Woke up: Las Hadas, Bahia de Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico
Went to sleep: Las Hadas, Bahia de Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico
Living on the Hook
The anchor refused to budge; its chain hopelessly tangled around an unknown object on the ocean floor. Penelope held fast as if in a tied game of tug-o-war.
Many people living on their boat stay in marinas where life is simple. Their boat is plugged into an AC power source. They are able to dry their hair, vacuum, and watch movies all at the same time, if they like. Potable water is readily available along with hot showers and laundry facilities.
One option to tying up in a marina is living “on the hook” or “at anchor.” Your boat is floating in the bay, held in place by one or more anchors. We have not been in a marina since Thanksgiving, although, living at anchor is not for the faint of heart and certainly not recommended for people who walk in their sleep.
Living in a marina is convenient and, with appropriate “dock lines”, the vessel holds relatively still. Living in a marina costs money, while living on the hook is free. Usually there is a breeze in the anchorage which makes it cooler and because you are farther from town it is quieter, too. But, living on the hook presents challenges unimaginable to land dwellers.
Peter wriggled into snorkeling gear and stepped off Penelope’s swim ladder. He took a gulp of air, lowered his head, and kicked off with the hope he’d get deep enough to diagnose the problem in a single breath. He determined our anchor chain was wrapped around the leg of an antique refrigerator resting in the mud. Once identified, we circled Penelope around the troublesome obstacle and eventually released her from her imprisonment.
Making an Anchoring Decision
As we approach each new anchorage, my husband struggles to make an anchoring decision amidst the other boats already at rest. He motors up and down the haphazard rows of boats, slowly circles the bay, traveling in between and round and round until the track on our GPS looks like an Etch-a-Sketch® operated by a youngster. I used to be embarrassed by this behavior, but now I simply wait, read a magazine, and listen for him to say, “This looks good!”
Once I hear the magic words, I ready the automatic identification system (AIS) to record our latitude and longitude, marking our exact location. As the anchor is deployed I “set” the anchor alarm on the AIS. In the event, Penelope’s anchor moves from within an 80-foot radius an alarm will sound.
I move to the helm to steer the boat while Peter moves to the bow to lower the anchor. Some couples use walkie-talkies, portable radios or hand signals to communicate with each other while anchoring. Peter and I prefer to holler at each other over the roar of the wind through the rigging, the waves splashing against the hull, and the rumbling of the engine. Apparently, we enjoy the added frustration. When Peter, at the bow of the boat, far, far, from the helm, turns his back to me and whispers, “Turn to the right” I feel at liberty to scream obscenities at the top of my lungs. Until, of course, I realize everyone else in the bay has poured a cocktail and made themselves comfortable in their cockpits to watch the Susan and Peter Anchoring Show. It’s better than late night TV.
Peter uses his foot to engage the “lower” switch of the windlass and it begins to feed chain to the anchor, allowing the anchor to lower toward the water. The anchor lowers slowly to the bottom of the bay, usually 20- to 30-feet beneath the surface. Once the anchor touches down, Peter instructs me to put Penelope in reverse and back away from the anchor. We’ll feed out 90- to 210-feet of chain depending on the depth of the water.
We wait while she settles on her chain. She’ll eventually assume a direction parallel to all the boats anchored nearby.
To test the “set”, I again put Penelope in reverse and this time I give her some gas. We watch the position of the land and trees around us and if nothing changes in relation to our boat we are “home” once again.