Lost Anchor
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[The Story] [Lesson Learned]
Lost in paradise - my anchor that is.  Read on for this crazy story.

I was really enjoying the 2-week rest at Tiahoe Bay, Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas,  especially since we had just completed a long 30-day passage from the Galapagos Islands.  My owners had other ideas though, and decided we should sail around to Anaho Bay on the north side of the island.   On the way, a large school of my dolphin-pals came to play in my bow wake.   Bob steered me safely through a narrow opening in the reef into Anaho Bay, where we were surrounded on 3 sides by lush, green mountains.  My 45 lb. CQR anchor was carefully released and we settled in nicely, although I was a bit nervous about the coral reef just off my stern.  The anchor took a good "bite", though and it was a good thing, especially, since the wind occasionally came across the mountains in 40-knot gusts.  After several days of exploring the beautiful surroundings, my owners decided we should move to the next bay, so they got everything ready to go.

All went well until Judi started to raise the anchor.  She knew that she was going to have a tough job getting it up as it had dug in quite deeply, but she put her shoulder into and pumped the windlass handle; but, funny enough, it came up a lot easier than she though it would.  All at once I heard her yell in surprise, "Bob, the chain came up without the anchor!"  As we were drifting back to that reef, they scrambled to drop our secondary Danforth anchor in a place that we hoped was close to the CQR.  Luckily, my captain has SCUBA tanks and gear on board, so he suited up and jumped in.

The recovery effort can best be described as a "Chinese fire-drill."  As Judi watched, helplessly  from the bow, Bob dove and swam all over the anchorage, far from where we believed the anchor was located.    Because the water was very deep and murky, he could not judge where he was in relationship to us.  Judi knew that he was too far away, but had no way to communicate with him.  After thirty minutes of swimming back and forth, surfacing and diving again, he ran out of air.  There was another tank available, but they figured that unless they changed their strategy, the anchor would be gone forever. 

That's when they finally got smart, with Bob coming up with a successful plan for recovery.  He donned another SCUBA tank and swam out again, but this time he took a long dock line with him while Judi stood on the bow holding the other end.  Starting close to the boat, he dove and  swam back and forth across the bow.  When he got too far to one side or the other, Judi would give a tug and let out a bit more of the line.  Bob would then reverse direction and swim out a bit further.  Well, within 10 minutes, they found my anchor, secured the dock line onto it,  re-attached the chain, and brought it back on board.

The cause of this little mishap? - a rusted "stainless steel" cotter pin.  My anchor is attached to the chain via a swivel on the end of the chain through which a shackle and clevis pin is then used to secure the anchor to the chain.  A cotter pin holds the clevis pin in place and prevents it from sliding out of  the shackle.  

Although this cotter pin was stainless, it rusted through and allowed the clevis pin to pull out of the shackle just enough for the anchor to slide off.  Would you believe that the chain came up with both the shackle and clevis pin still hanging there!?  I still shudder when I think about what might of happened to me if the anchor had come loose while my owners were ashore.  My crew re-secured everything, issued a big sigh of relief and we were on our way.  The whole recovery took about an hour.

Lessons Learned

  • Check the anchor and chain attachment for rust, so we added this as an item to our "Monthly Inspection Checklist."
  • Have a second anchor ready to go if the primary anchor is lost.
  • The importance of carrying SCUBA tanks on board.
  • Use a line to help guide the diver underwater when trying to recover something.
[Read on for our mishaps in Minerva Reef]

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