1/13/2011 – My first solo

It wasn’t much in the big scheme of things, but I took the boat out single-handed for the first time today. Since Lulu is in Idaho and our time at Marina Costa Baja was up, it seemed like the right time to give it a go. I had offers of help but I really wanted to do this on my own.

Leaving the dock, which is usually so traumatic for us, couldn’t have been much easier, at least in theory. We were tied on an end-tie and the wind was blowing the boat away from the dock. That meant that all I had to do was untie the lines, let the wind blow me out far enough that I’d mss the boat in front of me (s/v Gypsy), put the engine in forward and go. Sounds like a piece of cake, right?

Well, almost. See, it’s great to say “all I had to do was untie the lines, let the wind blow me out far enough”, but in reality, I had to untie the bow line and the stern line almost simultaneously or else one end of the boat or the other would drift away from the dock before I had a chance to get back on board. For a brief few seconds I considered asking a dockmate for help but I decided that I needed to figure this out. First, I ran the stern line from the boat, around the cleat and then back to the boat so I could control it from on board. Then, since the tidal current was running water past the boat, I essentially had steerage so I turned the rudder so it forced the bow into the dock. As soon as there was slack in the bow line, I quickly untied it and scrambled aboard before the wind could overcome the rudder, which it did. Now the wind was forcing the bow out into the fairway. Perfect. I pulled in the stern line and the wind started pushing the stern away from the dock. Then I just put the engine in gear and happily motored out.

I used the autopilot on the short trip down into La Paz so I wouldn’t be tied to the tiller and could look around and assess things as they happened. When I got near where I wanted to anchor, I took over helmsman duties.

I had the anchor all ready to go so there’d be no hang-ups when I released it. I motored slowly through the area I where I planned to anchor looking for a spot that would give me plenty of swinging room and not infringe on someone else’s room. I had the tiller fixed ammiships with bungee cords and slowed the boat to see what she would do on her own. Well, without the anchor to hold her into the wind, the wind just started pushing the bow off to starboard. That’s not how I had it planned as I lay in bed last night going over stuff. I put her back in gear, took over the helm and made another circuit. I just didn’t like what I saw as far as room. Might have looked different with two of us aboard but, this being my first solo anchoring maneuver, I decided to pick another spot. I headed north to where the boats were much sparser and found what looked like a good spot. I maneuvered into position, bungeed the tiller amidships, put the engine in neutral and headed forward. I dropped the anchor along with enough chain for a scope of 3:1 which I knew from experience here, would hold the boat. Then I trundled back to the cockpit, took control of the tiller, put the engine in revers slowly, and started backing down. We weren’t going in quite the direction I wanted so I had the tiller hard over. All of a sudden, the tiler was yanked out of my hands and the boat swerved way over. The anchor had definitely dug in. As the boat settled into its new position, I went forward and let out a bit more chain, bringing the scope to 4:1. Then I went back to the cockpit and added a few more RPMs to the engine to really set the anchor. I watched the GPS as well as neighboring boats to see if I was dragging. Didn’t appear to be but just to be sure I added a little more chain for the recommended 5:1 scope and backed down harder. Still not moving. Increase the RPMs some more. Still not moving. I believe were are well and truly dug in. I added the nylon snubber*, secured the engine and we were all set.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting the dinghy ready for shore excursions, setting up the anchor light, stuffing rags in various places below to stop the noises associated with a rolly anchorage, etc. Oh, there were also a few minutes spent reading and napping in the late afternoon sun as well.

Marina Costa Baja was really nice. REALLY nice! But, truth be told, I’m actually glad to be anchored again. Here I am in my own little world and since we’re back in town, I feel more connected to La Paz. Mostly, though, I’m really glad that my first solo endeavor didn’t end up in a blog about crashing into another boat, going aground, etc. Those would probably be fun stories to read but not to live.

Tomorrow I’ll find out just how long the dinghy ride ashore is since I need propane badly. And this time, I’m going to just sit there after I drop off my bottle and wait for Lupe to bring it back. The only time it’ll be out of my sight is when it’s actually in Lupe’s possession.

Hasta mañana.

*snubber: If the anchor chain is left taut from the windlass all the way to the anchor, every time the boat lurches it creates huge snapping stresses on the chain and the windlass. It’s also very noisy. Enter, the snubber. This is simply a piece of 3-strand nylon line that runs from a cleat on the foredeck, through a hawse hole and then down to the anchor chain where it’s tied on with a rolling hitch. The snubber is drawn taut and the chain between the knot and the windlass is allowed to go slack. Now the lurching forces are taken up by the stretchy nylon line which actually has a higher breaking strength then the anchor chain. So why use chain at all? Anchors, in order to work right, need to lay on the bottom. The boat needs to be pulling at them horizontally, not vertically. The weight of the chain helps keep that pull horizontal as it takes a lot of force to pick up 60 or 70 feet or more of chain. Also, nylon line is subject to wear from rubbing on stuff underwater. Chain has it beat there.

so, hasta mañana, otra vez.


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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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One Response to 1/13/2011 – My first solo

  1. Anonymous says:

    Down in the single handed area I described a simple system to deploy the anchor that I found in Single Handed Sailing by Thompson. He had a steel pin tied with a light line that he put through the anchor chain to hold the anchor inplace until pulling the line. He laid out the chain on deck to run freely and secured to the depth desired. Then when in the position desired just pull the line from the cockpit, pulling out the retaining pin and the anchor drops pulling the chain until it is brought up short. The only things needed are a pin with an eye in one end, a lenth of light line and a block secured to the side of the chain. If I could draw on a puter it would be much easier to show. The other option is to anchor with a lunch hook from the stern first and then go forward to put out the main anchor. Keeps you from moving downwind too fast. Ken

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