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post #11 of 11 Old 08-19-2004
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Me in my C22 and my best friend in his 25-foot Thunderbird pulled into Hadley’s Inner Harbor, on the west end of Wood’s Hole. It was on a September weekend and everybody and his uncle was getting in the “last cruise” so the place was unexpectedly packed. We had just sailed a non-stop from Cape Ann, through the Canal and down the Buzzard and we were beat to say the least! Still, we found some swing room up to windward and as it was forecast to blow later that night we went through the motions and set on my 13 pound danforth out one way and my buddy’s big CQR out the other.

No sooner had I got to sleep when my buddy is rousting me out as we had dragged into a raft of a couple of big power cruisers! My first groggy question I asked myself was how could two small sailboats drag that much iron, even with that wind, which had by then worked up to about 30 knots. When I made the deck I took a quick assessment of the situation and the worst part was that everyone was yelling and screaming at each other but little was getting done to alleviate the problem at hand.

It took quite a bit of work and seamanship skills to free ourselves from that tangled mess in the pitch black night. We didn’t want to trip the power cruiser’s anchors while retrieving our own and we needed to insure that we could hold our ground as we retrieved our anchors and not drift into another boat or onto the lee shore. We had to work fast before the power cruiser’s chain rode sawed its way through the Thunderbird’s plywood hull. All the while the owner of the power cruiser was boisterously insisting that we just cut away our anchor rodes and drift off leaving him alone!

Leaving my buddy to defend our boats from hostile borders, I set my 35-pound danforth storm anchor from the skiff, just aft the power cruiser, figuring to fall back on that. Then I went to retrieve the CQR which looked to be fowled in the power cruiser’s gear. Sure enough, the CQR slid right up their rode! At that point we started to drift astern, finally passing by the power cruisers. I felt more then a little shaken to see the ease which my 13-pounder just slid along, as if it wasn’t even there but soon we came up on the big storm hook and it held.

My relief was only temporary for no sooner had the boats started to lay to the big danforth than it too started to drag! I was still in the skiff and still had the CQR, which had come up clean, hung on the transom so I quickly pulled to windward as far as its rode would allow and set it back down. To my horror, when the boats came up on that, it too started to drag!

Three anchors, each with about 75 to 100 feet of ½ inch nylon out and ample chain, set in a charted 12 feet of water with mud bottom and two little pocket cruisers are dragging them like they weren’t even there! Luckily, there were no other boats in our path. I just about gave up. I re-boarded my boat and started to cast the Thunderbird off, saying to my buddy, “let ‘em take the hard and be damned then. We’ll get ‘em off in the morning”! Suddenly, one of the hooks took the ground and with a sickly, squishy feel we came to a stop, about 25 feet from the lee mud bank and around 500 feet from where we had first set our hooks! I was too tired to care and just looked at my buddy and said “Good night”.

In the morning, after “sleeping on it”, I hit upon an acceptable answer as to why our anchors didn’t hold. I believe that Hadley’s is so widely used in the summer that the bottom gets stirred up quite a bit and late in the season the mud becomes soft. Our anchors laid on top of this soft mud and didn’t get to the harder mud underneath, until we were out of the “normal” anchorage.

I’m a firm believer that I am the only one responsible for the actions of my vessel so this is no way an excuse but I feel that I had done everything “by the book” that night. The only good to come from this was a new chapter in my own “book”, one of the millions of lessons that I cruise with today. We live and we learn. I’m sorry to those who were bothered by my actions that night and to my best friend who paid a price for trusting my judgments. All I can say is that I will not allow myself to be fooled like that again!
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