Anchoring on Barren River Lake by Lee Huddleston

If you are sailing on a hot day and decide to go for a swim, do one of two things: leave at least one adult on board while everyone else is swimming, or anchor the boat. If everyone gets into the water without dropping the anchor, you can be surprised at how fast a boat can drift away from you in the calmest wind. Even if you survive, it is quite embarrassing to have to flag down a motorboat to help you chase down your boat.

In some places, the Lake is surprisingly deep. Right off the Yacht Club Cove, at summer pool the Lake is 70 feet deep. The old river channel runs right through that area. Farther out from the Cove the Lake averages 50 feet at summer pool. When travelling between the Peninsula and Mason’s Island with a depth finder, it is fascinating to watch the depth get progressively shallower until it is about 15 to 20 feet. Then suddenly the depth will jump to 65 feet. That was a cliff that overlooked the old river channel.

The point is, the depth can cause problems in anchoring. As you know, “scope” is the ratio of the anchor rode let out to the depth of the water (and the height of your bow above the water). The normal recommended ratio is 7 to one. In other words, 7 feet of rode for every one foot of depth. The reason for that ratio is to make the anchor lie flat along the Lake bed so that when it is pulled it will dig into the bed. With 70 feet of depth or even 50, that scope is not practical. Few of us want to carry 490 or 350 feet of rode. Nor do we want to swing in a huge circle.

So, is it possible to anchor in the middle of the Lake? Yes, it definitely is. On a regular basis I anchor Orion in the middle of the Lake and only use about 100 feet of rode. One reason is that I don’t often anchor in the middle when I anticipate a very strong wind. Another reason is my ground tackle (anchor, chain and rode).

I have anchored Orion more than two times in winds exceeding 60 knots. Once just last year. Many years ago I saw a storm coming over the Dam and got in behind the eastern side of Mason’s Island (toward Bailey’s Point). I put the bow up close to the Island and dropped the anchor into the old river channel. When the wind pushed me back, the anchor dug into the relatively vertical eastern side of the channel. It was exciting (I’ll have to tell you the whole story at a later time). The other time was just last year. Nicole and I were just day-sailing and ignoring the warnings of remnants of a 90 knot storm in Indiana. We came around the southern end of Mason’s Island and there was the big, black, monster coming over the Dam. (Maybe the Dam just generates these storms.) I could see a whole herd of white horses bearing down on us. I told Nicole to go below and hold on. I then headed up and dropped the anchor and fell back on all of my 150 feet or rode. I then quickly got my sails down and secured (barely in time). The wind and rain hit like a full-force fire hose. In the short fetch between the Dam and our location the storm had kicked up waves about 3 feet high. I was proud that the ground tackle held us as if we were glued to the ground. The only problem was that I have needed to replace the port lights in my windows. As a result, we sat there laughing while the rain poured in on us. After the storm it took a lot of patience to get the anchor back on board. It had dug half way to China. I pulled up the rode and snugged it to the bow and then waited for the wave action to slowly work the anchor free. With repeated pulling and snugging the anchor finally broke free. When I tried to pull it up to the boat, it was a gigantic ball of mud, rock, and gravel. But after a few minutes of dunking it I was able to get it clean.

When I first started sailing Orion I purchased a 13 pound high-tensile Danforth anchor from West Marine. It has worked exceptionally well. You will recall that a Danforth anchor has a shank in the middle and triangular “flukes” on each side of the shank. When the anchor is on the bottom the flukes drop down somewhat. As the anchor is pulled by the shank the flukes dig into the bottom. The more the anchor is pulled, the deeper the flukes dig (which is why I got such a huge ball of Lake bottom in the last storm). If the anchor is not lying flat, the flukes can flip up and the anchor will just drag across the bottom. There are many types of anchors (Bruce, claw, Delta, CQR, plow) all of which can work well in the Lake.

Anchors do not hold due to their weight. They hold by digging into the bottom. And they dig into the bottom because of their shape. Accordingly a mushroom anchor or any variation of it is completely worthless. To be held by weight alone you would probably need to get an old engine block.

After the anchor, you need to get a chain to go between the rode and the shank. On Orion I have a 6-foot length of 5/16 inch chain. That is a relatively heavy chain on purpose. A light chain will not accomplish the purpose. And that purpose is to help keep the shank along the bottom when the rode is pulled. The difference between an anchor without a chain and one with a chain is dramatic. Any old rusty chain will do, the longer the better.

When I first started sailing Orion, I wanted to get the best for her. So for my rode I purchased 100 feet of ½ inch braid-on-braid Dacron line. Bad idea. When I sailed with Karl Millen in the Bahamas on his much larger cruiser, the Succubus, I noticed that his rode was smaller than the one I had purchased for Orion. When I asked him about it he pointed out that the breaking strength of his smaller rode was strong enough to lift his boat out of the water. He also pointed out that a smaller, twisted (rather than braid-on-braid), nylon line would stretch and absorb the jerks from waves that can pull an anchor free. So, I purchased 150 feet of twisted, nylon, 3/8 inch line. Since then my anchor has held much better even in the strongest winds.

