New boat owners endure a multitude of experiences while climbing steep learning curves. Some lessons are basic, some are humorous and some are frustrating . . . all are expensive. We were no exception.
It was spring and we’d just taken possession of our 25-foot sleep-aboard cruiser. For years, Judi and I had dreamed about owning a boat like it. The original owner was a doctor. He’d retired and moved to the coast. Perfect!
We soon realized to our dismay that while our new cruiser was in near pristine condition, it had been stripped of all the accessories that normally outfit a boat – life jackets, paddles, dock lines, fenders (bumpers), first aid kit, bailer buckets, blankets/sleeping bags; galley provisions like pots, pans, dishes, cutlery; essentials for the ‘head’ (toilet). Even a fish finder/depth gauge had been removed, the mounting bracket left behind for some inexplicable reason; similarly with a floodlight, except the bracket and light were gone, leaving behind four ugly screw holes in the hull.
Then the last straw: the anchor was gone, along with the anchor line (that’s ‘rope’ in sailor talk).
In our naiveté, we’d failed to notice the missing provisions and so had not insisted these be included in the deal. Replacement costs would ultimately exceed several thousand dollars. We accused the salesman of stripping the boat before selling it for the previous owner on consignment. He denied it of course, unconvincingly. And then, that unrepentant bandit had the gall to offer us ‘one hell of a deal’ on replacements for the missing provisions.
Some of the items were legal requirements: life jackets, paddles (tho’ who in the world’s going to paddle a 25-foot boat anywhere?), and of course, an anchor.
We were anxious to start using our boat. Reluctantly we purchased the essentials from that snake oil salesman: life jackets, paddles, anchor, and dock lines. Oh yes, and toilet paper and holding tank chemicals for the head.
Now, at this point, we knew nothing about anchors. We bought a mid-priced model. Turned out it was much too small. And we purchased 75 feet of anchor line. Turned out it was much too short. We didn’t know at the time the lake is close to 450 feet deep in the middle and many of the bays are up to 100 feet deep.
Another lesson learned: seek advice only from those who know what they’re talking about.
Legally outfitted, off we went exploring ‘our’ picturesque lake, some 90 miles long and averaging seven miles wide. We burned through more tanks of gas than I want to admit while discovering the extraordinary beauty of the lake, and a few sheltered bays that would soon become favorite places for us to anchor overnight.
As time went by, we learned more about the boat and how to provision it properly. The shopping list seemed never to get any shorter. There is much truth to the saying: a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.
One essential soon became obvious: we needed to replace the too-small anchor we’d purchased and its too-short anchor line. An undersized anchor just wouldn’t do. And we were cautioned that one does not tie a piece of rope onto an existing line. With wave action they often part, sometimes in the middle of the night. Besides, when fully provisioned with 400 gallons of gas and 45 gallons of water the boat weighed more than 2½ tons. We realized that we needed something fairly big sticking into the lake bottom, attached to a sturdy one-piece line, to keep from losing the boat in a high wind.
With the advice of experienced sailors, we purchased a big double-fluke anchor (that’s boater talk), 150 feet of half-inch nylon anchor line and 20 feet of anchor chain. The new stuff almost filled the anchor locker in the bow of the boat.
We were looking forward to a weekend of on-board camping. Before leaving, I’d attached with great care the new anchor to the anchor chain and the chain to the new line. I followed the explicit instructions of those more experienced in these matters. They explained the chain would ensure the anchor came to rest on its side on the lake bottom and thus more likely to dig in properly. Made sense.
We loaded up with food, drink and other essentials, and headed out. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. All signs pointed to a weekend of spectacular weather.
We arrived in mid-afternoon at our favorite bay. There was plenty of time to get settled before supper. We were delighted to be the first in the bay; we had our choice of locations.
First, we needed to anchor. I went to the bow and opened the anchor locker. Couldn’t wait to deploy the new anchor assembly. We knew the water in the bay could be up to 75 feet deep in places, and deeper farther out. The lake bottom dropped sharply not far from shore. No problem. We’d be fine.
I threw the shiny new double-fluke anchor overboard. Then I watched as the glistening pristine line went zipping through the polished chrome guide on the bow, the whole up-to-standard assembly now dedicated to its very first assignment.
And then, along came one of life’s “Oh Shit!” moments!
I remembered something. I’d forgotten to secure the other end of the anchor line. A quick instinctive grab was too late. I watched as that end of the rope shot over the side, and disappeared down below the surface of the water.
Judi and I looked at each other, shook our heads and burst out laughing. What else? One more step up the learning curve. Sigh!
PostScript: Unable to anchor and unwilling to end our weekend almost before it started, we found another bay. Happily, some kind-hearted soul had installed a dock where we could tie up.
“Anchors Away” is Copyright 2015 By James Osborne. All Rights Reserved
Image Credits: classicmake.com; westmarine.com; KootenayLakeviewStore.com