Park Your Arc

By Tom Neale, 7/9/2012


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Noah didn’t have much of a problem finding a place to park his arc. All he did was run aground and leave it there. Of course he did have a few downsides. He had to go through a bit of inclement weather before he got the spot, and once he parked he clearly had little chance of casting off again. But I don’t think he wanted to.

Now, I’m not Noah. Heck, I’m not even Charlton Heston. To make matters worse, I’m afraid of heights. I would have been really freaking out by the time I realized I’d parked my boat on top of a mountain. However, over the years I’ve found some parking places for my ark which also had issues—maybe as bad as Noah’s, depending on how you look at it.

Crowded anchorage.
A good while back we “parked” at New York City. Parking places are hard to find along the streets in New York City, but we were anchored off to the side of the Hudson River, on the New York side. I don’t know if you can do this today but it was OK then. We didn’t have a problem finding the spot, we had another problem. We stayed there a few nights, rolling from beam to beam every time one of the big tourist boats roared by far out in the channel. When the morning came to head out to sea we began pulling up the anchor, something we’ve done thousands of times. This time was different. After the first few feet of chain came up from the muddy water, I saw a pair of woman’s stockings draped around the chain. As more chain came up I saw a woman’s dress draped around it. Next I saw various other pieces of apparel that, all added together, would have fully clothed a woman. And they were all draped around my anchor chain as if carefully done by someone or some thing. As the chain came up, each one slid silently back into the water, I began to think, “Um, wait a minute. Where’s the woman.” Fully expecting to see a deceased woman down near my anchor I sat on the bow pondering a long time before I decided to continue with the job. Much to my relief, there was no woman as the chain and anchor came aboard, and we headed down New York Harbor on the tide, anxious to get out to sea. I still wonder what that was all about, and I never parked there again.

One winter day we parked just south of Miami in Biscayne Bay to the west of Key Biscayne. We had heard that the helo pad ashore was where then President Nixon landed when he visited his pal Bebe Rebozo. We weren’t interested in that but we were interested in finding a relatively calm place to anchor out of the strong easterlies while waiting for good weather to cross to the Bahamas. But as luck would have it, a strong cold front blew through the next afternoon and we found ourselves parked on a lee shore with short steep chop pounding across the bay. So, in the spume and growing dusk, we moved to the other side of the Bay, anchoring to the east of the Coconut Grove area. As night settled we felt secure in the howling winds because our anchor was holding well. But around 2100 hours we heard a boat alongside and saw a blue light. Blue lights are something I don’t like, especially at night on the water, no matter how innocent I know I am. I popped up out of the companionway to find a center console with one of those slanted stripes on the bow and a maritime gendarme at the wheel. “Hi,” I yelled over the wind. “Don’t you know you’re anchored in the middle of the channel?” he yelled. I don’t anchor in the middle of channels and it was still daylight when I anchored and I knew I was not anywhere near any channel. And I also knew the officer didn’t have much more than a clue of where he was in this dark and stormy night. This was before GPS and I saw no LORAN. But I figured I wasn’t going to argue with the misplaced gentlemen. “Oh, I said, I didn’t realize that. I’ll keep lots of really bright cabin lights on and move first thing in the morning.” He roared on in toward shore, leaving me to wonder if he had planned to give me a parking ticket.

Tom’s Tips About Parking Afloat

1. If someone comes into harbor and anchors too close, try to discuss it with him by a dinghy visit so that you don’t have to yell across the water. Yelling, no matter how intended, is often interpreted as hostility or anger and you’re less likely to get good results.

2. If you come into a harbor that’s already too crowded, and you can’t move on because of weather or nightfall, try talking with the skippers of the other boats near which you need to anchor. Explain your situation and ask them for help in positioning your boat so that everybody will be reasonably comfortable. Usually you’ll find that they’ll appreciate your dilemma and be very glad to help.

Click Here for More Tips

Once, in an entirely different part of the world, we parked in Norman’s Pond at the northern end of Norman’s Cay in the Exumas to escape a very strong front sweeping across the Bahamas Banks. These things can kill boats if not taken very seriously. To get into the fully enclosed basin we had to wait for a very high tide with the full moon and even then we stirred up sand as we inched over the bar. But inside we were happy and safe as the front tore through. Next day we went ashore to explore. It was haunting. We saw houses and cars riddled with bullets, large cages where vicious dogs had been penned and many other signs of violence. This was shortly after the island had been “rescued” from an “alleged” drug smuggling group. We were told that they’d tried to buy out the people who had homes there, and that the ones who wouldn’t sell had to leave for their safety. Some of the home owners had returned to reclaim their property. They were nice people, but we were anxious to be away from this place. There seemed to be bad memories everywhere. But we were trapped in this parking lot for an entire month. We couldn’t get out until the next full moon high tide. I was glad there were no parking meters.

We’re all familiar with crowded parking lots ashore, like the ones where you can’t find a spot and where, if you do, you can’t find your car when you come back out of Wal-Mart unless you’ve tied a little flag to the antenna…. Well, there are crowded parking lots out here too. One has been the Elizabeth Harbour at George Town, Great Exuma, in the Bahamas. We’ve enjoyed watching the show there over the years, although I can put up with it for only a day or two. It’s sometimes been so crowded in peak season that people get crazy. We’ve seen people on the bows of their boats during cold fronts waving butcher knives and fillet knives, threatening the boat in front of them that had anchored too close upwind and was slowly dragging down. We’ve seen people come in and establish their “territory” by anchoring in around 10 to 15 feet of water and put out three or four anchors all around them, each with several hundred feet of line, taking up much of the harbor. When a new boat comes in looking for a spot, the guy is up on his bow, “You can’t anchor there, that’s over my line.” We’ve also seen the opposite when people anchor with just the right amount of line to wake up some morning and find that someone has anchored between their anchor and their boat, often ensnaring their line on the second boat’s anchor.

And then there’s the Cain Garden Bay parking lot in the BVI (and there are many others like it--Jost Van Dyke, for example.). This is a very popular anchorage and there are lots of fun things to do ashore. Like most anchorages in the BVI, it’s full of moorings, to which the myriads of charterers thankfully cling in their chartered boats. But sometimes the moorings are all taken. We came in once to a “parking lot full” situation and anchored on the border of the mooring field. All night long dinghies would bump into our hull, hands would grip the railing, and a puzzled face would appear over the side.
“What’re ya doing on my boat?”
“This isn’t your boat, friend, this is my boat and that’s why I’m on it.”
“Oh, well, where is my boat?”
“I don’t know but it’s probably where you left it.”
“Where was that?”
“I don’t have a clue. What does your boat look like?”
“Well, it’s a sailboat and it’s white and it has a blue sail cover…I think.”

Sometimes I think that if I could anchor my boat on a mountain top I’d do it. As long as I could get back to sea again.


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