|No dock; no body.|
Photo by Amy Gulick
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...
I took the one less traveled by.
-- Robert Frost
in·ter·stice /inˈtərstəs/ an intervening space, especially a very small one.
Dock? Am I Gonna LIVE??
The Inside Passage is an amazing, fractal coastline of islets entwined among waterways. Literally tens of thousands of places to anchor, each with their own perspective on a breathtaking land and seascape.
Yet so many we see passing through scurry from dock to dock. If they anchor at all, it must be in one of a relative few 'hurricane harbors' - protected from all winds at all times. And then it must be of a certain depth - not too shallow, not too deep.
But docks and such ideal havens are few and far between.
These 'cruisers' nervously push from one to the next in tight and often tumultuous weather 'windows', which often snap closed on them. They hurry past mile after nautical mile of beauty, heave a sigh of relief on making it to a 'safe' spot, and squeeze in amongst all the others who think alike.
And then they start to build up a head of steam for the next leg.
At the end of 'the season', it's push home (wherever that is) to avoid storms. Usually motoring for hundreds of miles.
But hey... now they've 'done' the Inside Passage.
Here are some tips and tricks to help open up the interstitial world between docks. Many are for extreme situations, but hedging your bets makes for confident sailing.
Stay Put Gear
Good anchor gear is essential for getting away from the dock. What follow are some ideas for what you might look for, and why:
- Redundancy - Having several anchors with rode safeguards in case of loss.
- Variety - Different anchors excel in different conditions... consider anchors for a range of bottom characteristics.
- Synergy - Consider systems that work well together (e.g., swing limiting, pin-pointing, doubling up for storm conditions, etc.).
- Shore tie lines - The shore never drags!
- Manual option winch(es) - These haul the boat into strong wind and the anchor home, plus many other jobs. More than one, of varying strength are possible.
- A good tender - This lets you scout an area that may be (very) poorly charted. Poke around and eliminate surprises.
- Tender deployable gear - Can you set and retrieve anchor from your tender? In what wind strength?
- One or more anchors with rope / chain rode - These are adequate for many bottoms. Being lighter and more quickly and easily raised than all chain rode, deeper anchorages are less trouble.
Shoal or Ultra-Shoal Draft
A boat that can slip into skinny water and take the ground (dry out) level is perhaps your biggest asset.
- The shoal vessel can shelter in a hundred places for every one available to a deep vessel.
- Shallow water means generous anchor scope (the ratio of anchor rode to depth) requires less rode, and at any given scope, swing radius is smaller.
- Dangers are most always visible when only submerged in a couple of feet of water.
- If you do go ashore in a hard chance, you'll be wading ashore - not swimming.
- When aground, waves that lift the vessel are enough to move in (deeper vessels can pound their sides open before they float free).
If you can't go shoal, consider using sheer legs (aka beaching legs). These let you stand upright on a more or less protected beach.
Rivers often provide the shoal boat with excellent shelter behind shoals, berms or banks. If you're weather bound, they're wonderful places to explore.
For years we felt as many do that we needed to find a snug cove for the night. Protection from anything that might come up, from any direction, while darkness was... um... dark.
Over the years, we slowly realized that night sailing is not to be feared, but enjoyed.
This means that 'open', temporary anchorages can be enjoyed in steady weather. Pre-assess fallback destinations, then just get up and go if the wind rises or changes to an unfavorable direction.
They fall into three types:
- Lees - Hunkering down on the lee side of anything that blocks the wind will do until the wind changes.
- Open bights - Dips in the coastline often provide shelter from coastwise winds in either direction. Do take care not to become embayed (caught by an onshore wind in a bight you can't sail out of)!
- Wall-hangs - Finding bottom along a smooth stretch of coast is fine in calms and some of the most beautiful, wide view anchoring there is.
In all cases, know your escape route and destination options for various eventualities. Easy in / easy out anchorages are just that. When things change, get going while the getting is good... don't wait until it's untenable.