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What happens when a big boat drags anchor and slams into you?

     What happens when a big boat drags anchor and slams into you? The quick answer is, "nothing good." This is a short synopsis of what happened to us one 4th of July at Roche Harbor.
Roche Harbor 4th of July boats at dock

     In about thirty minutes the Roche Harbor staff will be lowering the flags and firing the cannon. Several times in past years, circumstances or poor planning have caused me to miss the ceremony. The firing of the cannon is what I really want to see. The belching smoke, the jagged dagger of flame, the explosive echo’s ricocheting across Roche Harbor. I anticipate a fantastic kick off for my best fireworks ever. Finally, the stars have aligned for me, and on the fourth of July at that. This is already a great trip. The kids will stay on the boat while Linda and I paddle ashore.  The lowering of the flags and cannon firing will be at sundown.
      I am in the cockpit tending to the dinghy, anxiously waiting to leave. When I look over at the boat anchored near us, I sense that it looks different. It is about thirty-five or forty feet long and easily over fifteen feet tall at the upper bridge.  The wind has been steadily increasing for the past hour and I suspect this apartment size power boat is catching the wind and straining at the anchor lines which would make him appear to move a little closer to us. I ask Linda, “Do you think that boat is getting closer?” As I’m watching, I become sure it is half the distance it was when I first noticed. Now I know for sure, we have a problem, the boat is only ten feet away. There is nothing I can do. The other boats anchor has broken out and it is dragging into us. The last ten feet closes rapidly, suddenly he is against us. I hold him off long enough to grab a fender and place it between us saving us both from damage. I am yelling and banging on his hull with my fist trying to get their attention, but Linda tells me she saw all of them leave earlier. 

     This is not good. Our ground tackle will hold us just fine but not with a twenty-five thousand pound boat pinned to us. His surface area alone is probably greater than all our sails. I know our 1/2” nylon anchor rode will hold, but our 35-pound plow anchor could break out at any second. Then I glance at our braided yellow stern line, oh boy, it is stretched to the breaking point. It is so tight it is only half the diameter it’s supposed to be. The light poly line was never intended to take this kind of load. I had bought an inexpensive floating line for dinghy work, not this.

     The wind is picking up, if our stern line parts or anchor breaks free were going to have two boats crashing into the line of rafted boats on the other side of us. I yell over to the first rafted boat. There are ten or more people in the cockpit having drinks, waiting for darkness. "I have a serious problem,” I yell, ”this guy has dragged into us and soon to become your problem too." They immediately jump into a couple of inflatable dinghies with outboards and begin pushing against the wayward captain less yacht, moving it away from our boat. My daughter Kailey gets in our dinghy while I untie our yellow stern line and hand it to her with instructions to paddle towards shore making sure to keep herself and the line out of the way.

      Freed of our unwelcome guest, I start our motor and weigh anchor when I hear "ka-boom" as the cannon roars and the color guard completes the flag ceremony on shore. I look up in time to see the cannon smoke shoot off the high bank next to the flagpole. Rats, I missed the flag lowering and cannon blast again.

     Meanwhile, the boys in the inflatable dinghies have boarded the runaway windblown boat and found the ignition keys. They start the engine, raise the useless weed and mud coated anchor and motor away with the dinghies following. Once they clear out, I circle Windsong around and anchor back in the same spot, only this time there is a lot more room without the big boat. Kailey rows the stern line over and we are back in business.

      The guys in the rafted boats really saved the day for us, they soon return in their inflatable dinghies minus the big boat. Curious, I ask them, “What did you do with the boat?” They said, "We took it to the customs dock and tied it to the red painted area marked customs only.”

     We never saw the big power boat or skipper again. Pretty soon a sailboat anchors in the now vacant space beside us and rows a stern line back to shore. Life on board has returned to normal. Linda and I decide not to go ashore. With all the commotion we had missed the flag ceremony and cannon firing again. It is nearing ten o’clock and getting dark. The fireworks barge is almost directly in front of us, we have a front row seat.

     FYI, a year or so later, but not on the fourth, I was finally able to attend a flag ceremony on shore. When they fired the cannon, I was not paying attention, so it took me by surprise. Up close, it was louder than I expected and every bit as exciting as I had hoped.