Anchoring a yacht or small boat is very perplexing to some
people. The tackle up on the bow…the anchors, the rollers, the chain, the
long lengths of line…they’re not there simply for decoration.
The purpose of the anchor, as the name implies, is to hold the boat in one place
when it’s not underway. On one occasion a tourist asked, “Does the
anchor go all the way to the bottom?” Charlie had to look carefully at
the questioner to see if there wasn’t a certain guile or playful jest in
the enquiry. When he had ascertained that the question was genuine, he
patiently explained why a dangling anchor would do little good.
Similarly, in the days of yore, Charlie had made several long
transatlantic, single-handed passages of thirty days or more on a sailing yacht
and he sometimes regaled his guests with short anecdotes. On this particular
day a question by one of his latest group of vacationing tourists/wannabe
sailors was, “Well, I suppose you anchored at night, didn’t
Again, Charlie thought he was being played with. Could this really be a serious
question? Was everybody going to crack up at his expense? Apparently not, he
was surrounded by serious, inquisitive faces.
His reply was always that many of the oceans have depths of two or three miles and the
accepted ratio of depth to anchor scope (length of line and chain) is a minimum
of five to one. So at times a length of 15 miles of scope would be required…
with a barge to tow it all and a crane to pull it all up!”
nodded… and then a lady asked what kind of barge would be most
suitable…and it was then that Charlie lost it. “A pre-1850 paddle
steamer… OF COURSE!!” he shouted. There was a deadly silence–
then he laughed out loud, realizing that his tip was at stake, and changed the
subject to ‘happy hour cocktails.’
because Charlie’s a nice guy, he explained the method of ‘heaving
too.’ To non-mariners this is a system of stopping a sail boat at sea by
using the sails. The boat often rolls like mad and you sometimes heave-to again
(i.e. disgorge your lunch over the (hopefully) lee rail). The boat is still
subject to the vagaries of current and drift.