We were anchored in the South end of Cook’s Bay, Moorea on a beautiful windy day.  It had been calm all morning, but a nice breeze had come up from the North, blowing fresh air directly into the bay.  Sitting on deck reading, I was alarmed to hear somebody yelling.  Looking upwind, the old guy from the red boat was in a rubber inflatable boat with an outboard engine trying to push a big sailboat.  He saw me and he shouted, “This boat is dragging.  He hit me!”  The dark blue hulled 45-ft sailboat boat called “Poppy” was 300 ft upwind of us and drifting towards us.

This sounds like a job for Jim’n’Max!  We quickly gathered our spare 16 lb Danforth anchor that we keep ready for such emergencies and rowed our dinghy into the wind towards Poppy.  I climbed aboard Poppy and saw that nobody was aboard.  Their anchor chain was hanging off the bow but was not taking any load, and the boat was drifting quickly towards Akela.  Max, who was still in the dinghy, handed the rope to me on Poppy’s bow and rowed upwind with the anchor, the rope trailing behind.  Once he was 150 feet upwind, Max dropped the anchor into the water.  The anchor sank to the bottom and I cleated the rope hard Poppy’s bow.  As Poppy continued to drift, the slack was taken out of the rope, then it became taught, then it pulled as tight as a banjo string.  Our anchor had bit into the mud bottom and stopped Poppy only 1 boatlength away from Akela.

I checked on Poppy’s ineffective anchor hanging off the bow.  After pulling in 100 feet of chain, the anchor came up covered with mud.  It was a 45 lb Delta anchor that should be big enough to hold this boat, and we figured that they didn’t let the anchor out far enough.  We have the same type of anchor and we had 150’ of chain, which is usually sufficient for the 40’ depth.

Later that day, a family of 6, the Schlegels from Denmark, were quite astonished to find that Poppy was not where they left it.  They were surprised that their anchor had not held and were quite thankful that we had helped them.  When Nils returned with our anchor after re-anchoring Poppy, he said that they had just gotten the boat and that this was their first anchorage of this trip.  What a way to start a year-long trip aboard!  Everybody’s anchor drags sometimes.  We saw a half-dozen boats in Cook’s Bay check and adjust their anchor after seeing Poppy’s unmanned trip across the bay

Max and I were aboard Akela discussing this, and Max said that we should go meet the Schlegels in better circumstances.  I responded that yes, this is a good idea but no, I’m too busy, or comfortable, or hungry, or something else.  A few minutes later, Max said, “You know, if Mom was here, she would have already met them.  If we’re not sure about something like this, we should do what Mom would do.”  Wise words for a young boy of 25.  I agreed that this was the best advice: “Do what Mom would do.”

We paddled our boards over to Poppy and ended up spending a delightful evening with our new friends, the Nils and Tanja Schlegel with their 4 kids ages 3 to 17.  They had chosen to take a break from their regular busy lives in Denmark, buy a boat in Tahiti, and spend a year in Polynesia.  This family is cool and we have since become good friends.  We are quite pleased that our new mantra of “Do what Mom would do” worked out so well.

Back aboard Akela, it started to rain.  Then the wind switched from the North to the South and started really blowing.  We were concerned about our anchor, so we watched our position carefully using GPS.  The boat swung around, moving 300’ to the North and then the chain went tight.  But we were still moving.  The wind was howling and visibility was terrible with all the rain.  We didn’t want to go out into the weather if we didn’t have to, so we watched our position closely, expecting our anchor to bite on the bottom and hold the boat.  It looked like we stopped drifting, then we moved again.  With the gusting winds, it was hard to tell exactly, and we had plenty of room to the North.

But we continued to move.  Our 45 lb Delta anchor had come loose on the mud bottom and was dragging ineffectively along the mud bottom and we were drifting towards Poppy!  Who could have predicted that the Delta anchor may come loose in the mud when the direction changes suddenly?

This sounds like a job for Jim’n’Max!  We quickly gathered our spare 16 lb Danforth anchor that we keep ready for such emergencies and in the blinding rain, we got the anchor down and Akela secured a few boatlengths away from Poppy!  We know that the Danforth anchor holds well in mud, but we still maintained an anchor watch through the night.



One thought on “Close Encounters with Poppy

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