Wednesday 30 July – Foul Anchor

At anchor Akutan Bay
Wind: Calm
Weather: mostly sunny

At five a.m. when the alarm went off I got up, it was still dark, it was
calm, conditions looked ideal for getting underway to attempt Akun Strait,
but the thought of hauling in all that chain rather than having a little
extra sleep made me less than enthusiastic. I did not procrastinate, but
rather climbed back into my warm bunk and went back to sleep. When I awoke
for the second time, the sun was well and truly up and I found that my
cruising companions had departed. I must be getting more eccentric as I get
older as I felt quite happy that Sylph and I were alone again. At about
eleven I had a visit from a fishing boat with a message from the village
mayor that I was anchored too close to the sewer outfall and that I needed
to move. I was aware of the sewer pipe as it is marked on the chart but I
think that what had happened was that when I re-anchored in the strong
breeze I had been set back down over it by the time the anchor had set. No
problem I would weigh anchor and re-anchor in shallower water so that it
would be much easier to depart whenever I decided that might be.

I had ended up in about 25 meters of water so there was a lot of weight in
the chain. The anchor winch proved useless so I resorted to heaving it in
with a chain hook and a line led to a sheet winch. This was rather slow so I
tried a different technique learned from my Navy days, namely weighing by
deck tackle, a small tackle that I use mainly for tensioning a boom
preventer was ideal for the job. I attached one end to a convenient eye at
the front of the coach house, and the other to the chain with a hook. Then
it was just a matter of heaving in the tackle until it was block a block,
that is when it could not be hauled in any more, putting a half hitch in the
hauling part so it would not run out, putting a hook attached to a the deck
via a short line into the chain, undoing the half hitch and transferring the
weight of the chain to the short line, than overhauling the tackle,
reattaching it, then heaving it in again. This method, while a little
laborious and only able to bring in about three meters of cable at a time,
proved quite a bit faster than using a chain hook and line taken to a sheet
winch. I soon had all the cable in bar the last ten meters when I could not
get enough purchase from the tackle to break the anchor free, or so I
thought. I tried the sheet winch instead, as while slower, it is able to
exert more force. After heaving in as hard as I could without breaking
something it became clear that the anchor was indeed foul of something on
the bottom, presumably the sewer line.

What to do? I tried motoring it free but this proved ineffective no matter
what direction I went in. I did not want to damage the sewer line so there
was only one thing I could think of doing, namely to rig a tripping line.
This consists of a short length of chain that is made into a loop that fits
around the anchor chain, and is attached to a long length of sturdy line.
The loop of chain is lowered over the anchor chain until it reaches the
bottom, the idea being that if the anchor is up and down the loop of chain
will slide over the stock to the crown of the anchor. Some slack is then let
out of the tripping line, then the anchor chain is allowed to run out to a
length greater than the tripping line, but before any tension can come into
the tripping line I hurry back to the cockpit and motor slowly forward. The
tripping line then hopefully maintains its position at the crown of the
anchor and when tension comes onto it as the boat moves forward it pulls the
anchor the wrong way and frees it from whatever it is foul of. This is by no
means a fool proof method of clearing a fouled anchor but I have had success
with it once before when I fouled an old mooring chain on the bottom of Port
Phillip. This time I was not quite so lucky. My first attempt did not work
and I thought I might have to cut the chain and lose my anchor. Of course I
was very loathe to lose an expensive anchor so I tried again, tensioning the
anchor chain until it was vertical, hauling the tripping line up and then
letting it out again, then letting the anchor cable run out to what I judged
was a little more than the length of the tripping line, then a quick dash
back to the cockpit, engine in gear and motor forward.

I am pleased to say that my second attempt was successful. I watched the
shoreline and we were moving slowly away from where the sewer line runs out.
I motored out into deeper water, recovered the anchor and the tripping line,
then motored back to the shallows well clear of the sewer outfall and let go
the anchor in five meters of water. It was nice and calm this time so Sylph
did not take off like she did the previous time I re-anchored and I was able
to make sure the anchor was well set by backing up on it with the motor in
reverse. I felt relieved and happy that after a lot of messing around I was
able to recover the anchor without, I hope, doing any damage to the sewer
line.

I spent the rest of the day ashore visiting a man named Marc who is teaching
some of the locals how to make a traditional kayak. It is one of those
ironies that the indigenous people have lost the knowledge of how to make
their own traditional craft and are learning the skills from an outsider.
After an interesting conversation about traditional wooden boats n general
while helping to lash one of the deck beams to a gunwale stringer I went to
the library to post yesterday's blog and check the weather forecast.
Conditions once again looked suitable for attempting the narrows of Akun
Strait on the morrow, so I decided to set the alarm and try to get away once
more.

All is well.