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The Anchoring Dance - 1/24/02

By Little Gidding - Published January 24, 2002 - Viewed 883 times

The Anchoring Dance - January 24, 2002

It's hard to tell the anchored boats apart in Great Harbour, BVI

"The perfect little parking place is easy to find
All you really got to do is read his mind
If what your honey wants is hard to tell
When the hand signals fail you can always yell...
No better way to test a true romance
Than to do do do do do the anchoring dance"

(E. Quinn, "The Anchoring Dance")

Due to limited reception, we rarely watch the little television set we have on board "Little Gidding". We're seldom anchored near any settlements that have a movie theatre. Our budget precludes expensive concerts or shows. Despite these cultural deprivations, we get plenty of free entertainment whenever we're in the company of other boaters. On a typical evening, we take our drinks up to the cockpit shortly before sunset and settle down to watch our new neighbours do the anchoring dance. We're quite familiar with this performance art, having entertained many other boaters with our own particular version over the years.

The choreography has endless variations. Some newly arrived boaters prefer a fast paced tempo. They charge in to take the perfect parking spot before anyone else can get to it. Still going forward, they dump the anchor and a pile of chain overboard, slam the engine into reverse, and lean hard on the throttle. This results in a nautical version of the cha-cha-cha, as the boat skips backwards through the entire anchorage.

Others like doing a slow waltz. They'll glide into one spot, do a tight pirouette, and then slide away to try another location. None of the vacant watery spaces seems quite right. The detailed body movements are noteworthy. If the person at the bow gives the thumbs up, the helmsman will shake their head. A tapping foot is countered by hands on the hips. A grimace is met with a frown. The pas de deux finally draws to a close when one partner succumbs to exhaustion or goes below to begin filing divorce papers.

For the first few weeks we were in the Virgin Islands we missed our nightly entertainment. We spent this time cruising the island of St. John, in the USVIs, which is mostly a national park. The parks service provides moorings (free of charge at the moment) in all of the popular bays. Picking up a mooring line offers relatively few spectator thrills. David was the exception when the whisker stay broke under his feet as he leaned off the bowsprit, boat hook in hand (see the January 3rd log entry). That dance manoeuvre sparked a vigorous round of applause from all our neighbours, who clearly hadn't been entertained for a while.

It's a different situation in the British Virgin Islands. Anchoring antics in the BVIs are sometimes so frenzied that casual viewing is impossible. Smug onlookers often become active (albeit unwilling) participants. We spent the past week visiting the islands of Jost Van Dyke and Tortola, which attract large numbers of bareboat charterers. Private moorings are scattered throughout all of the main anchorages, many of which are for rent. Latecomers or budget-conscious cruisers must squeeze in among the moorings to drop the hook. Most of the boaters are competent sailors, but many are unfamiliar with the local conditions and are handling boats (and ground tackle) they've never used before. With a densely packed mix of boats on moorings and at anchor (with rodes at different scopes, some on a single anchor, others on two), life gets very interesting when the wind shifts.

A couple of days ago, we found ourselves jammed in the centre of a flotilla of Beneteaus. Much to our amazement, a straggler arrived just as darkness descended and proceeded to park between us and our nearest neighbour. Maybe they were friends. It took him three tries to fit in. In the early hours of dawn the inevitable occurred. A heavy 'thunk' brought all hands on deck. There was much prancing around as people fended off, drifting dinghies were disentangled and our fellow boater struggled to get his anchor up. With minimal damage and no loss of life, he eventually extricated himself.

Bleary eyed, we looked at each other and remarked, "It's much too early to be doing the anchoring dance!"

David & Eileen

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