Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Things they never told us. Rolling at anchor.

When we were planning this adventure we were already sailors. We had been sailing for quite some time. Big difference though between sailing and cruising. Before we left to go cruising the longest we had stayed aboard the boat while traveling was 3 weeks. This was done on Lake Ontario and most of the cruising was in Canada. It was cold. We stayed in marina's except for the Thousand Islands where we dropped the hook from time to time.

To say we were naive about cruising was an understatement. When we bought Kelly Nicole and hauled her for the survey I looked at the prop and asked, "Are those barnacles?" The people around the boat just stared at me in silence for about 3 seconds and then continued scraping. It was like that scene in the movie Animal House when the frat pledge asks a group playing poker if they are playing cards.

Our only anchoring experience before we left was in Sodus Bay, our home port, so it came as a rude awakening when our first time to anchor as cruisers was in the Delaware River just before the C&D Canal. It was the night a tug and barge drug anchor and came within about 75 yards of making us just splintered fiberglass. That was some scary shit I tell ya. When the Captain of the tug calls you and tells you to get ready to drop your chain you know it's serious.

Since we left we have been anchoring nearly every stop. Our last marina visit was in Puerto Real in Puerto Rico. That was a long time ago. That's a lot of anchoring. Of course there were some moorings we picked up along the way but not too often. It is surprising we didn't quit cruising altogether after some dreadful anchoring experiences capped off with the Derecho in Georgetown. I guess this is what separates the Women from the Girls, the Men from the Boys, the Cruisers from the Day Sailors, the Cats from Kittens, the Alpaca from the Cria, the Democrats from the Republicans (Ha! Don't get all bent out of shape now. Just a joke you trolls).

From the time we started thinking about cruising and reading all those blogs and magazines related to the cruising life there was not a single article or post that I can recall which talked about ROLLING at anchor. Not one. If there was well it didn't stick with me. We had no roll in the Great Lakes unless a boat threw a wake at us. I had no idea that the motion of a powerboat wake rolling you can happen naturally and go on for days and nights! WTF!

Here comes the Derecho!

For a while there during our voyage it seemed every anchorage we landed in was rolling. We started thinking that this is how it is and no one fucking mentioned this and I really really want to slap some people, like maybe the staff at Cruising World Magazine or those overly positive blogger's, where their everyday lives are filled with cheer, happiness and sunshine while holding exotic rum drinks that were brought to their boats balanced on the heads of smiling dolphins. They never mentioned rolling and puking but we know, yes we know now you lying bastards. Those Dolphins aren't bringing you drinks, they are alongside your boat laughing at your green face hanging over the side.

The first rolling was just annoying. We laughed because we walked funny and bumped into each other and some things were hard to do like boil pasta without 3rd degree burns and peeing while standing. After we left that anchorage we said, "How amusing was that!"

We pulled into a highly recommended and popular anchorage and it looks gorgeous but you literally could not get off your boat because it's rocking so much you fear falling and missing the dinghy and besides, how the hell would you lower the outboard without stuffing it through the floor of the dinghy or losing a few fingers? People on the radio talked about the days they've been trapped on the boat. Days?

One of our first anchorage/mooring harbours where we experienced this was Dinner Key. It wasn't so much the rolling but the 3-4 ft waves racing into the harbour and sending the bow skyward and then diving down. It was like a sub surfacing over and over again. For days this went on. It was insanity. I would stand in the boat and feel my feet leaving the floor only to have it lurch up again. My knees were killing me while we were there. We were trapped on the boat for 5 days.

We were in Bimini and some crusty cruiser I was talking to told me he lives in Bimini now. He asked what we were doing. He then told me to not anchor overnight on the Bahamas Bank because the weather can turn and you'll be sorry as hell you were there. Said he almost lost his boat and his life out there so he never went out there again. Uhh, OK. Thanks  depressing Crusty Cruiser Guy.

