When we booked this trip, our original plan was to do some cruising around the bay and the gulf coast and spend several days at anchor. Unfortunately hurricane Sandy and our experience a couple days back took care of most of that. Now we only have two days left, having to return the boat by 5pm the second day.
Fortunately we awoke to lighter winds, in the 15 to 20 knot range. My wife and I talked about taking the boat out for a sail again. Since things seem to be calming down, we agreed that we should, knowing if we didn't feel comfortable we would just head back. So, we have breakfast, head over to the hotel for a shower, and then prepare to head out to try again.
We left the marina just as we did two days prior, without incident. As we made our way out of the marina and past the St. Petersburg Pier, the swell did pick up a bit, but nowhere near as bad as it was the last couple days. We again head into the wind, unfurl the roller furling main to a reefed point that was about 3/4 of the total sail area. We bear away and I reduce the motor to idle. This configuration was giving us reasonable power so I shut down the motor. We were sailing! I think we'll forgo any headsail for now.
I'm pretty sure my wife was a bit nervous at first. But the conditions were calmer and I think we had the mainsail set better for the conditions so we seemed to fall into the groove of sailing the boat pretty quickly this day. We did a number of maneuvers not too far from the marina and everything went smoothly. So after one of our tacks we were heading south...and I was thinking that there's an anchorage only a couple hours or so away at the rate we were going. My wife seemed comfortable now, so why not see if we can get a little more experience in these last two days?
After sailing along in the same direction for a bit I think my wife was on to me. I had looked at the charts previously and knew of this anchorage. It is a small bay created by Pinellas Point and the Sunshine Skyway bridge approach. Not the ideal scenic anchorage or the longer trip we had initially planned, but it will do. It appears to be protected from the northeast winds at least. So when she asked, I confessed the idea. She was fine with it so off we went on our abbreviated adventure.
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We sailed south for a while, found the channel that we needed to get to the anchorage (at least without running aground) and motored thru the channel. We made it to the anchorage in a couple hours and do a spin around the little cove to see where we think we should anchor. Closer to the highway and deal with the noise or a bit further away where it seems less protected from the wind? We end up choosing a point about half way between.
Have I mentioned yet that this boat doesn't have an anchor windlass? Well. it doesn't. It was quite a bit of fun to try dropping the anchor by hand. We were in about 10 feet of water and my wife was trying to keep the boat in position as I lowered it. After the anchor contacts the bottom, I had my wife put the engine in idle. Given the winds, this was a bit of a mistake. The boat started getting blown away from the anchor fast enough I wasn't able to keep a count on how much rode (chain/rope) was let out. I had my wife give it a little more power and I was able to tie off the anchor at what I estimate was about 100 ft. Since we only needed 7:1, a 10:1 scope should be more than adequate to keep us put.
After setting the anchor I watch a couple poles abeam us to verify we were not dragging the anchor. I then set the anchor watch feature of the chart plotter as an extra safety measure. Two lessons learned here: 1) we need to work on our hand signals during anchoring and 2) any boat we get will definitely have a windlass (at least a manual one).
While we are making ourselves lunch, we realize that the "protected" anchorage is still allowing the boat to blow around a bit. Ok, it's swinging in an arch of about 120 degrees. This exposes the broadside of the boat to the chop a good percentage of the time. While I know what to do to prevent sailing at anchor on a cat, without another anchor or extra rode, there didn't seem to be much that can be done about the situation on this boat.
My wife and I talk about the situation and decide that maybe we didn't want to spend the night like this. We've spent the night at anchor several times on this trip and this boat just feels unstable when it is at rest. Add the swing and chop from the winds and it just doesn't seem like a good idea at this juncture.
Since this post is getting rather long, I'll cover the return trip and some of the lessons learned in the next post.