On October 12th we sailed from Redondo Beach to Santa Catalina Island, a quick twenty-five mile hop from L.A. to the most developed of the Channel Islands. We found an anchorage for a few boats next to a landmine of mooring buoys but were happy to save the $32 nightly fee by anchoring.
The following day we had hot weather and it finally felt like the summer holiday we’ve been seeking. We swam to shore with our flippers and pool noodles and went for a walk up the coast and then swam back later for a late lunch. I fished for a while and caught nothing while a neighboring massive sport fishing boat pulled in fish after fish, but it didn’t matter, we were relaxed.
Later on we decided to launch our dinghy so that we could get a better look at the island. Meanwhile a sailboat came into the anchorage and said something like “What? Haven’t you ever seen a boat arrive at an anchorage before??” (pretty much asking us what we were looking at). That’s weird, I thought, what’s up his ass? This was to be the tickle that set off a domino asshole effect that would ruin our afternoon.
As I finished pumping air into our dinghy and as we were about to set off another boat came into the anchorage. The boat called over to me “how much do you have out?” and I called back “200 feet of chain”. His response was to drop his anchor directly in front of our boat. Something didn’t seem right as they raised and lowered their anchor for about ten minutes. Time and again we heard a huge rumbling under our own boat. Our first thought was that their anchor was so powerful that we could feel the vibrations through the water. Wrong. Why else could we hear their anchor???? The next time their anchor came out of the water I could see that they were carrying a chain on their anchor. Low and behold they had hooked our chain and brought it to the surface.
At first they were non-responsive and dismissive when I was shouting over that they had our chain. “We’re too smart and rich to have hooked your chain foolish Canadians” they thought. But hooked our chain they did. The guy working the anchor couldn’t free our chain because their skipper had spun the boat around so many times that the chain was twisted like a twist tie around his anchor. So the two of us worked at it for a long time before getting it free. Meanwhile while Sylvie was standing by on Ustupu, the asshole who ungraciously observed our observing was now barking out orders to Sylvie and walking up and down his deck like a madman. Thankfully Sylvie ignored his orders. I suppose he thought himself more of a thinker than a doer.
In an attempt to be an asshole I returned the favor to our neighbor by saying “Haven’t you ever seen two anchors get crossed??”. He gave a quick no and continued to spew unsolicited advice that we ignored. My attempt at being an asshole failed as my tone was too nice. Even Sylvie thought I was just trying to be chatty with the guy. I probably wouldn’t last a day in L.A.
Meanwhile in the process of raising and lowering our chain multiple times our anchor was dragged on top of the nearest mooring buoy. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except that the buoys here are connected to land at two points so that both your bow and stern are secure. These two lines are in turn connected by another line to one another and that line was now directly beneath our boat meaning that I couldn’t use the engine for fear of wrapping the line around our propeller. To make things worse there was a lot of kelp in the anchorage, which tended to wrap itself around your anchor chain adding a surprising amount of weight. We felt stuck.
Then the harbor patrol showed up. A twenty something surfer type. “We’re in a bit of a predicament, can I cut this line to free my boat?” “Not unless you want to pay for that!”. So we’ve got the pacing guy shouting b-s advice, the boat that hooked us coming and going uncomfortably close, a few other boats watching us curiously, a three piece mooring buoy wrapped around our hull and a 21 year old harbor patrol dude with a crappy attitude. Eventually he told the boat that hooked us to beat it, which they rapidly did. He then helped us get clear of the mooring buoy and we were finally free.
As we went to reset our anchor we set it too far away from the beach (like 30 feet) and right into a thick kelp bed. We were slowly dragging towards a reef at about the same speed that the sun was setting. As soon as Sylvie started bringing up the 100 feet of chain that we had just dropped, our windless (the thingy that you bring up the chain with) stopped bringing up the chain. There was too much weight on it. So for the next 30 minutes we slowly dragged and hand lifted the chain up. It took every ounce of strength that both of us had combined to get it up. Huge kelp leaves came off or had to be pulled off as they came to the surface with the chain.
At the very moment we got the chain up, the harbor patrol showed up again. Although they claimed that those staying at the anchorage were “on their own”, they were thankfully pretty reluctant to let us drift off over the reef. I asked for a mooring buoy and he was happy to escort us to one.
Later on after a long recuperation period for our backs we took the dinghy into shore to take a shower. I realized that one of the guys from the anchor hooker had left his broken boat hook in our dinghy, so we went to drop if off . He did invite us aboard and he did apologize for what happened. But to save face he claimed that we had far more than 200 feet of chain out because he “counted the boat lengths in front of us”. I couldn’t believe it, especially because we only carry 200 feet of chain.
Anyway, here is the moral of the story. Most people don’t know how to anchor, even us, and bad things tend to come in threes.
We're spending another night on Santa Catalina Island in Avalon, and then heading for San Diego tomorrow. Time to prepare for Mexico.
Photos to come with better interweb connection.
Dan, Sylvie & Ustupu