Will stands up, stretches, and ambles over to the window of the delightfully cool air-conditioned coffee shop where we are enjoying late afternoon iced drinks. He spends a couple of seconds gazing out to the water before turning around with a peculiar smirk to ask me: “Hey Sarah, where’s the boat?” Excuse me? I think he’s kidding until I register that the smirk is his ‘This is kind of an emergency, but let’s try to play it cool’ look. I spring out of my seat and we both rush out the door.
Very good question – WHERE THE HELL IS THE BOAT!? She’s definitely not where we left her, anchored a quarter mile off the beach. Our wide-eyes scan masts, water, and the horizon as we dodge traffic across the street to the beach.
And, finally, we spot her. HYDROQUEST is partway down the La Paz channel, floating away.
I should take this story back about a few hours. We spent the early afternoon doing boat projects and by the time we were ready to head into town, the La Paz Waltz was in full swing. The La Paz Waltz is the interesting phenomenon that occurs when the tidal currents that surge through the channel are pushing or pulling in the opposite direction that the wind is blowing. The result is a very uncoordinated display of dancing boats who, in any normal anchorage, would win top points for form as they swing together on cue. The La Paz Waltz has boats moving entirely out of sync, careening around in different directions and at different times, and sometimes even stepping on each other’s toes.
So, the Waltz was in full swing – no real cause for concern; it can happen a few times in a day. But as we were dropping into the dingy, my woman’s intuition kicked in: “This feels weird. Maybe we should stick around a bit longer to make sure HYDROQUEST is okay.“ My new-to-cruising woman’s intuition has been known to kick-in fairly often… “I think the engine sounds funny”, “I think we’re anchored too close to shore”, “I really feel that we should sail another 20 miles offshore”, but, I swear, I really knew something was up this time.
Fast forward and there we are standing on the beach as our home-sweet-home floats away. Did I mention that our dingy is tied up at Marina de La Paz, a ten minute walk away? We are very close to not-playing-it-so-cool with our panic stricken faces and hands raised to heads.
But wait a minute… we realize that she’s no longer moving. Her anchor has clearly dragged but somehow reset. Reset in a precarious spot, but reset none-the-less. Either that, or she’s grounded on the channel shoal. Uggh.
Luckily we are able to flag down a fellow cruiser who has just pulled his dingy up on the beach. Will jumps in to go to HYDROQUEST’s rescue and I run back to the coffee shop to rescue our bags and computers.
I can’t speak for Will, but I can tell you that the next 20 minutes were rather stressful. By the time I got back to the beach I couldn’t tell if Will had made it out to HYDROQUEST or if the helpful fellow cruiser had taken him to the Marina to collect our own dingy (this had been discussed). She kind of looked like she was moving again, and there I was, on the beach, unable to do a thing. I couldn’t play it cool. Instead I ran over to a group of Mexican fishermen and made a total fool of myself trying to speak Spanish and demonstrate ‘dragging anchor’ while repeating, “mi velero, mi velero”. Then I started pointing out at the water and saying, “mi esposo, mi esposo,” at which point they definitely thought I crazy enough that my husband had ditched me on shore to enjoy life on the sailboat alone. One guy finally offered to drive me out there in his panga for 500 pesos, so I’m pretty sure they didn’t fully understand my predicament.
Will’s version is this: He convinced the fellow cruiser to take him straight to the boat, rather than to the marina. When he arrived, HYDROQUEST was no longer moving and still in 15 ft of water. Wow, lucky again! He started the engine and pulled up the anchor. The La Paz Waltz had really done a number on her anchor over the past week. She must like her priouettes. The anchor was wrapped up with chain like a Christmas present with the most recent wrap right under one of the flukes. Ah-ha, this was the culprit.
Will single-handedly steered HYDROQUEST back up and out of the channel, dropped her untangled anchor in a perfect spot, backed her down HARD, and let out 120 ft of chain. She’s not going anywhere.
What did we learn from our first (but definitely not last) dragging anchor experience? The Waltz is fun to watch, but always anchor with 300 ft swinging room and at least 100 ft of chain. Re-anchor every week! We are lucky. HYDROQUEST is lucky. There’s never a dull moment out here…