On Anchors and Chains

On Monday, December 9, we are ready to lift anchor and sail away from the Key West anchorage direction Bahamas. But the anchor is not coming out. Something is holding it. We are pulling in every direction but it’s no use. Ivo puts on his snorkeling gear and dives to investigate. There are about 26 feet of murky water below the keels. Turns out the chain is all tangled in ropes from the crab traps. Commercial fishermen this time of the year put their crab traps, wooden crates with a hole for the crabs to crawl in, everywhere in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys, even in anchorages. Here the traps are in a succession one after another on a long rope going all around the place without floaties on top; impossible to know where the rope and the traps are.

Thus, we are firmly attached to a messy ball of chain, rope and traps. It is too deep and the current is too strong for Ivo to dive down, cut the ropes and untangle the heavy chain without diving gear. He tries to dive down with the hose that we use to collect water holding one end in his mouth to breathe but it doesn’t work. Finally, he attaches a rope to the chain as far down as he can and slowly pulls it with the winch. This works. It takes us three hours to bring the ball of tangled chain with a crab trap stuck to it close to the surface. Ivo cuts the ropes and Fata Morgana is finally free, although the anchor and chain come out in a mess.



All those hours of diving, pulling, dragging, and fighting with chain and ropes, no one from the neighboring boats comes to offer any help. During the entire operation I often look around in desperation to see if someone will come to the rescue. I see people on the boats anchored around us sitting in their cockpits, slowly sipping drinks, watching the reality show. Some use binoculars for better view. The thought to come over and help doesn’t even cross their minds. Makes me angry.

In every other country we have been to: Bulgaria, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, there would be a bunch of strangers showing up with whatever inadequate ideas and tools, trying to help, for free, but not in America. In America, people do not intervene. They are thought not to act but to report. If you witness something suspicious, call the police. If someone gets injured do not try to help, call the ambulance. Call the insurance company, call the fire department, call a professional, call an official, call your lawyer. That is why in America most people don’t help each other anymore; neighbors become estranged and the very word community has lost its meaning. That is also why they die in their own houses after a storm, waiting for someone whose job is to save people to come and save them. Ultimately, this imposed mentality of non-intervention and relying on some designated professional in case of anything out of the ordinary trains an entire nation in subordination to the government and officials. If there is a conflict, national or international, it is not the people’s business, but the government’s, even if the government’s actions are wrong. And this is wrong. People need to think and act for themselves more, and help each other the best they can. Do-It-Yourself, or even better: Do-It-Together, as a good friend of mine likes to say.

We manage to pull out the chain and the anchor thanks to Ivo’s ingenuity and strong back. Almost at the end of the operation a guy comes from his boat standing up in his dinghy like a savior. He says:

“I have been watching you for the past few hours and figured you have a problem. I have diving gear and can offer you my professional services if you need to hire a diver.”

No, thanks, we already solved the problem ourselves.

Ivo bringing up the chain with a crab trap on it

Ivo bringing up the chain with a crab trap on it

Next, we sail north-northeast direction Key Largo keeping close to shore. After 24 hours, near Alligator Reef, as we are about to tack and begin the crossing of the Gulf Stream, the coastguard’s grey-and-red boat quickly catches up with us. Two coastguards board Fata Morgana for a routine inspection. They check the registration of the boat, look in all bilge spaces under the floors, and in the two engine rooms. They don’t check our passports, immigration and customs papers, and cruising permit, which is a good thing. They ask if we have guns or any illegal things on board. I am not exactly sure if all the stuff we brought from Cuba: two bottles of Havana Club, a bag full of cigars and another bag with condoms, are legal or not so I say no.

“And what is that type of soda drinks, I…don’t seem to recognize it?” asks one of the guys staring at the cases of Brahva stacked up in one of the engine rooms.

“Oh, this is Guatemalan beer, the cheapest beer you can find”, I say with a guilty smile. But they are not impressed.

“Have a safe trip.”

And we are good to go. No irregularities found.

Next day we drop anchor in The Bahamas, making sure there are no crab traps around.

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala

Ivo, happy, with 10 cases of Brahva, El Estor, Guatemala


About lifenomadik

We are a family aboard a boat in search of freedom and adventure.
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8 Responses to On Anchors and Chains

  1. Joyce says:

    Hi you guys.. We are down South and will be here until April. We will be in the Bahamas around Jan. 26th. Sailing on the Fantasy Carnival cruise. Hope we can see you. Would be fun.

  2. tyler says:

    Hi guys. Cherris boat dragged hard after a craber fucked up her anchor and en cavale too. Glad your visitors did not bother you too bad. I guess that’s the good side to them hiring idiots. See you soon

    • lifenomadik says:

      dear ‘good-friend-of-mine’, we missed you that day…

      yeah, these crab traps are bad, I hate them. I would complain to i don’t know who about putting them in the anchorage.

      So when you guys comeback there, you might have some bad time pulling up anchors.

      Good thing: there is a new wreck in the anchorage, you might be able to get a mast or something.

      The visitors were fun, nice guys 🙂

  3. David says:

    love the rudeness of the guy to offer his expert diving services AFTER watching you for so long! Must have been high – or brain-dead! Hope all is well in the Bahamas – we are off to Missouri for Christmas – wish us luck at 30ºF for two weeks! Have a Merry Christmas all of you!!!!!

    • lifenomadik says:

      yes, the guy thought we are some rich folks with a catamaran and he really hoped to make a dollar out of our misery. But he didn’t.

      Good luck in the cold and may you enjoy happy days with friends and family!

      We love it here in the Bahamas…we found your summer mansion too, i’ll send you a picture of it 🙂


  4. Joyce says:

    We will be in Caicos and Grand Turk around the 27 and 28 January, end of Januaru for sure. Would have to check cruise schedule to be sure. Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year to all. Lots of adventure and safe cruising.

  5. Americans aren’t the most helpful lot. People always think that someone else will go and help. Thank you guys for helping with our anchor! Even though we have kids we always try and help out where we can, Carl is always the first one in the dingy to help others out.
    I’m make sure I show him your post.

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