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sailortjk1 08-13-2007 09:16 AM

Nightmare on Pigeon Lake
We talk a lot around here about anchors, ground tackle, and anchoring techniques; as well we should.

We had a close call over the weekend by boaters who were not prepared, had the wrong type of equipment, or were using the wrong technique.

On Saturday or goal was to sail in the afternoon and spend the night on the hook in a quiet little nearby lake call Pigeon Lake.

Sundays forecast called for scattered showers and thunderstorms early than clearing by midday. I was willing to take a chance on the weather; scattered thunderstorms were not going to slow down our weekend plans.

We arrived in the anchorage around 6:00PM. Quite a few boats are there including a raft off of about fifteen sailboats. They were nicely organized in a complete circle, which took up an area where I had wanted to drop the hook. No problem there is enough room for everybody. We anchored along the East side of the lake, off our stern about 50 feet are lots of weeds and after another 50 feet of weeds the water drops from about 12 feet to 2 feet.

At about 10:00PM I look around to see that in addition to the 15 sailboats in the raft, there are about another 8 boats besides us that appeared to be settling in for the night. This includes a smaller raft off of 3 Power boats, a 40 something foot Searay SunDancer, a smaller 20 something foot cabin cruiser, along with various other power boats. We are the only sailboat in the anchorage other than the large raft off.

I checked carefully during the night for drift which we had none. I was also checking for proper swing clearance, as we were a little close to the small cabin cruiser. With the wind from the west we were parallel to each other. When the wind shifted out of the south, our stern was in line with his bow, we had plenty of room to swing and not be a problem for either boat.

Well the scatted storms made their appearance around 3:00AM and that is when all hell broke loose. I got up at the first sign of rain to close all the hatches. It began to lightning quite intense and when the front hit the winds picked up to about 35knotts and blew strong for about 1-1/2 hours.

I was down below looking through a port, when I saw the raft of the three powerboats making their way through the anchorage and heading right for the small cruiser behind us. The Sea Ray had his spot light shinning on them and I immediately went on deck (In the pouring rain) and began to yell as loud as I could. It was useless in the wind and rain; they never heard me from about 50 feet away. I grab our spot and hit them with it, again to no effect. The only thing that got their attention was when they ran into the little cruiser.

The four tangled boats quickly ended up in the weeds. Some how they got three of the four out of there, but one of then ended up grounding.

At the same time this was happening, the Sea Ray broke free.
Now there are four boats trying to circle around and reset their hooks in a small confinded anchorage in a dark blinding rainstorm with winds around 35 knots. What a disaster.

I kept paying out more scope and watching for chafe. We never had any problems other than the fact that we got very little sleep.

It was all over just as quickly as it started and the next morning we woke to see Tow Boat US pulling the one boat from where he had grounded.

I spoke with the Sea Ray captain and he explained that he thought at one point he was about 5 feet from our anchor line. I told him no harm no foul, that was five feet of enough clearance. His wife gave out a great big, "I'm never doing that again!"

We slept in a little late, had our breakfast, and left around noon.

Ground tackle, anchor selection, and anchoring techniques are a very important topic and a very important part of your vessels safety. We were very confident in ours and never had a problem........ but you never know about the other guys..

sailingdog 08-13-2007 09:28 AM

Unfortunately, the prudent ones, with the good ground tackle, can end up paying for the foolishness of the ones with poor ground tackle, since they can drag down on you. You were lucky that the raft of three power boats missed you.

I can't really understand how people can buy a boat, be it power or sail, and not spend an extra $1000 on a good ground tackle setup. IMHO, it is really cheap insurance that you'll live through a storm if you get caught anchored out in bad weather... economizing here really doesn't make sense to me.

PBzeer 08-13-2007 10:03 AM

Often times it isn't a question of economy, as it is one of lack of knowledge. Particularly for the weekend boater without much experience. This is one area where I (gasp!!!) feel government has a responsibility. Every boat sold should come with some form of literature fully explaining anchors, their use, and sizing. It would add little to the cost of the boat, and though probably ignored, would be a significant tool for adjucation if necessary.

Glad all you lost was some sleep TJ

Currently back in New Bern, NC

sailingdog 08-13-2007 10:12 AM


Very true... in some cases it is a lack of knowledge... but I don't know if the government really has the responsibility here... government is big enough and I don't think having them talk about anchors makes sense. The boat manufacturers should definitely be responsible for making sure that all of the their boats, at least the ones sold new, come with properly sized ground tackle and such... not the token anchors that most manufacturers include, but real ground tackle. Doing that alone would probably help reduce the ignorance about good ground tackle in the general boating populace as a whole.

Freesail99 08-13-2007 10:16 AM

Sailortjk1, what kind of anchor were you using ?

PBzeer 08-13-2007 10:22 AM

SD - it would take more government interferance to mandate tackle than it would literature, though that certainly is a better solution. Ideally, it should come through the Industry, but we know how likely that is :)

sailingdog 08-13-2007 10:32 AM

Well, if an overly litigious sailor started suing the manufacturers of boats that drag down on him for not having proper ground tackle, it might happen through the industry, without any government interference... since they're generally very protective of their wallets...and if a court decided that the boat manufacturer was liable for properly equipping and training their customers... I bet they'd be doing it really quickly. :D

sailortjk1 08-13-2007 11:38 AM


Originally Posted by Freesail99 (Post 179175)
Sailortjk1, what kind of anchor were you using ?

our's is a Claw with plenty of chain and rode. By the end of the night I had about 200' of rode out in less than 20' of water.
It has always served us well.
We are usually anchored in mud or sand and have never had any problems.

sailingdog 08-13-2007 12:03 PM

10:1 scope never hurt... ;)

hellosailor 08-13-2007 12:05 PM

Sailingdog, let's keep the gummint out of this. I can just see it now, next year they will pass an addition to ColRegs requiring all boats in navigable waters to carry an anchor weighing ten pounds per foot of boat. You know, like a 350# anchor for a 35' boat.

Great for the anchor business, great for the winch business. Great for chiropractors, too, who are getting shut out of insurance plans.

I suppose you could put in a stealth call to the local USCG station and suggest that a large raft with no visibly adequate anchorage was a clear and present danger, and ask them to come over and make some suggestions before sunset. Put personally, I think I'd rather make a fresh pot of coffee and then get the hell out of Dodge. (Or call Captain Nemo to just come sink them.<G>)

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