Safety at Sea: When Fury Overtakes a Cruisers’ Safe Haven
Anchoring lessons are learned, some the hard way, when a freak winter storm blows into Mexico's Bahía de Banderas.
Vessel: s/v Prism, a 33-foot Hans Christian
Ground Tackle: a 35-pound CQR with an all-chain rode
In the anchorage, the other boats continued to struggle. “The storm arrived as a wall of water,” Joanie Werner said. “We had no idea where the wind was coming from, and we couldn’t see to figure out which boat was where.” Part of the problem were the fierce seas: “They had no rhythm or predictability,” Joanie said. “It was like those storms you see in the movies, the ones that are so violent that they don’t seem real.”
Joanie and Leon, her husband, had their life jackets on but realized there was nothing they could do but hold on and be prepared to escape. “We had the depth sounder on so we’d know if we were dragging, and we had a compass course set for open water,” she said. “But we knew there was no way to add scope, and we doubted that we could even motor against the wind.”
The couple, who’ve been sailing for 35 years, said that time seemed to stop during the storm. “We knew we’d set the heck out of the anchor, but the storm just kept going and going,” Joanie said.
Vessel: s/v Star Dancer, an Outbound 44
Ground Tackle: a 66-pound Spade anchor with 200 feet of 5/16-inch high-tensile chain
On Star Dancer, it was the roar of the wind that woke Dave and Mary Ann Plumb. Turning on the VHF, they heard a Mayday—a boat was on the rocks. “Then we were hit,” Dave said. A large ketch crashed into Star Dancer’s bow with a force that the Plumbs thought was sure to hole her. The blow ripped their anchor free and set them hurtling downwind.
“We grabbed our safety gear and headed outside,” Dave said. The Plumbs realized that they couldn’t hold position as they tried to make their way into the wind, so they started keeping an eye on the depth. Their effort to get to safety, Dave said, “was like the wrestling contest of my life.”
Dave followed the contour of the coast until Star Dancer was free of the anchorage. They checked for water from the collision; amazingly, the hull was intact. “Everything stayed strong,” Dave said.