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  • Bruce Tate

Hook

We spent our third night on the hook, or at anchor. We were tied up in deep waters with only tiny ripples on the surface, but the current was swift. Loopers tell stories of anchors breaking free from the bottom and waking to giant sweeping spotlights tows use to find the bank. Losing confidence in the anchor systems leads to uncertainty, which in turn leads to sleepless nights, and ultimately mistakes.


We've slept like babies, even in big winds and big currents. Rather than figure out how to do all of this work on our own, we relied on experienced captains to show us the ropes, so to speak. Our 22 pound Rocna Vulcan is on the large side for a boat, but you can't go too big. We also used the right procedures to drop the anchor, the right amount of rode -- the rope and chain that attach the anchor to the boat -- and the right systems to tie the anchor to the boat.


When we pull up to an anchorage, we quickly review our circumstances and the expected conditions. Then, I decide how much rode to put into the water. Each of us has a role. Maggie navigates the boat, heading into the current or wind, whichever is stronger. We then go to the point we want the anchor hit the bottom. I lower enough chain to put the anchor on the bottom, and then we slowly drift back with the current as I pay out chain through the windless.


My anchor has marks every 25', so we can tell approximately how much rode is in the water. We have 250' total. We prefer to anchor in about 8-10 feet. On a calm day, we can put out our 50 foot of chain, and then use a rope called a bridle to hook the anchor and tie it firmly to the boat. With a bridle, we don't hear creaking noises all night, and the windless that raises and lowers anchor is free from strain.


Today, the river is 20-30 feet, the current is on the strong side, and the winds are moderately high. We'll put out 150 feet of water, so I put out 25' or so to set the anchor on the bottom, and slowly let out chain.


Through several minutes of the clinking the windless, enough rode is on the bottom. I tie the line off to the biggest cleat on the boat, and then Maggie reverses the boat. We feel the anchor set firmly in the mud, and we're done. The strong current won't let the boat swing too far so we won't need a second anchor. Maggie sets an anchor alarm so we'll be notified if the boat drifts too far away. Then, we relax.


At anchor, isolation feelings intensify, for better and for worse. Sometimes, we bring out cushions to the bow and lay back to see stars. Other times, we rest at the table and heat up some coffee, or use the hot water the engines heated up throughout the day to take a warm shower. We have about a day's worth of power if we're loose with our cooking, or several days if we're more stingy. We can also run a diesel generator. So far, it's been below freezing at night so we've opted to do so.


In the morning, we make a breakfast. When we're ready to go, Maggie takes the helm. Once the diesels are warm, we creep upstream with Bruce on the bow, using the boat's power to move forward while Bruce slowly uses the windless to gather up the anchor. With luck, it pops straight up and we're off.


If not? Well, that's never happened before, so we'll have to save that story for another day.




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