We planned a nights anchor out there and we did. It was a beautiful star filled night. A most memorable night. Then morning came. The waves were growing. Growing fast. "Let's move!" I was manually hoisting the anchor (I do not miss Simpson the Windlass) and the bow would rise with the waves and yank at the chain with pretty good force. It was a bit nasty. I kept counting my fingers with every crash. Nine and a half, good. The radio was alive with other cruisers warning of the coming waves and for everyone to mind their fingers and toes. Oye. All I could think of was the crusty cruiser staring at his mangled hand and living in Bimini the rest of his life. We escaped and had a nice run across the banks.

The worst was Rum Cay in the Bahamas. Picture walking through a fun house where you can't avoid hitting the walls as you walk. The boat would roll 10-15 degrees and then back the other way, continuously, for days. It was enough where we had to launch the dinghy to get the hell off the boat and onto stable land else we would have just jumped overboard and let the ocean have it's way with us. The harbour was so bad we had a hard time leaving the dinghy to get ashore! The bar at Rum Key was crowded because everyone wanted off the boats. Now you have a beer buzz and you have to get back to the fun house. Fun!
By the way, a beer buzz and a rolling pitching boat do not go together very well. There was no hurling but sleeping was very uncomfortable. Now I have to mention that neither of us has ever really hurled from seasickness. Deb is the only one that ever hurled but it was because of food poisoning in Puerto Rico. Don't order the penis pasta.

When we got back to the rolling boat in Rum Cay we were sitting in the salon watching a jar of peanut butter, a tissue box and a flashlight slide back and forth on the counter while the door to the breaker panel opened and slammed shut repeatedly. Everything in motion with the boat, back and forth, back and forth. We broke out in laughter at all this and it eventually turned to tears and pleading to the Gods to make it all stop. When it was time to leave we took off into the wind and waves in conditions that were a bit rough but compared to the anchorage it was heaven. It was one of our best sails.

Now don't get us wrong, we aren't complaining...much. The majority of the places we have anchored are beautiful and the conditions have been just fine. We have also been getting used to the motion of the ocean and are not so bothered by it all. There are little tricks we can do to minimize the rolling and we have applied them all with some success at times. We do have our favorite spots where the water is flat as a pancake most times but they are everyone's fav's as well. Which brings me to my next Things They Never Told Us post, Anchoring Togetherness. Nothing like coming up on deck with your morning coffee and seeing your neighbors soapy dong.


I know, put on a shirt. 

See. No rolling. Nice.

So who will be the 1st one to tell me to buy a cat and avoid the rolling? We're not buying a cat so save your words unless they are really funny or super sarcastic because a cat vs mono battle in the comments section is almost as good as a Best Anchor comment.
posted from Bloggeroid


  1. Ah yes, the things Cruising World forgot to tell you. Some of the worst days on the boat we experienced was in Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. The harbor is open to the south and the wind is from the east. It was horrid. We could only stand two nights and had to move on if were were to keep out sanity.Very sad because it was a beautiful spot. St Kitts and Nevis are also bad.

    A couple of places you mention in the Bahamas surprised me. We had no problems finding calm water there.

    St Kitts and Nevis are also bad.

    Mark and Cindy
    sv Cream Puff

  2. Oh great. More things to worry about and use all my data to research. We've been in rolly anchorages before, several times. But usually we move after one night. Isn't there something called a 'flopper stopper' or some such thing? Great. Now I need to dive into google.

  3. This is so true. I pretty much count on every anchorage to be roly-poly and then I'm pleasantly surprised when on the rare occasion it isn't.

  4. For goodness sakes! Use a swell bridle. It's fast, easy, and stops things from jumping off the counters. I posted about it here:

    1. We do use a bridle when we can but often the wind and swell come from different directions making it awkward. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and a stern anchor in a tight anchorage is not cool.

  5. A swell bridle adjusts the angle of your boat so the bow faces into the swell no matter where the wind is coming from. Did you read my blog post? I agree that a stern anchor is a pain, so try a swell bridle; it's so quick, easy, and effective.