Lanzarote to Grenada, anchor down, again and again

Stravaig'n the Blue
Mon 1 Feb 2021 13:23
Position: 12:02.453 N 061:45.489 W
Position timestamp: Saturday 30 Jan 2021 15:50 UTC-4
Distance travelled total: 3176 NM
Average speed since departure: 6.2 knots

We were at anchor in the bay outside Saint George’s, Grenada at 15:50 local time, 21 days and a tad under 8 hours (including the 4 hours we gained by putting our clocks back) after setting off from Lanzarote at noon on Saturday 9th January.

There was a good 16-18 knots of breeze on the starboard quarter as we sailed down the south coast of Grenada. We did consider putting in a reef before rounding Point Saline at the south west corner but decidedly, correctly, to wait until after rounding as by then we’d be in the lee of the island and likely to be in lesser winds for the final beat up to the anchorage.

A mile or so from the anchorage we noticed the telltale signs of fish feeding activity: lots of turmoil just below the surface, fish a-leaping and the sea birds swooping and darting about opportunistically. I’d been trolling a lure in the hope of catching the tuna I had an order for and, sure enough when there’s this amount of activity, the line went taught then started to reel out. A short while later we had a fine 1kg rainbow runner (aka rainbow yellowtail) on board. It was excellent, pan fried for supper and also in a chowder the following day.

We first dropped the anchor just before 15:30 but it didn’t set (hold). We tried again, with the same result. The pilot book had warned that the holding in the anchorage was poor. Third time, we got lucky. After a cup of coffee, I snorkelled along the anchor chain to the anchor to check that it was well bedded in. I’ve seen better but we’d reversed hard and not budged so, with the sun setting, I decided that trying to find a spot with deeper sand might end with us worse rather than better off. So we stayed put.

I’m certainly glad that we arrived in daylight. Although the anchorage wasn’t busy (fewer than 20 other boats) it would have been very difficult in the dark distinguishing between sandy patches and rocky patches and finding somewhere with sufficient holding. And all that dropping and weighing of the anchor wouldn’t have endeared us to our new neighbours.

Saturday night, we slept very soundly. Eleven hours, uninterrupted. Bliss.

On Sunday morning, we humphed our folded up dinghy up the companionway steps and on to the cockpit table, unfolded it and inflated the tubes, manoeuvred it back far enough to attach it to the davit lines and then swung it out over the back of the boat. It was then that we concluded we were definitely getting closer to the boat directly downwind from us. We had been in line abreast with two catamarans, one either side of us, but we were now below that line. The wind was very gusty and it was in the big gusts that our anchor was dragging.

So we upped anchor and went in search of better holding which, after several failed attempts, we found further inshore just off one of the beaches. Having forgotten to do so the night before, this time I set the anchor alarm app (Anchor! Drag Alarm - highly recommended) on my phone.  And as backup I also took this photo which shows two other yachts and two ships broadly in line with us.

An hour later, just after lunch, the nearest yacht was no longer in the picture. It was 50 metres downwind, to the left. Shortly after that it was 100 metres downwind, dragging its anchor in the gusts. We couldn’t see anyone in the cockpit or on deck and as there was no sign of a dinghy it was fair to assume the crew were ashore. What to do?

I hailed the marina and the yacht club on the VHF radio but neither responded. I had thought they might have dealt with this type of situation before or, better still, that the crew might be on the premises (unlikely given that the boat was in the quarantine anchorage). So we lowered the dinghy into the water, winched the outboard motor out of the sail locker then down into the dinghy (all things on that day’s To Do list anyway). I set off: to double check there was no one on the boat, to find out its name, to warn the three boats further downwind of a boat dragging its anchor headed their way and, finally, to go round to the marina and yacht club to try the VHF again, at much closer range.

The conversation with the marina was productive up to a point. One of the staff thought the boat belonged to a contractor who worked at the marina (in which case why was the boat in the quarantine anchorage) and agreed to track down the skipper and let him know he had a problem. I returned to Stravaig.

The boat was now 200 metres away from us and only 100 metres from the three boats further downwind. As it got closer to them, we saw two crew from one of the boats take to their dinghy and board the dragging yacht. They clearly got its engine started and then started to raise the anchor. At this point they were joined by two crew from one of the other at risk yachts and, in a very socially distance way, possibly unintentionally, they brought the yacht back to near where it had been and reset the anchor. The skipper returned a few hours later, no doubt confused at first by his boat not being where he left it.

Another eventful day and another night of very sound sleep.

The picturesque Saint George’s from the isolation anchorage. The furthest mountains just visible in the right hand side of the picture are, more often than not, completely shrouded in cloud and rain.

Our view towards the nearest stretch of coastline.

All is well.