'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Windy Day Wanderings


“Beep beep beep beep beep!”
Actually the sound the anchor alarm makes is more of a high, reedy warble than a “beep”. It’s actually quite a pleasant sound. Or would be, except for it’s message. 

“Do you think we’re moving?”

I step out into the cockpit, and look for my “range”. In this case, it’s the north end of the island about a half mile to our west, lined up with the “V” shaped notch in the tree-line about a half mile farther on. As long as the relationship between my eye and those two marks is the same, we – in our floating home – are still firmly attached to the sandy bottom beneath these less-than-placid waters. If it changes, however, our anchor has lost it’s grip.  

And no doubt about it, we’re moving.

Team Sionna steps up to the plate. I (Keith) reach down to start the engine “just in case”, while Nicki turns on the depth sounder (showing how much water is beneath us), chart plotter (electronic charts and GPS), and VHF radio.

Now none of this is a surprise. We’ve been watching an approaching cold front for three days, and as of last night, the passing front was expected to arrive about 7am today, bringing with it a rapid shift in wind direction. If our primary anchor has one weakness, it is in its ability to dig in and reset again after just such a wind change. This 35# “CQR” brand anchor is a wonderful device, and once set has been very reliable, but it needs time and a gentle touch to set properly into the sandy bottom, and passing cold fronts aren’t always gentle. 

So it was that at 5:57am, I awoke to the feel of a change in the breeze, and the sight of almost continuous distant lighting. The front was approaching, and better to greet it awake, dressed, and coffee-in-hand than otherwise. Sure enough, just over an hour later, our vigilance pays off when Sionna swings to the new northerly breeze and snatches her anchor from the bottom. 

So what to do now? Wait.

Not for too long, mind, and not inattentively, but patiently. While waiting we watch the surrounding land, the water, our depth, other boats, the GPS and the anchor alarm simultaneously to see whether the anchor resets properly. We’ve got a little room behind us, so if we get a hook within 50 feet or so, we’ll be just fine.

“It looks like we’ve moved about 40 feet so far, the depth still shows about 7 feet, but it dips to 6 ½ once in a while.” 

This report from Nicki, who’s below in the cabin reading the depth sounder and anchor alarm.

From my vantage point in the cockpit, I could see our movement initially, but for the last 20 seconds or so we seem to be steady, swinging slightly back and forth, but not moving away from the wind. Sionna’s bow (front) has also come up firmly to point into the 20 knot northerlybreeze, another positive sign that the anchor has indeed buried again. 

“We’re not moving at the moment, let’s watch it a bit. Do you see that crab float, right by the starboard quarter? Great reference point.” 

Now we usually avoid close proximity to crab and lobster floats because they have a line beneath them, holding them down. Wrap that line around your propeller or keel, and life can get interesting in a hurry. In this case, though, it’s handy to have it there. The float is attached to a trap, which is sitting on the bottom. If we’re not moving in reference to the float, WE must be attached to the bottom too.

So we wait. Five minutes go by, then ten, then five more. Sionna is tugging at her anchor with each gust of wind and wave, and every tug helps pull the anchor a little deeper into the bottom, strengthening our position. We begin to relax, and I shut down the engine. Never used, but always ready, just in case. The wind settles down to a steady north at 20 knots (23 mph) with occasional gusts to 29 (34 mph), and we ride comfortably in our new position.

It’s time to make a cherry tart and some bread. Or go fly a kite…

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

7 thoughts on “Windy Day Wanderings

  1. Great blog, as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a 35LB Delta and for the most part it has been a good anchor in all but soft mud. In the old days I used a danforth which in florida is an excellent anchor but proved to be so unwieldy on deck and to handle I was glad the day I switched to the Delta. Now I am considering one of these spade style anchors. Like Rocna or manson. I know cruisers that swear by the instant bite and set of these. One of the only issues I have had with the delta over the years. You have any experience with a spade style anchor?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris, I don’t, but I do know many cruisers who absolutely love their Mantis and Rocna anchors. The main advantage usually cited is the new generation anchor’s ability to reset quickly after pulling out – just the situation we were in.
      A CQR is very good generally in my experience, and in a more gradual wind shift will work around with the boat, holding fine all the time. That’s something I’ve seen a danforth-style fail to do frequently.


    • By the way, don’t I owe you some pictures?


  3. I have an internal anchor alarm in addition to the one at the helm. It’s a little voice in my head that asks frequent questions about the distance we are to the land, and how deep the water is, still. It’s usually wrong, but that doesn’t seem to make it shut up.

    Liked by 1 person

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