The Anchorage of Doom!

June 26, 2012

Cue creepy music. We anchored in the north east conner of Opunohu Bay along with almost every other boat that crossed the Pacific from the Americas. (big exaggeration but it paints the right picture.) It was a tiny anchorage with reefs all around and a very squirrely wind, a perfect recipe for doom (dun dun duuuuun).

As it turned out we had two lovely days there with no incident. On Sunday night somewhere around 11 the wind started to build and the rain started driving sideways from the east. I went into the cockpit to make sure everything was lashed down and stowed and stayed a little longer to watch the wind instrument. 30, 32, 35 knots; it was creeping higher. Then I looked up in time to see a massive blue hull grinding down our port side. “Holy Shit!” I yelled “we have been hit, Vick get up here.” I watched in startled terror for a moment as our outer lower shroud was plucked like a guitar string, twaaaaang then saw the dinghy (which had just been smooshed between the two boats) recoiling. A moment later the dinghy’s bow was 10′ up in the air. I rushed to the shroud to fend but the blue boat was already receding, “crap, it’s going to hit the panel” but Vick was already there, lifting the precious solar panel out of harms way. As the blue boat departed the wind caught its bow and sent the stern on one last mission of destruction. It missed our self steering vane by inches and was gone.

After the immediate danger had passed I ducked below to towel off and put on my foulies. After a thorough (enough) inspection of our boat I lowered the dinghy so I could go help other boats. From where we were we could see at least 5 boats that were in clear distress. I made towards the worst scene, 3 boats all tangled, to find that there were a half dozen dinghies already there, I moved on to another boat and another. Within a half hour or so everyone had been disentangled and we had were fairly sure that there was no immediate threat to life or property. The rain was picking up again and I had promised Vick that I would come back at the first sign of weather.

Through all of this Convivia didn’t budge from her swing radius (imagine a circle around where the anchor hits the bottom). When we outfitted for this trip we agreed that we would put the largest and strongest anchor we could carry on the bow. When I told this to a fellow puddle jumper last night I added “it’s twice as large as it needs to be.” He winked and said, “Nope, I think it’s just as large as it needs to be.” And this is the moral to our story. When we bought the Rocna we thought of it as insurance. We didn’t really think of it as liability insurance though. We wanted an anchor that would keep us off a reef, but we are now equally grateful that we have an anchor that will keep us off other boats.

I’m not saying that a skipper with undersized ground tackle is negligent, or that any of the unfortunate boats that dragged had not exercised prudent seamanship. That said I think in the future when people ask “what was the best thing you added to your boat to go cruising?” I might just say “A big honking Rocna!”

P.S Convivia is fine. We have a little blue paint on the hull that should wipe right off. The dinghy has been repaired and the boat that hit us came right over in the morning to check on us. All is well.


  1. Comment by CJ

    CJ June 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I love that everyone went out immediately and made sure everyone else was safe and sound. What a community you cruisers have built! (“Cruisers” is the proper term, isn’t it?) (And of course, I love that Convivia is fine, too!)

  2. Comment by deneb

    deneb June 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Our anchor’s too big for our ship,
    So we’re sittin’ here tryin’ to think.
    If we leave it behind we’ll be lost.
    If we haul it on board, we will sink.
    If we sit and keep talkin’ about it,
    It will soon be too late for our trip.
    It sure can be rough on a sailor
    When the anchor’s too big for the ship.

    (shel silverstein)

  3. Comment by Cidnie

    Cidnie June 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Phew! Glad you and Convivia are ok and I’m forwarding this to Mark as a precautionary tale!

  4. Comment by Krister

    Krister July 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    one of my favorite anecdotes from last season:

    the skipper (and builder) of one of the more beautiful boats we saw last season – an incredibly experienced and competent sailor was sitting in a bar in bora bora when 30+ knots kicked up. “boats are dragging” people yelled.

    the skipper turned to his drinking companions and winked. in a VERY thick aussie accent he said “we’ve gotta rocna, mate… (long pause, long pull on the beer) we don’t drag”.

    way to be politic, but i’ll go ahead and say that any boat that has undersized ground tackle is being negligent. anchors (even rocnas) are wicked cheap compared to a) most other equipment and particularly b) the damage that could be caused by dragging.

    can’t wait until you get here so we can rub our rocnas together.

  5. Comment by Camanoe Steph

    Camanoe Steph July 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Soooo glad there wasn’t any serious damage. Sounds like most of our cruising friends have been having problems with sudden storms causing other boats to drag. So scary!
    I have to admit that Dave and I often comment on the puny-sized anchors on certain boats (and then try to avoid anchoring close by!). We just feel MUCH better knowing we’ve got an anchor that’s bigger than what we should have. Better safe than sorry.

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