August 25th, 2015



‘Safe Harbor’ is a state of mind…it’s the place – in reality or metaphor – to which one goes in times of trouble or worry.  It can be a friendship, marriage, church, garden, beach, poem, prayer, or song.  ~Luanne Rice

The night the anchor slipped and our boat became unmoored, gale force winds blew from the northwest into Herring Bay where we had anchored earlier in the afternoon. If not for the loud bump we heard from waves buffeting our hull, we may have slept peacefully unaware until we drifted into the rocky cliff behind us. Hearing the noise, Bill grabbed a flashlight and went on deck to investigate. He returned shortly and said, “Get up, we’re drifting!” I knew our cove was quite narrow and two other boats were anchored nearby so this was a true emergency – probably not life-threatening but surely one involving a high risk for major damage to our boat or the others. I quickly dressed, put on a raincoat and life jacket and pulled a flashlight from a drawer.

Manning the helm, Bill turned on the instruments and started the motors while I began pulling up the anchor with 30-knot winds whipping into my face. As the anchor started to rise, the chain became taught then suddenly tumbled out again into the water as the wind pushed against the mass of the boat. I tried again, same result. All the while I was shining my flashlight on the nearby boats and cliffs so Bill could gage our location. At this point I was beginning to panic because if we couldn’t raise the anchor we’d have no control over the boat. In a stroke of insight, Bill maneuvered the stern into the wind allowing the bulk of the boat to act as a wind block – the anchor and chain came up. Shaken, we motored into the channel on the starless night to plan our next move. It was about two in the morning, at least three hours until dawn. We had two choices: try to re-anchor in a protected cove or motor south towards Sydney Marina where we were scheduled to dock later that day.

Neither option was ideal in the darkness of night, but we decided to take our chances motoring towards Sydney and hoped we wouldn’t hit any floating debris or crab pots. Listening to the emergency channel on the VHF radio, we learned several other boats had lost their anchors that evening and run aground. Even a dock had broken loose and was floating aimlessly in the current. It was a night that reminded us of our utter powerlessness over the elements and shook us out of a false sense of security. I’ve had other types of storms blow into my life un-expectantly that left me with a sense of being unmoored and drifting – the loss of a job, the death of my brother, or unwanted shifts and changes in a relationship. It’s during these times that retreating to a safe harbor, whatever form it takes, calms me down. By 5 a.m. the sun began to rise and the marina was in sight. As we tied up to the dock, my body began to relax knowing we were once again securely moored – at least for the moment.

Questions: Where are your safe harbors when you feel unmoored? Is your home one of those places?

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