Gusts and Unforeseen Punches

We had a surprise issue that forced us to leave the Bay of Virgins (Hanavave) suddenly: a fellow boater apparently fouled our anchor!

Here’s some context to understand the issue:

To say that this bay has gusty winds is an understatement. Sailors call them “bullets” because the wind comes in sudden blasts. One moment it will be utter calm, then the next, boats are heeling wildly to the side with the wind’s massive force.

Why does this happen? It is a type of “Katabatic effect” — the wind piles up against the tall mountains, then suddenly spills over and rushes into the deep valleys of the island, funneling and accelerating through the Bay of Virgins. This general principle also creates the dangerous Santa Ana winds in southern California. This also occurs in other locations with tall mountains, such as Patagonia.

There’s another problem: the majority of the bay is very deep (100ft+). Boats must use a lot of anchor line for adequate scope to securely stay in such deep water. The shallower part of the anchorage (where Aldebaran was, in 40 feet of depth) is a very small area with limited space.

Unfortunately, when very gusty winds combine with long anchor lines, boats swing around erratically, without the usual pattern you’d expect from anchorages.

Boats end up ‘stern to stern’ sometimes coming very close to one another, as they stretch their lines and swing differently based on their weight and windage.

To complicate matters, occasionally a monkey-brained sailor comes along and drops his anchor directly ontop of yours— which is exactly what happened to us. A big monohull ended up 15ft from our bow!

After significant hemming and hawing, and unhappy gestures from the Aldebaran crew, they finally hoisted anchor, with considerable difficulty, because it was getting stuck… probably on our anchor chain!

This happens more often than you’d imagine in crowded anchorages – and because of Hanavave’s unique challenges, it can quickly turn ‘crowded’.

As it turns out, the next morning our anchor starting dragging. “I knew it! They fouled our anchor,” I thought.

Or maybe it was just coincidence that this was the first time in three years that our 66lb Bruce anchor dragged?

Either way, we saw the writing on the wall. The day was grey and rainy, with blasts of wind. It was getting too chaotic; it was time for us to leave Hanavave.

Photo: Two of the sailboats that chose to anchor in the 130ft deep section of the bay, to avoid the tight zone inside. Smart move! Both of these sailboats were in Bahia Caraquez, mainland Ecuador with Aldebaran in September ’16. The blue boat is a French family with a 13 year old son. The red boat is a Portuguese couple. Interesting that we ended up at the same bay after all those months!

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