Solidly and seriously stuck in Staniel Cay.

It’s Friday morning and I couldn’t resist an alliteration title for this post.   So, forgive me. 

Anyway, more to the point, our plan, as noted in yesterday’s post, was to move up to Compass or Cambridge Cays into a spot that would be a bit better protected from these persistantly annoying westerly winds.

So, late morning yesterday we cleaned up Pandora and got everything in the proper place for getting under way.

Brenda and I have a very well worked out procedure for pulling up the anchor that involves hand signals for going forward, backwards, port, starboard, stopping and various combinations of same.   So, yesterday, as we have done thousands of times, we began that process of retrieving the anchor.

As we brought Pandora over the anchor and began to pull it up the final 20 or so feet to the deck, the anchor chain pulled up sharply and stopped dead.   Generally, it takes a bit of pulling to get the anchor free of the bottom, especially after strong winds have caused the anchor to dig in deeply.

As we had a particularly strong squall the prior night, I wasn’t surprised that getting the anchor up was more difficult than normal.  So, I secured the anchor chain and signaled Brenda to power ahead to break out the anchor.   However, instead of Pandora slowing slightly as we rode over the anchor, she stopped dead and the bow dipped down sharply.

The anchor would not budge.  We tried pulling from various directions and nothing, nothing, would break the anchor free.  After a while, a couple from another boat anchored nearby came to offer assistance.  My first thought was to use our “look bucket”, a 5 gallon pail with a clear plastic bottom, to take a look at the anchor to see what it was caught on.  Oddly, the anchor was mostly exposed on the bottom.  It didn’t seem that the anchor could be so stuck.

After a bit more pulling to no avail, I decided to put on my wetsuit and go take a look at the anchor up close.  However, the water was over 20’ deep and deeper than I normally like to go with free diving.    Unfortunately, I didn’t have any choice in the matter and dove on the anchor.

What I found is that the anchor was wedged under a limestone shelf and wasn’t going to come out by pulling on it from the chain alone.

First I tied a line to the back of the anchor so that my helpers could try and pull it out.  Well, that didn’t work very well as the line got tangled in the anchor chain.

I was running out of ideas and finally decided to have Brenda put Pandora in forward to take the tension off of the anchor chain.  Then I dove down on the anchor and was able to brace my feet on the bottom and pull the anchor out from under the ledge by hand.  It worked, anchor free.

I scrambled back aboard Pandora and pulled the anchor up into the secure position on the bow.  However, I immediately saw that the shaft was solidly bent.   Not good.  The anchor wasn’t really usable any longer.

Fortunately, I have a large spare anchor that we use when the winds are going to be really strong and put that on in place of the damaged anchor.

I should note that the damaged anchor weighs 65 lbs and the shank that bent is nearly 1” thick and made from forged steel.  I can’t imagine how much pressure it takes to bend something like this.  And bend it we did.  All the pulling and yanking we did on that anchor pulled the shaft from side to side while the flukes stayed wedged in the bottom, unmoving.

Here’s what it looked like when I got it aboard. I plan on tossing it overboard as soon as I find a new anchor from someone in Georgetown where lots of cruisers congregate.   We should be there sometime in the next week or two.   For now, I figure this one is better than nothing as a spare.

This is yet another reason that we have spares for nearly everything aboard Pandora.  You never know what sort of surprises await.

Wrecked anchor or not, I am really glad that nothing but the anchor was damaged by all the yanking and am happy that Pandora is so solidly built.   The process was more of an ordeal than I would have liked but at least it ended well.   I have also been pretty unhappy with the now damaged anchor, a Bruce, as this type of anchor only works well in sand and mud.  Yes, there’s plenty of sand in the Bahamas but a Bruce doesn’t work well in grass or hard sand, where it just skips along and won’t dig in.  There have been many instances, and several on this trip, where I have had to re-anchor time after time and ultimately wasn’t able to get it to set properly.  All and all, I am not unhappy to be getting a new anchor.

Here’s hoping that there are boats around with anchors to spare.

Today?  Now that we are unstuck, perhaps we’ll head up to Compass after all.


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