessary nuisance. I think if you have an all chain rode, they are much less helpful, but I can see that they could work very well if you use a rode that is primarily rope.

on edit: is anyone else surprised that the author of the OP's quoted article did not mention among her lessons learned that it was a mistake to rely solely on GPS (with her bad waypoints) for navigation? Wouldn't she have avoided her mistake in navigation (which eventually caused her to enter the anchorage location after dark which in turn caused her to anchor in a suboptimal location) by simply looking at a chart?

Last edited by aferlazzo; 04-26-2010 at 11:15 AM.
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