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Anchored off Isla Isabela - overnight Thurs/Fri 20/21 April 2017

Well, I'm not feeling too comfortable here at anchor off Isla Isabela....

The passage here from Ensenada Matenchen, San Blas was notable only for consistent headwinds - light for the first few hours, with a calm sea, but then up to 12 knots on the nose. So that gave another day of motoring on a rhumb line course to make sure of arriving here in daylight.... no sailing at all was possible, given the need for good light for anchoring in an unfamiliar spot.

My plan was to anchor in the small S. bay on the island. Knowing where exactly to avoid - a big rock near the middle of the bay! - was helpful, but the prevailing SW swell got into the bay and the waves were crashing onto rocks all around its edges.... Passing fishermen in a panga indicated to move further away from the rocks to the east - sure enough, they looked rather close and the swell rather large after I'd set the anchor in about 7-9 m depth... This felt decidedly dangerous...! I felt obliged to raise the anchor and move away from there, heart pounding. I managed it without mishap.

My choices were to leave the island completely and motor on in the light winds overnight, to start my next two-day passage to the Baja, or to try to anchor in the lee of the island in another anchorage to the S of two spectacular rocky stacks on the island's east side (photo posted at sunset - dramatic!). There was another boat anchored south of there already but in deeper water than I was looking for. To add to the scenario, the local fishermen were laying crabpots all around and, as I came close to where I hoped to anchor, they indicated I was about to motor over their boat's flimsy, thin anchor line... As I suddenly realised what they were trying to tell me, I hurriedly shifted into neutral and steered away, passing over the line safely - the worry was getting it caught in my prop - we would all have been very unhappy, if that had happened, but for different reasons...! (In fact, the Ropestripper rope-cutter on the propshaft just ahead of my prop is very efficient and would doubtless have cut their line with ease, before it could foul my prop.)

I felt much better about anchoring in the calmer, open water here and dropped the hook in 14m depth... only to find we were in much deeper water once I had spent some time making sure it was well set... The wind dies away completely overnight and there was 25m/80ft of chain down with at least 55m/180ft of rope attached - sounds a lot, but in stronger conditions, it would have been too little. The problem with rope is also that the boat tends to wander a lot more than on all chain.

I left my plotter on and zoomed right in so I could see our track as we moved around. All looked fine in the WSW wind. A few hours later, the wind had backed to SSE - and so we had moved NW of our first position - to be expected, I told myself. The good news was the depths there being more in line with the anchor rode I'd deployed and we were still not far from the point I'd originally been aiming for - known to be a safe anchoring spot.

11 p.m. We seem to have settled into moving around in a small area with about 15m/49ft depth with no hint of any dragging of the anchor, which is always the worry - the wind is now only 2 knots and likely to stay calm overnight, which is a comfort! I've set an anchor watch on the plotter but will still have to wake up at regular intervals overnight, to check we're safe.

We'll definitely move on in the morning!

Written by : Jeanne Socrates