Campbell's Quest: Terror At Sea (BLOG) - PassageMaker

Campbell's Quest: Terror At Sea (BLOG)

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After four years of planning, and eight months living at anchor in the Florida Keys, Jay and Captain Karen Campbell headed from Key Biscayne and docked at Brown’s Marina in Bimini, Bahamas.

After four years of planning, and eight months living at anchor in the Florida Keys, Karen and I headed from Key Biscayne to Bimini, and docked at Brown’s Marina. For two days it was paradise.

We soon anchored nearby in a known, charted anchorage.

We woke in horizontal gusts of 50 knot rain. Largo’s anchor had ripped free from the bottom, which left us pitching fast toward the boats, docks, and sea planes nearby.

Largo dragged on a silt bottom over hard coral. Not even a 125-pound Mantus with all-chain rode could hold in that.

Largo dragged on a silt bottom over hard coral. Not even a 125-pound Mantus with all-chain rode could hold in that.

We say boating is 100% maintenance, 90% joy, and 10% terror, but terror was our whole world that night. The storm came fast and unpredicted. We had been holding solid since arriving in the little Bimini Harbor.

Lightning lit the deck and the collisions to come. Karen started the engines. I ran to the foredeck in biting rain, barefoot and freezing in the tropics, to winch the free-dragging anchor. It overwhelmed the windlass.

We couldn’t hear, couldn’t see. The rain shorted the headsets. We knew we were twisting toward boats, sea walls, and the shallow edges of the narrow man-made channel.

I’ve been more scared I suppose, but I don’t know when. We shouted directions and ideas back and forth. Karen kept Largo from crushing anything expensive while I got the skipping anchor off the bottom. But in keeping our 50,000-pound trawler off boats and docks, we struck the shallow edge of the man-made channel hard and grounded.

Jay and Karen celebrate again, back at Brown’s Marina after surviving a long night with no injuries or damage.

Jay and Karen celebrate again, back at Brown’s Marina after surviving a long night with no injuries or damage.

Karen rocked us free, alternating pulses of reverse thrust on the big twin engines. We finally had our bearings and hovered in the storm until sunrise, looking for a place to anchor.

At first light we could not get safe purchase in the room and conditions available (tiny anchorage, silty bottom over hard coral, other boats). At mid-day we found a marina, and were safe at dock. I dove the boat to see that our props and hull were sound. All that was wounded was our pride.

Lessons? When do you repeatedly question the bottom holding and available scope? Listen and act. We anchored with well under the proper 5:1 scope, it was not enough on the silt over coral bottom, and I should have moved on.

First time in 4 years we dragged. Our anchoring tackle is sound. Our application in this case? Not so much.

No shortcuts, folks.

Jay & Karen contribute the Fitness Afloat column in PassageMaker magazine. You can catch more of their adventures in the magazine or in the lifestyles section at www.passagemaker.com.

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