We had nearly one full day where the wind was in the 30 knot range and about 115 degrees. Nobody left the boats and we had both GPS's on with the anchor watch set tight. One boat dragged quite aways, dragging his anchor out of the shallower area into 50-foot deep water, but he was dragging back towards a reef. Finally at about 4am he stopped moving. In the morning he had a friend take out a second anchor upwind. Amazingly, for the conditions, no one else had any significant problems.
The broken anchor was finally retrieved. It turns out to be a 44-lb stainless steel "CQR" of unknown origin. It does have "CQR" on the shaft, but it looks like it was cobbled together 20 years ago by some workmen that didn't know much about working stainless steel. (pics coming when we've got internet)
The young couple on Saviah are on their first cruise and are really very green. The boat came with that anchor, a nice big heavy plow. So they had no idea what a risk they were taking trusting their boat to that anchor. Another cruiser in the anchorage was overheard saying "Both my primary and my backup are stainless steel anchors and look just like that!" The break occurred at the end of the shaft just in from the shackle, but in looking at all the rust, cracks, and crevice corrosion around the blades and the head-to-shaft connection, it could have let go anywhere.
Latitude 38 should have a separate Puddle Jump seminar on anchors and anchoring techniques. Our advice is "Leave the fancy electronics at West Marine and instead invest in a '2 sizes up' anchor, chain, and windlass system." For our 44-foot somewhat heavy somewhat beamy cruising boat, we have an 88-lb Delta anchor, heavy chain, and swivels and shackles sized (breaking strength-wise) for the bigger anchor. If we were buying a new anchor, it would be about the same size, but probably one of the newer designs like the Rocna or Bugle.
THEN, you have set your anchor WELL. Make sure it is in sand, upright, and BURIED. Back down at full RPM for about a minute, making sure the anchor is under full strain before you ease the throttle. If it drags under those conditions--great--you know you would have dragged at 2am in a squall. Reset it until it is set. Visually inspect it to make sure it is set (every time, if possible). Put out at least 4:1 scope. Then, if in heavy coral, put some buoys to hold the last 50% of the chain above the coral. (That heavy anchor will do no good if your chain snaps due to being wrapped up short around a coral head in a heavy chop). OK, off my soapbox.
With the nicer weather, we've finally been able to go snorkeling again. Yesterday, since it is still somewhat choppy, we stayed close to the anchorage. We found some pretty nice coral and small fishies around the reef behind the boats. Better, in my opinion, than 'Perfect Reef' 3 miles away. Today we hope to go further afield--people keep telling us that the area up by 7 Islands has some excellent snorkeling and diving. But these are 3 miles away across the open lagoon, and we can't take the big boats (due to park regulations).
With the break in the weather, several boats are leaving today. The current boat count is 14 boats, and it has been holding pretty steady around this number, with boats dribbling in and out. We understand from friends in Bora Bora that there's a new slug of boats holed up in Bora Bora waiting for a break in the weather to head this way, so they should all arrive in a group in 5-6 days. Boats seem to move in waves around this area--centered around the short periods of settled weather. We are going to hang here for probably another week. We have decided not to go to Niue and Beveridge reef, which would have been 500 miles out of our way, and so we have plenty of time to enjoy Suwarrow and the Samoas.
Sherry & Dave
On our way from French Polynesia toward Tonga
At 8/24/2011 8:00 PM (utc) our position was 13°14.86'S 163°06.47'W