Those favorite creeks, that I like so much, are a little tricky for anchoring. It’s been a progression, developing a routine that works in a way that feels satisfying and reliable. There are narrow shores to contend with, a deeper middle, current reversing with the tide, and overhanging trees. All keep things interesting. A lot of different strategies have been tried, over the course of my many creek visits, and nowadays there’s a routine that has been working quite well.
First, what didn’t work:
1 – anchoring with a single anchor in the middle of the creek. 15 feet deep in the middle, enough anchor line to hold the boat also lets the boat swing into the bank. This is not a problem until the boat is visiting the shore when the tide starts to go out… This is still not a problem during the day, when it’s handy to just push off from the shore. Sleeping through that, however, would not work out so well.
2 – anchoring with a bow anchor and a stern anchor. It has to be said that I tried this with a lousy stern anchor (too small, too light, bad shape) that had no chain. Of course it pulled out of the soft mud, leading to problems mentioned above. Wind and current catching the boat crossways because of the bow and stern anchoring arrangement did not help, and even with an improved stern anchor, I’ve been uninclined to try things that way again.
3 – two anchors from the bow, with substantial slack in the downstream anchor line (with or without slack, this is technically called anchoring Bahamian style). The anchors are set by letting down the first one, sailing extra far downstream and setting the second one, and then pulling in the line on the first anchor until the boat is somewhere in the middle. This keeps the boat from going where it doesn’t belong, but the slack in the lines leads to complications, including the slack line sometimes hanging up in the rudder, and the boat turning repeatedly with the tide, twisting one anchor line around the other one with each reverse of current (naturally the boat turns in complete circles, rather than twisting and untwisting itself first one way and then the other). The completely twisted lines hold the boat in place just fine, but are a fair amount of work to untangle when it’s time to get the anchors back. Snagging of the slack line between the rudder and the hull – or anywhere else – is a problem one would rather not have, that leads to both stress and aggravation. This is not the point of anchoring in the creek!
Finally, the prize-winning combination:
Two anchors from the bow, set as described above in number three, with two modifications. First, there is not a lot of slack in the anchor lines, once the boat has been pulled back to the middle between the anchors. If you set the anchors at some distance from where the boat eventually rests, so that the anchor line scope (ratio of depth to line length) is quite generous, there is no problem with steady pressure on the two anchors. In addition, I’ve started using a kellet on the primary anchor line.
A kellet, also called an anchor sentinel, is a moderate weight – about 5 pounds in this case – attached to the anchor line with a big carabiner (or some other slidy thing), and to the boat with a string/light line that controls how far the kellet can slide down the anchor line. This weight pulls the anchor line farther under the water, and adds tension but allows the line to stretch out if there’s a big bunch of wind. Conveniently, it keeps that primary anchor line out of the way of passing motorboats, which is also relaxing. Ordinarily a kellet is used to make an anchor more secure on less anchor line, though that wasn’t my primary purpose in this situation. I wanted it for tensioning of the two-anchor system, while still allowing for movement in a pinch, as well as for sinking the nice new primary anchor line out of range of passing boat propellers.
On this boat, which has a long shallow keel, and the rudder attached at the back edge of the keel, this whole arrangement of moderately taut anchor lines means that when the boat changes direction with the tide or the wind, the keel and the downstream anchor line lie alongside one another, preventing the boat from turning beyond the anchor line. There is not enough slack for the line to catch above the rudder and make problems, and even more beautifully, the boat cannot turn in a circle! When it’s time to leave, there is no unscrambling of the two anchor lines at the bow. I was a very, very happy camper, when I discovered this.
I left the most recent creek sooner than I was expecting to, running to the coast to avoid extremely warm temperatures, so I did not get photos of this arrangement in action. They might have been very boring photos anyway. The significant bit is that each line was in a bow chock, leading toward the anchor on its respective side. Something about how the boat landed, during anchoring, meant that it made sense to move the starboard, primary anchor line to the port side, and the port secondary anchor line over to starboard, to prevent crossing. This had to do with the wind direction across the creek, and letting the boat go crossways between the anchors in the direction that it wanted to. Making that adjustment helped everything to settle in well.
Other tidbits are that it’s helpful to notice a mark on shore when you drop the first anchor, and then again when you drop the second one. If the boat drifts a bit during anchoring, it can be hard to keep track just by checking the amount of anchor line that is out. It’s also a good idea to look at overhanging trees, while deciding where to start putting down anchors. Masts and trees do not go well together! Ideally, there would be enough space so that if an anchor did drag, none of those trees would be a problem. I wasn’t so good at this last, in this recent creek visit. Happily, the anchors stayed put, but if the more northerly one hadn’t, things might have gotten interesting. I’ll know for next time.
When it’s time to leave, the process goes in reverse, letting one anchor line go loose while retrieving the second anchor, then pulling all that extra line back in. It can take some time. Working with the tide, rather than against it, can help…
The funniest part of this recent experience is that when it was time to leave there was some funny oil on the surface of the creek, broken up in small but numerous patches. It didn’t go by in a few minutes, so I decided to go ahead with the anchor retrieval process, having a tide to catch. This moved anchor line and chain through those bits of oil, and as it came up I checked my hands – fish! Somebody up the creek must have been cleaning a substantial amount of their catch, or maybe an osprey was tearing apart a particularly large and oily meal. The next time I anchored, there it was again on my hands, eau de fish, and I noticed that the inside of the boat had a faint tinge, when first coming back in from outside. The tub for the primary anchor line is in the enclosed locker under the starboard cockpit seat, and there is a mostly covered opening from that locker through into the cabin. Now a week later, it seems gone, or maybe I’m just completely used to it. Visitors will have to tell!
In the process of retrieving those anchors, a good 200 feet of the primary anchor line got that special fish oil treatment. But it was still worth it, to be so nicely snug for days, with the boat held just so between the narrow banks of that quiet creek.