Sailing Mango

Anchoring Joy, or We Found A Panga In Tenacatita!

After our balls to the wall entrance into Tenacatita, where we had a jib sheet override and all full sails up in twenty knots while running out of water, we were not excited to spend a whole lot of time searching in the anchorage for the perfect spot to drop the hook. We put the anchor down a little far out, and the next morning decided to move closer to shore, giving us faster access to the beach, and more importantly less roll from the swell.

We were in 44 feet of water, but just after pulling the chain up past the 100 foot marker on the chain, the windlass ground to a halt, and shook the deck like I have never felt before. It was one of those horrible sounds, the kind you immediately know are not normal, good, or wanted again. Our deck is something like an inch thick, and designed to take several tons of water crashing down upon it, so it is quite robust. As the chain and windlass growled, chattered and moaned, I could see and feel the deck flexing.

It reminded me of the pictures that hung next to the x-ray machine in college, showing a horribly burned hand that some poor dumb-ass had stuck into the x-ray beam. Now I was the dumb-ass, watching as normally idyllic waves, one after the other raised the bow of Mango up a foot or two every eight seconds or so, shock loading the windlass to at least several thousand pounds. I had about five seconds to get my hands onto the windlass and release the gypsy so that the next perfect wave would simply let out more chain as the boat rose up, all the while being acutely aware of the chain, my toes and my fingers.

My first impression of what had happened was that we were short scoped, our chain had wrapped around something on the bottom, like a rock. To get off this possible rock, I let out a total of about 150 feet of chain, Kristen would move the boat forward to the left, and then I would try to raise the hook. That did not work. We tried going to the right, and then a complete circle around the object thinking we wrapped around it during the night. No joy. Each try resulted in the same sickening jump and shudder of the deck. The windlass would jump around, the gypsy where the chain wraps around the windlass would yell and scream while slipping, and I just made sure I had ten toes and fingers at the end of each try. I was not in my happy place.

At this time good friends on S/V Me Too came into the anchorage from Barra, and asked what the hell we were doing. I explained it in about four words and a few arm waves, the limit of communications a few hundred feet away as their yacht passed by. Once on the radio with each other and the clarity gained with such a manuver, Clay said he would come over and dive on the anchor to check it out, 44 feet down!

Meanwhile Kristen and I took the boat 720 degrees around the anchor the opposite way from the first go around, and tried one last time. No go.

Clay and Jill popped over in the dinghy, and down Clay went, twice. Unfortunately visibility was poor and he couldn't see anything near the bottom. Free diving to 44 feet seems hard enough, but especially tough when you have to follow the 100 feet of chain, and not just the 44 feet of vertical.

After a radio call to the other boats in the anchorage, our new best friends Pat and Celine came over with a dual hooka setup. What luck! Pat and Clay went down, and discovered we were wrapped around a sunk panga! We discovered a wreck, but alas, no buried treasure, at least that the guys told me about. The guys went down three times trying to clear the chain, but still Mango was stuck tight. At least we knew we wouldn't drag in the night. Pat and Clay were at their dive limit, Clay probably beyond, so we called it a day and had hot tea.

Well we did try once more by getting some boat speed up in reverse and bang it out, but that didn't work either, maybe because we were either chicken, or just practical and used rope snubbers to soften the blow when all the chain came taught. No one wants to see their windlass ripped out of the deck, likely with a limb from your own body following.

The next morning the guys hit it again. I wasn't really hopeful, and was resigned to cutting about ninety feet of chain off and leaving it behind, but saving the anchor by disconnecting it from the chain at the shackle and hauling it up with a line. It would not have been the end of the world, but hardly ideal.

We borrowed a dive light from S/V Beach Flee, and miraculously after two dives, Clay and Pat were able to get the chain unstuck from the panga. It was a huge relief. Later that day we bought dinner for all at the little beach restaurant, complete with a mariachi band, and marveled at the fortuitous outcome. We were elated.


Biscuit on Mango, supervising Pat, Celine and their nephew, with Clay in the water while they got the hooka set up.


Celine paddling to keep the dinghy above the bubbles of the two divers. The float is attached to the anchor, so that in case the chain had to be cut we could still recover the anchor.


B from Me Too helping out and keeping us in good spirits.


Clay, ready to rock.


The epitome of sailing competence! The windlass is the chunk of metal under my left hand, with the chain wrapped around the gypsy, then going forward to the bow of the boat.