Monday, April 11, 2022

2022 St Kilda Day 19 Near disaster then up the River Cleddau.

After a peaceful night in winds up to and perhaps above 30 knots I declined the opportunity to move to a mooring as it would be tricky getting onto a buoy single handed in 30 knots, especially as it does not have a pickup attached.

Less than an hour later I came closer to disaster than I have faced on a boat and that includes losing the rudder offshore, three times, after one of which we took a day and a half to get from the southern North Sea to Harwich. 

Fortunately I was standing by the cooker waiting for the kettle to boil when there was a violent lurch and the anchor alarm went off, being right by the hatch I had the washboards out and was on deck in record time, those few seconds may have saved me from going aground. 

As always when I am on board at anchor the key was in the ignition ready and the engine fired up immediately (changing the starter motor / solenoid whilst in Newlyn may have paid off!)  and I put the power on with the boat going backwards at a fair clip, healing well over in way more than 30 knots of wind and not really answering the helm with the drag of the anchor and chain.

The anchor alarm plot annotated.  the scale line at the top is 40 yards, a
little over 4 boat lengths. The wind was from the south east, 37 knots about
half way through the above and well over 40 knots at the start

The boat dragged 40 yards before the engine and anchor checked the boat, I was now very close to a mud bank off the starboard quarter and close to a navigation buoy on the port quarter.

I was then fighting to keep the boat moving into wind whilst trying to get the anchor up (using an electric windlass, I could not have got it up otherwise), the engine controls and tiller are aft and the anchor locker is right forward, it being shallow the chain has to be manually flaked as it comes in, so I was dashing back and forth. Getting the anchor up was sometimes stopped by the chain taking an acute angle around the stem fitting. I think I just brushed the mud bank (it was dead low tide), this time the sharp list away from the wind and reduced draft probably helped me avoid bumping harder.

Finally, although it was not long in time, I was in the deep channel, the anchor came  free and the autopilot was able to maintain a heading into wind as I got the anchor the rest of the way up. 

Things could still go wrong, the channel out is narrow and with the very strong wind - I saw 37 knots when as the wind eased I risked a few seconds below deck to switch on the instruments for the depth sounder, GPS map, autopilot and the VHF - just in case I had to call for help.

My track out.
Once out of the channel and the boat was stable under autopilot I got a warm gilet and waterproof top, the wet bottom half would have to wait. Motoring up the river was most likely to get me into shelter so I went that way, Nayland marina was an option, but I have not been there and it could be tricky single handed, at low tide and with the strong following wind. That was a good decision, a locally based sailor told me that in less wind that afternoon a friend who has been sailing from there for 20 + years was concerned about going in. 

There were lots of vacant (private) moorings but getting on one would be difficult in the still very strong wind and you never know if a mooring has been maintained or strong enough. So I went up the river past Cleddau Bridge and anchored on the southern side of the river after checking the depth over a reasonable area. The exposed banks (it was still close to low water) and the chart shows mud and gravel that should give good holding and the anchor held in the moderate wind with the engine running full astern so I should be OK.
From the new anchorage when things had quietened down,
Looking up river.
So in the end I got away with a paper chart ruined by a half cup of cold coffee that went flying, a lot of steam in the cabin, remember the kettle? and cold, wet feet and legs which a change of clothes and the new diesel heater fixed.

Edit after a question posted on Flickr: 

The problem was not my ground tackle: A 10Kg Lewmar Delta anchor (one size larger than recommended and acording to the makers good for a boat twice the weight of Sancerre and half as long again), all chain rode with plenty of scope - at this stage of the tide better than 8:1, and a Davis "Shockle" anchor snubber. The Delta has Lloyds certification as a high holding power anchor and I have ridden to it in worse conditions on several occasions. 

The problem was poor holding ground, I suspect recent dredging had left a hollow and I anchored just beyond it or a hump that I anchored on and under stress the anchor pulled further into the seabed but came out through the down slope from either.

Update Monday evening.

The tide tomorrow is not helpful especially as I could easily take 2 hours to reach the open sea, nor is the wind looking good, it might be onshore when reaching Ireland which could take a long time with variable winds. So with light winds, sometime tomorrow I am planning to move down the Haven to anchor as close as sensible to the open sea. That will gain me an hour and a half and with the tide an hour later I can leave at 03:30 or a bit later and have a favourable tide out past "The Smalls" and into St George's Channel.

Click here for the trip to Ireland.

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