4/11/2012 – The anchoring do-si-doh!

I’m sure that most of you know about the “La Paz Waltz” but, for those who don’t, here it is. The anchorage in La Paz is along both sides of a very long, fairly shallow channel. The channel carries the water that fills the bay on a rising tide and empties it on a falling tide. Because of the amount of water carried and the small size of the channel, the current running through the anchorage can get very strong. Strong enough at times to overpower the winds. So, full-keeled boats will typically sit parallel to the current flow while fin-keeled boats might more likely sit parallel to the wind direction. Or, either type boat could sit anywhere in between these flows. This means that, at any given time, boats may sit all lined up or they could be sitting all akimbo. When the current is running one direction and the wind is running the other, all sorts of hilarity can ensue. Hilarity if you’re just watching the show anyway. Sometimes not so funny if you’re involved in the production.

Such was the case yesterday evening. We’ve been anchored in the same spot for almost a week. I check the GPS occasionally and we haven’t veered out of our swinging arc yet, so I feel pretty comfortable with our position, which is (or was) far enough away from everyone else so we wouldn’t have to worry about them hitting us either. That is, until yesterday.

A big beautiful steel ketch named Iron Butterfly anchored between us and the shoreline. To Iron Butterfly’s south (our southeast) is another large, possibly steel, ketch named Spirit of Ecstasy. “Ecstasy” may or may not have a working engine.

Late yesterday afternoon, we’re sitting in the cockpit shooting the breeze with our friend Frank (s/v Island Seeker) and watching the other boats. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the the current was changing from flood to ebb (or maybe vice-versa). Seems like Iron Maiden and Ecstasy are getting mighty close to each other. The skipper from Ecstasy rowed over to talk to Iron Butterfly but no one was home. We watched awhile longer and it occasionally looked like Iron Butterfly was swinging closer to us. After awhile they swung back the other way and we breathed a little easier. Then Ecstsasy and Iron Butterfly got awfully close to each other again. Like REALLY close! But then they drifted back apart. Next thing I know, it looks like they’re both swinging towards us! I checked our GPS again to make sure it wasn’t us swinging towards them but we were still in our same little swinging arc. This went on a bit longer. Each swing seemed to bring the other boats a bit closer to us. With the sun getting ready to go down, I decided it was time to make a move.

We fired up the engine and raised the anchor. We were already closer than we probably should have been to both the municipal dock and the channel. There was really nowhere else to anchor in the vicinity that wouldn’t put us even closer to a number of other boats, several of which also appeared to be moving somewhat erratically. So, we decided to head across the channel to El Mogote. This is an anchorage adjacent to the long spit that separates Ensenada de La Paz from the larger Bahía de La Paz. The only thing spooky about this anchorage is that there are only a couple of safe channels to it. All other routes will likely put you high and dry on a sandbar. Fortunately, we had some waypoints in our GPS that showed us the safe route.

We got the anchor down and well dug in just about the time the sun disappeared.

Talked to the folks on Iron Butterfly this morning on the radio. They apologized for terrorizing us but apparently weren’t dragging according to their GPS. I’m glad we moved anyway. I would not have gotten any sleep last night if we’d stayed put.


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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8 Responses to 4/11/2012 – The anchoring do-si-doh!

  1. Joan/Raymond Yoder says:

    Boy, I am happy that you got to safer grounds. The Iron Butterfly sounds really treacherous and sounds like she could do some harm to your little boat. Love, Mom

  2. s/v Eolian says:

    Even if they weren’t dragging, there is no polite excuse for anchoring so close. Tho it was they who should have moved, you did the right thing.

    s/v Eolian

  3. Dani says:

    I often think about what anchoring is going to be like. The first couple of times we every anchored we set the feet on our drag anchor alarm on our GPS too low and the alarm was going off every 30 minutes to an hour when the boat would shift. We’ll have to work on this, i’m sure it’s operator error.

    Sucks you had to move, but better to move then get an unexpected visit from a steel boat.

    • sryoder says:

      Dani, You’re not doing anything wrong with your GPS anchor alarm. There’s a problem built in because of the difference between real life and theory. Say you drop the hook and let out 100′ of chain in 20′ of water. With the catenary of the chain, you’re likely to be a good 60′ away from where you dropped the hook by the time you decide the anchor is truly dug in. Now you saunter back to the cockpit and set the anchor alarm for 50′. You’re already 60′ from the centerpoint of your swiveling circle, the center point being where your anchor is. So, as soon as the wind or tide shifts and you swing around to the other side of the anchor you’re (60′ + 60′) 120′ from where you set the alarm and the alarm sounds, even though you haven’t dragged an inch. But, if you set it to go off at say, 130′ to compensate, you could drag 70′ on the other swing before you’d get an alarm. The only cure that I can see is to remember to set your anchor alarm the minute your anchor touches bottom. But, in real life, this is pretty hard to do. Consequently, we never use the anchor alarm either.

      Still and all, we’d much rather anchor than tie up to a dock.


      • Dani says:

        So you never set an anchor alarm? How do you sleep at anchor and know you aren’t dragging? Do you check your GPS coordinates throughout the night?

        Also I did take pictures of the Hawes pipe pieces of wood. How should I get them to you? I looked for your email but couldn’t find it.

      • sryoder says:

        No, we never set an alarm. I generally have to get up to take a leak a couple times during the night and glance at the GPS chartplotter (zoomed way in) when I do. Seeing that we’re still within the general area where we were when we dropped anchor lets me get back to sleep.

        You can send the photos to theyoders_at_earthlink_dot_net. We’re planning to head out today so I may not get them until we reach Puerto Escondido in a week or two.

  4. F eye says:

    Hi Stephen…. I like your Blog picture…but I am wondering if you would be able to get a cool shot of your boat, a cocktail or beer, chips and salsa all in one frame. If you could get a bird sweeping the blue sky, well that would be real cool too. Thanks

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