Issue: October 2001
Get the Hook

Okay everyone, it's time for a little review of Danforth etiquette. Chapman's dedicates an entire chapter to the nitty-gritty of anchoring but only obliquely suggests there are certain manners to observe. So I'll come right out here and say it: Back off! Most of the time boaters are social creatures, happy to jawbone ad nauseam about the intricacies of a head rebuild or the thrill of brand new 454s, but when we're happily settled in some quiet Bay nook at anchor, you can safely assume we're having a Garbo moment. Ve vant to be alone.

Is this a difficult concept? Apparently. After last weekend, I checked the topsides just to be sure some prankster hadn't painted a welcome mat on there. The most egregious breach of basic anchoring etiquette happened in Oxford, after we had snagged a spot on the outer edge of the anchorage off the Strand, well away from everyone else. Lovely sunset, magical moonrise. The kids were sleeping, the wine was cold, romance was in the air and then, above the quiet thrum of an incoming sailboat's diesel: "YOU HAVE A BOAT TO THE RIGHT WITH AN ANCHOR LIGHT. YOU HAVE A BOAT TO THE LEFT WITH AN ANCHOR LIGHT. THERE IS A BOAT STRAIGHT AHEAD WITH NO ANCHOR LIGHT." Pause. A different voice: "WHAAAAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

The moon was fat as a Delmarva melon and dripping light so bright I could have read the small-print version of War and Peace in the cockpit, yet the woman bellowing off the bow was torching the anchorage with enough wattage to make me want to confess-immediately-to something. When the beam landed on us I felt like a congressman in the headlights. "For crying out loud!" I said. Johnny muttered something unprintable.

Das Boot was coming closer. "I SAID," and then a reiteration of the first verse, followed by, "I SUGGEST WE ANCHOR RIGHT BETWEEN THESE TWO BOATS." At this point, I saw a few lights flick on in alarm up at the Robert Morris Inn. Loud as it was, her voice was so level, and her choice of words so diplomatic, you could tell she'd learned in sailing school never to yell at the crew. Yell to them, maybe, but never at them. I SAID, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" said the woman at the wheel. This went on, oh, about three more rounds, until laughter rippled nervously through the audience. Finally, Sergeant Major Bow Woman marched aft to the cockpit to repeat herself yet again, this time in a furious stage whisper that was still perfectly audible. Then came the bash and clatter of anchor chain ripping by a windlass, and the eagle had landed. Right next to us.

Act One, scene two: a little cove on the Rhode River. We arrived mid-afternoon and again took a spot in Siberia. Captain Bonehead found us shortly. Despite an anchorage only half full, and a spanking breeze which the Prudent Anchorer might feel would dictate extra distance from one's neighbors, he parked on us like a D.C. tour bus, barely a boatlength directly upwind. Next morning, we nearly had to put our bow pulpit in his cockpit to extract our hook. He slept on, in blissful ignorance.

If this keeps up, I'm going to come up with a whole new definition of ground tackle.