There were times when yachting magazines were full of wonderful stories about anchoring but you don’t see them anymore. Perhaps the rise in the number of Caribbean marinas has done away with the foredeck dance. Good news for topsides and divorce statistics—but you have to admit it’s taken some of the fun out of yachting.
When I learned to sail size did matter. Even if you had a small boat you had to have a big anchor and a ludicrously long and heavy chain. We had such a big anchor on the bow of our first boat that it almost kept the propeller out of the water, but we never dragged. Thirty years on, and numerous chiropractors later, I remember that anchor with affection.
I guess you could say my education began when we arrived in Virgin Gorda. Unable to afford the marina fees, we anchored outside, when up sailed a beautiful charter boat that dropped the hook next to us. “Great, perfect maneuver,” thinks I until, without lowering the mainsail, the entire crew jumped into the dinghy and disappeared around the breakwater.
With its mainsail sheeted flat, the boat went berserk, charging towards us until it was pulled up short by the anchor, then stampeding off on the other tack. On the fifth ‘tack’ and just inches from our stern, the anchor finally came out and, before we had managed to inflate our dinghy to go to its aid, the yacht took off and sailed smartly up the beach.
I wasn’t so lucky with the next boat – I actually made it on board! West End in Tortola is one of the deepest anchorages in the islands, but the anchoring technique is simple: sail up to the beach, back off a few feet and drop the hook. My wife and I were sitting naked in the depths of the cockpit sipping cocktails when a splash astern bode well for entertainment.
The couple on the boat was definitely not having a good time. After the guy had twice pulled up 120-feet of rope, I took pity and told them that they really needed to motor right up to the beach. With his wife screaming obscenities, the skipper did exactly that and ran into the back of us, bending the push-pit and ruining the flag. Much to the woman’s horror, I stepped off the back of our boat and on to the foredeck of theirs. Her husband had now forgotten what the charter company had told him about the gear stick and, crashing the engine in and out of forward and reverse, rammed us up the stern again.
As I ran down their side-deck toward the cockpit, the woman began shrieking and accusing me of ruining her honeymoon. I was flattered to think that seeing me naked had ruined her honeymoon when I kicked a cleat and my big toenail peeled back and stood straight up. I was so angry that I never even felt it and bent down, gripped the bloody toenail between my fingers, yanked it off and tossed it over the side. Blood now made the deck slippery and when I looked, the woman had fainted.
It took 15-minutes to anchor their yacht for them—then, amidst a hail of abuse, I dove over the side and swam back to my own boat. Back on board, my wife gave me a large glass of Mount Gay and, trying not to throw up, bandaged my big toe. Fortified and throbbing, I went back on deck to demand compensation but the lovers had worked out how to use the gear shift and the boat was nowhere in sight!
Gary ‘Gaz’ Brown has sailed thousands of miles in a hodge-podge of boats. His wanderings include two single-handed Atlantic crossings and numerous off-shore deliveries. A journalist and yachting commentator, Gary hosts the marine show YachtBlast, which broadcasts twice a week on Island 92, 91.9 FM. St. Maarten.