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A swell anchor!

I’m sure I’ve written before about how uncomfortable it can be to be at anchor when waves are hitting your boat at an angle not inline with the wind. Boats are made to rock to and fro, not side to side. Sailors too it seems. One way to deal with such a swell is to run a bridle line from your anchor rode to the side of your boat, trimming it in to adjust your boat’s alignment away from the wind and towards the swell direction. Another way, and one that the power boaters use frequently when in select anchorages, is to run a second anchor out from the stern towards, or even on to, the shore. This again can be used to alter the direction that the boat is pointing. When we first picked up the mooring in Bahia de Tortuga on Culebrita, it was nice and calm. As often happens though, as the afternoon drew on, a nasty swell developed. I thought it might be a great time to pretend we were a power boat and deploy our Fortress as a stern anchor and Rebecca, being the agreeable sort that she is, didn’t argue.

This pic is from Bahia Icacos on Vieques but it shows how the power boats anchor stern to the shore.

While Rebecca stayed on board paying out the rode (rope), I hopped in the dinghy, taking the anchor out towards shore. I placed it down in a spot that I felt would give us the correct angle when the rode was trimmed in. While I stayed in the water, watching the anchor, Rebecca put the rode on a winch and started drawing in the slack. And the idea would have worked too IF ONLY we weren’t fighting about 17-20 knots of wind!

When we finally got the boat trimmed in to the proper angle, the swell’s ill effect noticeably reduced, I really wasn’t comfortable with how much strain the wind was placing on both the boat and the anchor at that strange angle. Because of this, we decided to scrap the idea and retrieve the anchor. This is where the fun started. Do you think we could get that anchor out of the sand? Not a chance. It was stuck. Like cemented-in kind of stuck. I pulled and pulled, having to dive down each time to do so. There was just no budging it.

At this point I swam back to the boat and got a little plastic shovel that we keep on board. After diving down countless times, trying to dig the anchor out with this little shovel, Rebecca came out to spell me a bit, lending a hand. We took turns diving over and over again, scraping away the sand. As the daylight was quickly fading, we finally broke it free. For the record, this is only the third time we have ever used this anchor, once as a kedge back in Baltimore, once as a stern anchor in Florida and now this. Each time it has been crazy hard to retrieve. I guess it’s a good thing when your anchor holds too well. I think.

This anchor is a beast!

What’s that noise?

Just as we have come to expect certain noises on our boat, and react, sometimes with alarm, when a strange noise is heard, we do the same during our little hikes in the woods. We have now become accustomed to the noises in the bushes that the little lizards make, much louder we think than their small size should be able to create. Most bird noises we have come to expect as well, although the one that sounded like a car alarm back on Coffin Island made us stop and take notice. While hiking around Culebrita though (not up to the lighthouse, that is off limits!), we heard some sounds that definitely made us stop in our tracks. Literally.


Was that a baby crying? Was that snorting? What kind of animals live on this island anyway? If we were back home, we would have known what, if any, dangerous animals could be lurking in the bushes. Down here though, we have no idea. Pressing on towards the noises cautiously, peaking around the corner, we spoke loudly as we have heard you should do to scare off any predators. I even threw a couple of rocks in the general direction of the noises, to no effect. Perhaps they were wild boars? We did hear snorting. Even if they weren’t dangerous animals typically, we thought we heard the sound of babies and we both know not to get in the way of a mother and her kids.

As we drew closer and closer, we were both surprised, and relieved, to see a goat, standing up on his hind legs, eating the leaves high up on a tree. And then there was another. And another. Both babies and adults were all sitting around, munching on some leaves. Fortunately, the ones with the big horns did not feel compelled to charge us as I’m pretty sure I couldn’t outrun Rebecca and we all know what that means (you don’t have to outrun the _________, just the slowest person with you!). Wild goats… next time we’ll be prepared.

Who was more scared, him or us? I vote us.

PS: Get your Culebrita photo fix on our Facebook page. I just published 90 new pics. Don’t worry, you needn’t be a Facebook user to view them (if there are actually any people left out there who aren’t on Facebook).


  1. Well let’s hope that you don’t meet too many of the inhabitants for which the island is named!

  2. Read this quickly but you said you swam back to the boat – where was the dinghy??

    • I skipped a step. I took the anchor out in the dinghy, dropped it off, went back to the boat and got my snorkel gear on. I then swam back out to the anchor spot to watch it set.

  3. As a matter of interest, what size/weight is that Fortress anchor. It looks big in the photo.

    Have you thought of using a “tripping line” on the anchor. This is a thinnish line tied to the crown of the anchor so that you can pull on this, upwards or backwards, to free the anchor. You are then pulling the opposite way to the way it sticks in. It can make things much easier!

    ALSO, thanks for your frequent posts to the blog. I am one of the many who ‘lurk’ here and enjoy reading your news each day.



    • Hi Mike

      A trip line might be in order for this guy. It is a FX 16, only 10 lbs.

      FYI, some places frown on the use of trip lines, Georgetown for example. They say they are a hazard to dinghy traffic and they would be right in a congested anchorage like that.

      • You can run the trip line back to the boat – and not tension it. When you want to retrieve the anchor, slack the rode, pull in the trip line, and just like magic, the anchor comes bouncing back.

        I’ve had two Fortress anchors, an FX-85 and an FX-7. Broke them both – the good news is Fortress has a lifetime guarantee for only the cost of shipping new parts, the bad things, 2 for 2, both busted. Easy to see why an FX-7 breaks, hardly thicker than aluminum foil, but the FX-85 is a BIG anchor – I bent the shank into a “U” in a storm. but, it held the boat.

        Happy sailing /Stu

  4. Thanks for that info. I would guess therefore that it must be one of the aluminium anchors to be that size and only 10lb.

    One trick with tripping lines that I have used quite often is to tie the light line to the main rode with thin strands of wool every 3 or 6ft as you wish and make it long enough that you can reach it from the surface when you are trying and failing to get the anchor up. Then when the need arises, you pull the trip line away from the rode, drop the rode back again so that the shank is horizontal and pull on the tripping line.

    This way, the thin line is not in the way, no one knows it is there. Nor is it buoyed waiting to catch a propeller or have some clown try to moor to it!


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