Anchorages: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Wednesday April 16, 2014

 

Now that we’ve just spent the night in what is probably the world’s worst anchorage, or at least the worst one we’ve come across to date, I feel a little compelled to write a little segment on some of the anchorages we’ve passed through in this trip. Oh, and because my friend at The Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick asked me to write a piece on it for one of my favorite groups, The Monkey’s Fist. (Hi Ellen!!)

In this list I’ll go over some of the more memorable anchorages we’ve been through. Whether it’s because they’re take your breath away beautiful, ‘I can’t believe this is considered an anchorage because I may as well be on passage’ rocky, or has everything you need in one convenient little place, here’s just a bit of the wide ranges of anchorages we’ve experienced between the US East coast to the Western Caribbean.

 

The Most Beautiful

I still can not think of a place that is more picturesque as far as anchorages go than Double Breasted Cay in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas. It is beauty and seclusion all wrapped up in one. I could take photos there that would instantly make the cover of destination travel magazines without any kind of editing done to them. The water is clear, the bottom is sandy, and the beaches are pristine. On shore there are walking trails and a fire pit area set up for the few cruisers that do pass through. These beaches are also littered with untouched conch shells, the kind that are impossible to find because normally all you come across are the beat up shells after the meat has been torn out.  It was actually necessary for me to have an intervention for a friend here before she loaded down her boat with about 15 shells to bring back to family and friends.  Yes, this place is about as close as you can get to Bahamian perfection.  Just watch out for the sharks though, the black tip ones we came across did not seem too friendly and kept us out of the water after our first day there.

Double Breasted Cay

 

The Most Convenient

Maybe it’s just because we spent so damn long there, but in our two months while waiting for a good weather window, we became quite fond of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  Another big tourist hub just four miles from Cancun, you can find all the things one might expect from a cruise ship port, but you don’t have to wander far to find local fare either.  Just over 4 miles in length, this island packs in it’s nice marinas, variety of groceries stores, sooo many options on eating out, and one of the best beaches for lounging and relaxing.  The anchorage itself is notoriously bad for holding, it’s the one and only place we’ve ever dragged so far, but there’s also a lagoon to tuck in to if you know the weather is getting bad. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of anchoring excitement here where we’ve watched many a boats drag besides ourselves, or just the tour catamarans full of drunk tourist pass by while blaring Top 40 hits from their speakers, but it all just adds to the Mexican ambiance.

While waiting weeks for a weather window to come up, we actually got to the point where we didn’t mind if one didn’t come at all, we were starting to fall in love with the place.  It also didn’t hurt though that for the last month we were there, we had the wifi password to one of the marinas and picked up the signal perfectly while sitting at anchor.  Have I mentioned how much I love having wifi?

Isla Mujeres

 

The Worst Swells

Hmmm, a few places come to mind when I think of this one, including Great Inagua, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Which is a shame because all three places were so great to visit. We’ve never met more friendly locals than we had at Great Inagua in the Bahamas, and Grand Cayman came with great snorkeling, modern conveniences, and even a Burger King. It’s possibly our fault for not taking protection in any of the actual marinas or harbors in Grand Cayman or Cozumel, but we’ve found that any time you anchor, even on the leeward side of an island, if there is no harbor protecting you, you’re going to get your butt kicked by swells. Sometimes they’re pretty light and sometimes you can bridle yourself to face into the waves, but after three weeks of constantly rocking back and forth in Grand Cayman, I was ready to burn the boat down.

Grand Cayman

 

Pleasantly Unexpected Surprise

Cay Caulker in Belize wasn’t what we were expecting at all, but possibly because we didn’t know what to expect. Who knows if it was because we arrived there after spending 7 days straight on the boat, but we instantly fell in love with the place. I can see why it’s such a big destination for jet set tourist. The locals are incredibly friendly and the guys that set up their hair braiding stands on the side of the road, or their little shell jewelry shops, do not hassle the tourist if you’re not interested.

Sitting just off the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this spot has great options for snorkeling, along with a few decent beaches tucked in between cute restaurants, bars and shops.  Yes, it is a little ‘resort-y’ or ‘touristy’, but after being thrown in the middle of authentic Guatemala for five months, we kind of needed that. Plus the fact that they speak English, after hitting back to back to back Spanish speaking countries, honestly was a nice break when trying to get things done.  They weren’t as touristy as to have a McDonald’s though, and as disappointed as we were, I guess we can forgive them of that.

Cay Caulker 1

 

Holds a special place in our hearts

I’m going to count this one in anchorages just because we did spend our last two weeks anchored there, but the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Forever on in our lives, this place will always be considered one of our homes.  There’s so many things we love about this area.  The lushness, mountain backdrops, friendly locals, and a very cheap cost of living.  Having stayed in a marina for over four months, we did end up anchoring out just in front of it when we were waiting for our last weather window to leave, but it became harder by the day to go.  There’s great sailing just a few miles up the river on Lago Izabal and it’s only a five minute dinghy ride into town where you can buy a Raptor Energy Drink at the local Dispensa for under $1!  Or a Dorado Ice beer for about the same price, which if drunk at 9 am before eating breakfast will send you salsa-ing down the grocery aisle.  Plus those mountains, omg, those mountains!! I’m honestly surprised we did not put roots down in this place.

It would also be a great place for cruisers who are into the whole group activity thing, spread out between the marinas there’s always watercolor lessons, yoga, trivia games, movie nights, ect.  We never made it to those since it’s not really our thing, but, they’re there.  

Rio Dulce

 

Set it and forget it

Normally we’d never leave the boat for more than morning to night while we’re at anchor for fear of dragging while we’re not there due to tides, winds, storms, or anything else that could pop up while we’re gone. It has limited our inland travel quite a bit because any time we’d want to leave the boat it has to get put in a marina, then you’re paying for your extra traveling on top of that, and the cost can add up pretty quickly. There is one spot we came across though, that we felt very comfortable leaving the boat for two days and knowing nothing would happen to it. Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale Florida. With this place being so small and protected, there’s not much that could go wrong here. It’s definitely the calmest anchorage we’d ever been in, and the only time you could even tell you were on a boat was when the weekend traffic came in,  full of small power boats dragging tubers between all the boats.  Which is almost entertainment in itself, standing by on your radio to call a mayday because you’re 90% that one of the tubers is either going to wipe out directly into an anchored boat, or worse, the other tuber headed right at them.

Lake Sylvia

 

Worst Current

Taylor Creek, Beaufort, North Carolina. I know we were still relatively new to the cruising game when we got here, but ask me to go back there now and my memory is so full of horrible images of trying to get the anchor down in that area that you will see me take an overnight passage on the Atlantic just to avoid it if I can. The current there was bad. About 4-5 knots if you weren’t at slack tide. Couple that with being completely overcrowded and I still think it’s my number 1 or number 2 (ok, so Georgetown was really busy when we got there) worst anchoring experience as far as getting the hook down. As soon as I put the boat in neutral we were already sideways and quickly heading for anything behind us, including a wooden channel marker. It took three attempts to get it down and feel comfortable with ourselves. The place itself though is great once you do get your anchor down and tell off the catamaran that has anchored right on top of you two hours after you arrive. A charming town to one side of you and an island with wild horses to the other. What’s not to like?

Taylor Creek 2

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The Monkey's Fist

 

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2 thoughts on “Anchorages: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

  1. Great post – thanks so much for pulling this together! It will be a great addition to The Monkey’s Fist. So many new ideas for where we should head to next! :-)

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