This morning we left Gunboat Key. Melissa is having trouble with the anchor winch because the "up" button keeps sticking. She was pounding on it madly trying to get the winch to stop pulling after the anchor was all the way up, but it just kept pulling. So despite Dave's admonishments not to do it, she hit the down button to make it stop. The risk being that this blows the main circuit breaker on the windlass - connecting the up and down circuits at the same time. Fortunately it didn't blow the breaker. We do have another way to raise and lower the anchor - a remote switch back in the cockpit. Till the switch is fixed, we will have to raise the anchor with Melissa relaying to Dave when to hit the button. Fortunately when we were back in Seattle we bought a pair of wireless headsets. We don't typically wear them as we have our hand signals down pat, but in this case they are going to come in handy.
We headed to Coco Bandero Keys Its another beautiful spot.
Alas, what isn't really evident in the picture is that the wind was blowing like crazy, and the boats are packed in tight. Neko and R&R Kedger arrived ahead of us. We looked around for a good anchor spot, alas, there wasn't anything super appealing. Dave attempted to anchor in close to one of the islands, but when we let the chain out, we bumped the bottom on the key. This means Melissa has to reel in the anchor quick like a bunny. No time to plug in the remote and get out the headsets. So she hits the up button and reels it in. Fortunately this time the button didn't stick. We try a second time to anchor in deeper water. Alas the bottom is covered in grass and the anchor won't set. This time Dave reeled in the anchor from the cockpit. Third time's the charm, right? We pick a spot close to R&R Kedger and manage to get the anchor to stick. But we are much closer to them than we would like. And if the wind shifts tonight we risk hitting the reef. Ug.
Discussion with Neko and R&R Kedger ensues. R&R Kedger isn't happy with the anchorage either. No one is going to sleep tonight because everyone is going to be on deck worrying about the wind and anchors. R&R suggests we head for Nargana (also known as Yandup) which is only 5 miles away. Not as picturesque, but safe and calm. We agree with R&R to head there, and Neko will stay behind with Second Wind (another cruiser couple we've met several times previously). We cruise over to Nargana, and set the anchor yet again - this time with oodles of space in calm waters. Yeah, ok, the view is not as good:
The post script to this story is that we made the right decision. The next day Neko and Second Wind joined us here at Nargana. Second Wind was up all night with anchor alarms and depth alarms going off. The wind swung around during the night and boats were moving about. Neko awoke to discover they were nearly on the beach. Rarely do we get this kind of validation of good decision making. Most of the time you feel like you "chickened out" when you back away from a tough spot when others seem to think its fine. Not that any one else's judgement was wrong. Neko slept soundly - albiet in the morning finding themselves not where they started. And Second Wind had been at anchor in that same spot the previous two nights without problems - seemingly in similar conditions. And the wind wasn't predicted to swing around the way it did. So they had every reason to believe they would be fine staying put. But in the end we felt like - yeah, you gotta trust your own judgement about what you and your boat are willing to do.
Rob on R&R Kedger has blogged about the risk of buddy boating being "the herd mentality" where you go along with something that you are uncomfortable with. Fortunately we have found with the boats we are buddy boating with that everyone is willing to employ their own judgement and everyone else respects it. Neko called when we reached Nargana to make sure we had arrived safe and were snug at anchor, clearly indicating that they were ok with us splitting up for a night. When we turned around because the seas were too high for us from Isla Porvenir (we were in the lead and first into the big swell), everyone else turned around too. And yet, we benefit from the sharing of information. Each of us brings slightly different experiences to bear. Decision making has a nice comradeship to it. Everyone tosses out their thoughts and opinions and those thoughts are listened to and truly heard by everyone else. As a result we end up with the best of all possible buddy boat relationships. We are going to miss these guys when they head north next week!