It’s 2pm, we are at Isla Ispiritu Santo in the bay Ensenada Grande (in the southern of the three lobes and in the northern cove, for those who know it). Brian and I are quietly reading in the cockpit facing the beach and didn’t see him coming. Rudely interrupting our reverie, a 40ft boat suddenly glides between us and the cliff.
What is this guy doing, we think? Our bow faces towards the open water, parallel with and only 200 feet or so from the cliff. There is plenty of space on our other side for several boats. We were puzzled why he chose to go to our starboard. We purposely anchored close to the cliff to allow other boats plenty of anchor room on the other side. He must just be scoping depths, I say. We calmly watch as he makes his pass towards the beach and turns back towards us, still on the cliff side. Uh oh. He’s not just scoping the entire bay by making a big loop, he’s scoping to anchor. And close, it seems.
Worried as to what he may be contemplating, Brian stands up and politely tells him as he is passing the 2nd time that we have 120ft of chain out but we are right on top of our anchor. After 20kts of wind the previous night, and multiple wind changes, currently it is calm and our boat has floated right on top of the anchor. This information is significant for him to understand where our boat will end up once it re-stretches when the wind picks up.
It’ll be OK, he absently assures us, turning his boat around back toward the beach. Now on final approach, we cringe as he drops his anchor… right even with ours, not 2 boat lengths away between us and the cliff, and backs down. We look at each other and sigh. Crap. We watch. Maybe he’ll move. We’ve done this before, not been happy with a spot, decided we were too close, and move. Give him a chance. We wait. And watch.
Logic must dictate a boater to anchor relative to the current depth, tide changes, current wind direction, amount of chain he wants to let out, shoreline obstructions (submerged rocks or cliffs in this case) and other boats (us) and their potential swing arc. Anticipated wind direction is very much in play…say, if a strong wind is coming that night from the south, will the wind carry you closer to the rocks or another boat from which you are out of range currently? It’s a complex calculation, especially when there are multiple other boats around you.
The fact that we were on top of our anchor could be misleading, had we not told him. If he assumed we were at the end of our chain, and therefore dropped right next to where our boat was, he probably would have been ok and we may not have run into him, unless of course he floats up over his own anchor just like us. If this was a crowded anchorage, I might have understood this assumption and subsequent hook location. But, it is not crowded. There is no one but a power boat way on the opposite end. Seriously, the parking lot is wide open.
Somewhere in this fuzzy mathematical equation we call “anchoring” or “dropping the hook”, the courtesy of personal space must also be a factor. If the bay is wide open and you could go anywhere you want, and still be protected from predicted strong winds, then the personal space rule MUST dictate you to move much farther away. Not right on top of me. And definitely not in between me and a wall of rock.
So now here we sit, doing our own fuzzy math…it is only a matter of time that we will be pushed into him by the wind.
Uggh. We must move. Should we raise him on the radio and tell him? Maybe. Probably. I am sure many people would, but we are usually non-confrontational – it’s not worth the angst. And like I said, the bay was wide open. I may have considered holding my ground if had it been a tight anchorage with nowhere else to go. First come first serve is the unwritten rule, and we did have the right of way.
Maybe he didn’t hear the “on top of my anchor” part OR he just ignored it, worse. Maybe, we thought, that was his little game, that he sneaks right up to another boat and crowds them out just to get the good spot. I’ve always wondered if there are people who do that. We DID have a sweet spot. Either way, it is incumbent upon us to protect our boat. So we picked up and moved several hundred yards forward.
We were mildly irritated at being flounced from our sacred spot. But a couple hours later the woman of the offending boat comes driving up to us in the dinghy. We see her coming. Shit. What do we do now? Ok, act natural. Smile big and wave.
She sidles up to the boat and begins profusely apologizing for infringing upon us and obviously causing us to move. She then offers to move her boat so we can have our spot back. “No worries”, we say, as we don’t want to move again. We indicated we were just contemplating that her husband maybe did not quite hear or understand when we had said we were right on top of our anchor. We just decided to move as we felt we would back down on him eventually. Ah, she did not think he had heard. He’d had a migraine and wasn’t thinking quite right, just wanted to drop the hook and get into bed. She gave us a bagful of cookies as a peace offering and we talked for a bit… very nice lady. She did not have to make that trip and offer to move… and cookies to boot. A graceful way of diffusing our original disgruntled thoughts... for which we now feel guilty. Still, the parking lot was huge and empty.
OK sir, quietly and slowly, move your boat away from the anchor spot… nice and easy now…
See, once you get snuggled into your sweet spot you don’t want other boats encroaching on you. Like the peeved crabs in the movie ‘Finding Nemo’, we feel like saying “hey, hey, Hey, HEY, HEY!”... The closer they come, the louder we internally squawk.
We find ourselves watching with wary interest every single time a boat comes in a bay. We contemplate where they are going to anchor, how close are they going to get, will they swing into us or vice versa, do they have all chain (less likely to drag anchor) or rode (more likely to drag). Also, boats with all chain, like us, tend to swing somewhat in concert together. A boat with rope rode will swing differently and we may be more likely to “bump” when the wind shifts around. Likewise, power boats swing differently than sailboats due to their profile to the wind and weight differences. So, when able, you hope to anchor around like boats, with similar anchoring gear, with about the same length of chain or rode.
It all starts with hearing the faint hum of a motor. You try to ignore it, but it’s getting closer so you drop what you are doing, peek out the window, just to see. “Well?”, Brian asks. “Don’t worry”, I say. “They are plenty far away.” And go back to business. Or… “You’d better come look at this…” And we surreptitiously watch (not overtly and not with binoculars, we don’t want to be THAT guy) until they are finished anchoring to make sure they are far enough away and we don’t have to move. We like to be out in the cockpit if they are close-ish, just in case they want to ask any questions, or if we feel the need to tell them our length of chain.
On the flip side, we get watched like a hawk when coming into any anchorage. We always feel really picked on if someone overtly uses binoculars when we are within shouting distance. I mean really, do you have to see the zit on my nose to be able to discern whether I am anchoring safely away? I now feel like the binocular technique is a not-so-subtle psychological warning and usually stay well clear of those guys. Maybe we should start doing it too, or maybe blare a really loud recording of a crying baby when a boat approaches. We read somewhere about an older, paunchy fellow purposefully getting stark naked and waving to incoming boaters from the bow, discouraging too much closeness. Hey, whatever works...
But now that we have been cruising for a few months, talking to everybody else with similar stories, we realize that it’s only natural to be wary of others anchoring near you. We are not being overly panicky. Everybody does it. No one can help it. It is our house that we are protecting. More boats have been lost at anchor than out at sea. We just try to steer clear of those poor souls with the dreaded Proximity Awareness Deficiency; they are out there… waiting to raise our blood pressure…