The Friday Harbor Incident

As we left Anacortes, I felt a sense of relief and excitement.  The boat projects were done and we were headed off to Friday Harbor.  Let the fun begin!

Using Active Captain, I researched anchorages near Friday Harbor.  I had a horseback riding lesson scheduled for Cassidy in town the next day, but we could enjoy a night on the hook and save a little on mooring fees.  As we approached Friday Harbor, we found the cozy little anchorage right outside the main harbor that was described on Active Captain.  The anchorage was almost empty so we dropped the hook and we were relaxing, enjoying the view within a few minutes.  It was a perfect night.  The 3 of use were thoroughly enjoying the views of the harbor, watching the ferries come and go, and the boat moving to the gentle rhythm of the water.

View of Friday Harbor from the roof

Enjoying the anchorage….pre-incident

Friday Harbor
All snug in my berth, I drifted off to sleep. (Yes Mariejke, it was my usual 8:30 pm bedtime…some things never change.)  Around midnight I could feel that the wind had picked up as the boat was bouncing a little more than when we went to sleep.  I decided to go up to check how we were holding.  I didnt even make it up to the saloon when I heard a WHACK.  Dougal was in the saloon with me before I could even figure out what happened.  We both ran up to the pilot house to find that a boat had dragged anchor and hit us!  Worse yet, our anchor chain appeared to be tangled on their dinghy.  We sprang into action

Dougal was at the helm, letting out chain to give us some room to back away from the vessel.  I was on the bow, fending off the other boat.  I would shout to Dougal to use our bow and stern thrusters to propel us away when we got too close.  I was pounding on the other boat, trying to wake them.  

Finally the captain of the other boat came out.  He hopped down to his swims step attempt to free the anchor chain.  Meanwhile, Dougal kept letting out anchor.  He let out more….and more….and more….until there was no more.  We were free.  Free of the other boat.  And free of our anchor.  All 400 ft of 3/8 inch galvanized chain and the 90 lb Rocna anchor was at the bottom of this cozy little cove.  

Now, before this incident, I would have no idea of the significance of this.  I have come to learn that this is a set up of close to 1,000 lbs and about $4,000 of ground tackle.  I also understand that it is fairly uncommon for marine stores to stock an anchor of this size or the chain.  It was Friday….and we leave for Alaska on Sunday.  Not looking good.

But it was 1 am and we had to make a next move.  With no anchor, we had to pull into the harbor.  We called the local sheriff to make a police report of the incident.  The sheriff was extremely helpful and told us that we could stay on the customs dock for the night.  

The journey up the inside passage will bring us to far and remote places.  Ground tackle gear would be critical for the trip.  We were spinning with worries and ideas about how to solve our dilemma.  Knowing that nothing could be done until morning, we decided to go to sleep.  

The situation improved a little the next day.  Sam, the lead boat for the Alaska trip ( came to meet us in Friday Harbor.  Together, Dougal and Sam hatched a plan.  Dougal called a local diver that would attempt to locate and recover the gear.  The diver would meet us on Sunday morning.  

Long story short, after 3 hours of searching and about an hour of strategizing to bring the chain back on the boat, the chain and anchor was safely back on MV Cassidy.  Shane at Dockside Diving….I cant thank you enough!  Not only did you save us thousands of dollars, but the hassle of getting new gear.  Our back up plan was to rent a car in Friday Harbor, take the car ferry to Anacortes, drive the 2 hours from there to Fisheries Supply in Seattle to buy the gear, and trace our steps back.  Given the ferry schedule, we were unlikely to make it in time to meet our group for the Sunday departure to Alaska.  

Diver Shane

It was 3 pm on Saturday and we were schedule to meet the group in Roche Harbor for the meet and greet and potluck.  Without skipping a beat, we waved goodbye to Shane and we were on our way.  Lets hope its smooth sailing from here…..

Approaching Roche Harbor

3 thoughts on “The Friday Harbor Incident”

  1. Ken Williams

    Why did the boat break anchor? Was there a lot of wind?

    Enjoy Alaska! 

