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246. Top Tips Tuesday - Brace Yourself!

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It’s a bit of a topical title, as the lovely Claire Green (she who used to run the chandlery clothing department and for the last few years has used her IT expertise to put together the ramblings of a grumpy old git into a presentable blog) is due to give birth on the 13th of February! For once I thought I would get ahead of the game by preparing this one in advance, just in case the new edition to the Green family came early! For my wife Jenny it was a case of brace yourself when we were cruising in Greece last autumn and ended up in the middle of some rather nasty weather. This has been described by some as a Medicane, sometimes referred to as a tropical hurricane. For the first customer who bought a Rocna from us back in 2010 for his Moody it was an instruction that he shouted to the guy on the windlass the second time it was deployed, his new anchor dug in so fast the first time it was used in anger it nearly sent that foredeck hand over the pulpit!

Grateful thanks to Jake Kavanagh for allowing us to use the above cartoon.

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As for Jenny and I we had been tracking, with growing concern, the weather that was predicted to hit us around the 28th of September and decided to make our way up past Nidri and find what we hoped would be a secure and safe anchorage in Vliho bay. The morning before the bad weather was due to hit we anchored in 5 mtrs of water, our anchorbeing a Vulcan (same designer same superb holding power as a Rocna) let 40mtrs of chain out and hooked up our 18mm octoplait snubber using 7mtrs in length to help take the shock out of an all chain rode. During the day as the wind started to rise we dismantled the bimini, removed the outboard from the inflatable and took the cruising chute, code zero and gang plank down below to reduce windage over the deck (the Mystery doesn’t have the large cockpit lockers that a lot of cruisers have).

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Sadly I didn’t deflate the dinghy and bring it onboard but as it’s always stored on the foredeck I was concerned that it would be a windage issue if the s…t hit the fan! Finally 8 fenders were deployed around the topsides, with our large ball fender ready close to the mast if we ended up with a visitor alongside.

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Whilst Jen was making some sandwiches and dug out the flask to give us a source of hot drinks later, I sneaked a quick look at Happy Hooking by Alex & Daria Blackwell, their excellent book on anchoring technique, and concluded that if we had room to swing (which we did have) it would be sensible to let some more chain out and increase the length of the snubber, so we ended up with a ratio of 10-1 ie 50 mtrs.  Later in the afternoon we spotted a rather large charter cat (height and windage of a double decker bus) slowly drifting down on us with no sign of life on board. Out came the fog horn but no response. Just as the stern cockpit got within 2 mtrs of our pulpit and each hull almost level with our bows help arrived in the form of the Sailing Holidays rib with one of their instructors onboard and a couple from Carlisle, customers of my old company back in Newcastle. Dave & Karen had seen our predicament and rang the Sailing holiday base at the Iris pontoon, they boarded the cat and managed to pull it away from our bows; thanks once again guys! I believe it then took them something like eight or so attempts to get the charter cat's anchor to hold! Text and WhatsApp messages were starting to come through of a sinking in the Lefkas canal and the nearby marina was 'closed’ for boat movements.

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By eight that evening as the wind was still increasing, it was a case of on with our baseand mid layers followed by full foul weather gear and then our Spinlock lifejackets with safety lines ready to deploy. Handheld Standard Horizon VHF in the cockpit plus our powerful rechargeable spotlight and a couple of waterproof LED torches. Ready for anything, or so we thought. It was then I decided that I would try and get a little shut eye before the wind peaked. Ten minutes later a mighty shriek up on deck from Jen as the spotlight which had been secured, or so we thought, shot across the cockpit as the boat heeled right over. Back on deck it quickly became apparent that no sleep was going to be possible as Hindsight was now being thrown sideways, and veering wildly. Later that night, when the wind was at its worst, the Avon dinghy, which had already been flipped over and back probably seven or eight times, decided this time it would try and join us in the cockpit! At least three yachts to windward of us that we could just make out in the pitch black were dragging and our searchlight was constantly being used to warn those whom we felt were getting close. Apparently the crew on one of the 'drifters' made ten attempts to reset his hook and the talk at the Vliho yacht club three days later was that up to 30 boats had dragged. Others that had abandoned the pontoon on the lee shore opposite Tranquil Bay and the quay at Nidri spent the night motoring round and round, unable to get their anchorsto hold.

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As we have a retractable bowsprit on the Mystery to use with the cruising shute and the light wind code zero, we could not go down the Rocna route as the roll bar would 'clash' with the sprit, instead we went for the Vulcan which like the Rocna was designed by Peter Smith. The Vulcan has no roll bar but features a  unique combination of shank and fluke geometry which, in conjunction with a roll palm at the rear of the fluke, self rights. As for its holding power, one word for that: magnificent!

Due to the holding power of the new generation anchors such as the Vulcan, Rocna, Manson as compared to old faithfulls, the Blackwells do feel that in certain anchorages the description of the holding ground perhaps should be altered, see their comments below!

"We are converts to the new generation scoop-type anchors and have retired our CQR as well as our Admiralty-type anchors from active duty. No, it is no longer about a weight on a rope. The new generation of anchors represent significant advances in anchor technology and engineering.

In fact, we're so convinced that we are intending to help re-write many of the cruising guides. Where anchorages are rated as having poor holding, we believe they may have been rated with inferior anchors, as we have often found the holding to be good. So if your anchor is not holding as well as you might like, consider your options. The insurance of having a good modern anchor may just let you sleep peacefully through the night secure in your chosen anchorage".

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