Ricks thoughts so far – Malibu.
This was the first time I was genuinely frightened on this trip. We had left Santa Cruz island headed for the mainland and we were looking forward to anchoring off Malibu right in the back yards of the Rich and Famous. The trip across was a long day and we arrived at the anchorage just before dusk. As we rounded the point leading to the anchorage I realized I had a fish on my trolling line. We slowed the boat and headed for some clear water while we dealt with landing the fish ( a California Barracuda with large pointy teeth) and taking down our sails. By the time we were ready to anchor it was now dusk. The anchorage is a relatively small one and is bordered by a public pier at one end and a distance off the point break to the west. We read about options for this anchorage in Charlie’s Charts. It stated that you should anchor 1/3 to 1/2 the distance from the pier to the point break in 30 ft over sand avoiding the kelp patches and rocks. When we got in there we found that there was no space we could fit into along the 30 ft contour. The anchorage was further complicated by the fact that lobster trapping season had just opened and there was a maze of traps to avoid as well as private mooring lines all inside of the thirty foot contour. Going further out did not appear to be a good option due to the exposure to the sea and a quick transition to deep water so we did some exploring and settled on a spot that appeared to be clear of kelp/rocks at 24 feet.
In hindsight, it had been a long day and I think we were too anxious to get on the hook and get some needed rest. Our first mistake is we did not consider all the reasoning for the need to be on the 30 ft contour. As it happened we anchored at high tide, which meant the depth would be dropping during the night to a depth of about 18 ft where we were located. I had not given this the consideration it deserved as I was only considering that our draft at 5′ was not a problem. The real issue was that as the tide lowered, the area of breaking surf coming off the point break would be and was moving ever closer to our position. A couple hours after we anchored, Cindy and I were below in our bunk when we heard a loud noise on the hull, which on investigating turned out to be our anchor chain thudding on the deck. We had possibly dragged and fouled our anchor on what appeared at the time to be a rock. Though I wanted to move, the situation made the option of raising our anchor and going to deeper water much more of an issue in the darkness. I decided that I would stay in the cockpit and monitor the situation to be ready to act if things changed for the worse. A couple of hours passed and it was now midnight. Low tide would be in another 30 minutes at 1230. The tide would be dropping another 6 inches before starting to rise again. Sleep was and had been out of the question. I considered moving once again, and again ruled against it due to conditions and the situation. Things were about to get worse and the next hour felt like longest hour of my life! In the moonlight I could see that the surf line was steadily moving back from shore as the tide went to low. There were breaking waves crashing farther from shore than our position and just a couple hundred yards off our beam. There was one other boat anchored closer to the breakers than we were and I kept a close eye on them as the surf edged closer. By 0100 I could see the line of the breakers retreating from our position and moving closer to the shoreline as the water was again getting deeper with the change of the tide. I stayed awake all night just to be sure. At first light, and again in approx 24 ft, we started working to un-foul and recover our anchor. This took about thirty minutes, as we had a huge ball of kelp to cut away as we slowly recovered chain. Finally we were clear and we made our exit. Next stop Marina Del Rey and a lesson learned.