One more technique that I have used on Orion occasionally and almost every time on the Committee Boat when I am running races can multiply the holding power of your anchor many fold. It is called a “sentinel” or a “kellet.” It is a weight that you run down your rode after you have set your anchor. On the Committee Boat I just use a concrete block. I run a line through the holes in the block and then around the rode. I tie another line on the block and secure the tail to the boat. I then push the block over the bow and slowly lower it with the added line. I lower it until it is about at the depth of the water and then I tie it off. At first the line from the block to the boat will be vertical. The line from the block to the anchor will be horizontal along the bottom. If the wind picks up and the boat tries to move aft, the rode will try to straighten out. To do that it will have to lift the block. As it does so, the force will be transferred to the anchor horizontally along the bottom, digging the anchor in deeper. Plus, due to physics beyond the scope of this article, the force necessary to raise the block is exponentially greater than the mere weight of the block.

I hope this has been useful to you. See you on the Lake.




Shifting Gears with Your Foresail by Lee Huddleston

The only thing on Barren River Lake that is consistent is change. Wind speed and wind direction fluctuate throughout most days of sailing. If you hoist a foresail that is perfect for 5 knots of wind, you probably will not be too surprised it the wind increases to 7 knots and then drops off to 3 knots. And the foresail you have chosen may be completely inappropriate for both 7 knots and 3 knots. If you have a large inventory of sails, you might stop and change sails and then stop again and change to another sail. Of course, most of us do not have the luxury of such an inventory. And if you are just day-sailing, who wants to keep fooling with sails.

If you are racing, you almost certainly do not want to stop and change sails. Even on a long course, stopping to change sails is usually fatal. So what do you do if you are beating to windward and the wind is too strong for your foresail and your boat is having a hard time staying upright? Even if you could instantly switch to a smaller sail, as soon as you round the weather mark and start running or reaching, you are going to wish you still had that larger sail up. The answer to your dilemma is to “shift a gears” with your foresail.

The key is the fairlead, the block or pad-eye through which the sheet goes before it is cleated or turned around the winch.  Normally, you set the fore and aft position of the fairlead by sighting along the seam in the middle of the foresail. The seam will run from approximately midway along the luff to the clew. If your fairlead is located along the line as though the seam extended aft pass the clew, your foresail should be set properly. When the sail breaks it should bread along the entire luff at the same time. If the sail breaks at the top first, the fairlead may be too far aft. If it breaks at the bottom first, the fairlead may be too far forward. (I hope that I have that correct; if I have gotten them mixed up, you have permission to laugh at me.) Unless you are intentionally “shifting gears” (as I will explain below), you need to move the fairlead to correct this problem. Otherwise, it will prevent you from pointing as high and will depower your sail unintentionally.

So, assuming for now that your telltales normally break at the same time all along your luff, here is how you “shift gears.” If the sail is too large for the amount of wind, move the fairlead aft. This will tighten up the foot of the sail and, more importantly, open up the leach. When a puff hits the sail, it will open up and let that heavy air escape out the back of the sail. It will depower the sail some, but you already have too much power.

What if the wind is too light? To some extent you can increase the sail’s power by moving the fairlead forward. Then when you bring in the sheet, you will be tightening the leach and loosening the foot. In other words, you will be making the sail more like a cup. And as you will recall, curves are power.

I can sense some of you thinking, “But I do not have tracks or movable fairleads.” If that is your situation, you can devise a system sometimes referred to as “barber haulers.” The sheet is run through a loose block (or even just the loop of a line). Then the block or the loop is tied down forward or aft of where the fairlead normally is. In other words, you change the angle of the sheet by making your own temporary fairlead. If you find that this works to make your sailing safer and more fun, there are probably tracks and moveable blocks in your future.

See you on the water,


Hurricane Irene and the Truelove by Lee Huddleston


Would you let the Club Members know just for their information that Hurricane Irene is about to hit s/v Truelove, my 45-foot, steel-hulled, center-cockpit, cutter-ketch which is on the hard just north of Beaufort, North Carolina.  The center of the hurricane is expected to be at 34.4 deg N. / 76.66 deg W. in about 24 hours.  Cape Lookout, which is a few miles south and east of Truelove is at 34.62 deg N. / 76.525 deg W.  This will be the twelfth time Truelove has been hit by a hurricane.  Three of those times I was on board, twice at a dock and once anchored out off of the Pamlico Sound.  Truelove will probably be safe this time because she is out of the water.  Oddly enough, the most dangerous thing about hurricanes is usually the huge surge of water that they push up in front of them.  Water is so dense, almost nothing can withstand a mountainous wave.  Until the wind gets up to Category 3 or higher, the wind is not as dangerous.  For that reason, lots of people make arrangements with boatyards to pull their boats out of the water when a hurricane threatens.  A  lot of insurance companies will even pay for it.

For many years I wrote stories about sailing Truelove.  I have attached a couple that dealt with hurricanes. You are welcome to send them out as you       wish.  I just thought that with Irene in the news, some of the Members might find them interesting reading.


Epilogue: Lee said the Truelove made it through the storm okay.. I’m putting the stories up on here for your viewing pleasure