One of the terrors of anchoring in a mix of sand and coral in getting the chain wrapped around a coral head as the boat swings with wind or tide. We experienced a bit of a traumatic moment on our return to Temptress after our island tour of Nuka Hiva when we found her banging and shuddering at anchor. It felt as if she was aground but she patently wasn’t anchored in some 12 metres of water and it took several minutes to work out Temptress was snatching at a very shortened length of chain. Kevin thought we might need outside assistance to untangle us from whatever we’d caught up in; David and Sean came quickly over to help out. The emergency was quickly over as after a bit of effort motoring and winching in the chain the anchor came up cleanly. We slunk off a few hundred metres nearer the centre of the bay and re-anchored.So bearing that experience in mind when we dropped the hook off the Kia Ora in Rangiroa Lagoon and discovered a coral head just off the bow we decided to try floating the chain rather than risk getting another wrap. This was a tip we’d read about in Soggy Paws Tuamotu’s Compendium which also includes a great diagram. Basically you tie buoys to the chain at intervals so it still has a catenary but is not lying directly on or around the coral.
How many buoys you need depends on the length of chain and the state of the bottom. It’s worth a good snorkel to investigate once the hook is initially down. Fortunately we were swinging over a large sandy patch with just the one coral head. Kevin pulled in some 5-10 metres of chain added a shackle to a chain link then tied one of our smaller fenders to the shackle before dropping the chain and fender over the side.
It works! The chain hung in the desired catenary yet was some metres above the coral when we snag towards it. Snorkelling along through the clear water we could see the chain further ahead reaching the sand and running forward to the well dug in anchor but off the bow it was suspended well clear of the coral. It also protected the live coral from damage.
We could improve upon our improvised method. The fender line was too short for the fender to reach the surface so the water pressure squished it and we had to hope the elderly fender wouldn’t pop. Also fortunately there were few boats moving through the anchorage as it might have been a prime target for a rudder or keel wrap! There is always next time to improve our technique.