    -Ken W, N68, Sans Souci

    PS Roberta and I will be on the boat at Roche starting May 10 .. if you are still in the local area, drop by and say “hi”

    —Reply posted by Dougal Gardyne on 5/6/2018
    Ken – we passed San Souci on the way out of Roche Harbor this morning. Beautiful boat. Heading up to Silva Bay tonight and then points north.

    The anchor dragging incident was strange. The boat that hit us was probably 60 feet long with a lot of sail area. It was grease calm when we went to bed and the winds did come up in the night but only to about 20 knots.

    I suspect they had inadequate ground tackle or scope – or both. Luckily we escaped major damage to the boat – a few gouges on the run rail and a gel coat ding on the bow but no structural damage. It could have been a lot worse.

    One interesting point is that if the boat hadn’t hit us, they likely would have drifted into the rocks or the UW dock before stopping.

    The rope securing our anchor chain inside the anchor locker parted when I was trying to maneuver away from the other boat which is one of the reasons we lost our anchor gear. But In hindsight it was probably good that it happened because it got it off the other boat and away from hazards.

  2. A cautionary tale to be sure. 

    Thanks for posting your account

    I am curious as to the response of the folks from the other boat to your stress and costs.  It doesn’t sound like they had an anchor alarm on and had not setup their ground tackle well enough to prevent a drag in modest conditions.  Were they prepared or did they offer to compensate you for your aggravation, damage and costs?  It’s not really a legal question as much as a question of decency and doing the right thing…

    Greetings from Victoria, BC.  We hope to be following in your wake in a few weeks.


    NT 37 Tugaway



    —Reply posted by Chuck on 6/29/2018
    One reason I carrried a float and fifty feet of 3/8 line was to attach to my anchor and mark its location for me and other boaters. Had you done so finding the anchor would’ve been easier. But less “learned” sailors will always drag, too little scope and drop across your rode
    —Reply posted by Evan on 5/17/2018
    Thank you for these details Dougal.

    This is quite helpful & probably worth reflecting on in advance of an an unlikely event like this…

    I do not suppose it is appropriate to share my opinion of the other boater except to say that they clearly didn’t appreciate or refused to acknowledge the degree of stress, hassle and expense they caused you by their incompetence.

    I applaud your generosity.

    Have a great trip!


    —Reply posted by Dougal Gardyne on 5/11/2018
    How to approach the people that dragged into us was definitely something that we put some thought into. I wasn’t sure we’d post all the details here on this public blog but I don’t think there is any harm in doing so at this point.

    The night that the the incident happened a sherrif’s deputy met us at the customs dock in Friday Harbor to take a report but he told us that we were pretty much on our own in dealing with the people on the other boat since neither one of our vessels were “underway”. Not sure that I agree with that assessment but that is the information we were given.

    I had the Washington state registration numbers from the other boat which I thought might be useful if we had to make an insurance claim but we have a high deductible policy and trying to get payment from their insurance company seemed like it could into a time suck and ultimately a losing battle.

    We went back out to the anchorage in a couple of dinghys the next day to assess make an attempt (ultimately futile) to grapple the lost ground tackle with small anchors.

    I ran circles around the other boat and the owner eventually came out. He was pleasant enough and we exchanged cards and contact info but seemed surprised when I told him that we had lost all of our gear thinking he had cleared the tangle from his boat before we pulled off. I told him that we would have to pay to recover it or buy new ground tackle, after which offered to split the cost of the diver with me but only had $170 on board and gave that to me. The cost to recover the gear ended up being $600 so that money didn’t even cover half but it was better than nothing.

    I can secure my guess my actions while the event was transpiring but in hindsight if we didn’t drop all of our gear while backing away from the other boat, things could have ended up a lot worse. We could have been dragged into the rocks or the UW dock, where the other boat ended up before finally getting underway to re-anchor. The section of rope securing the chain to the inside of our anchor locker actually parted under the strain from pulling off of the other boat so we were definitely still attached when the chain dropped.

    The cosmetic damage to our boat and cost to recover is relatively small compared to what could have happened if we’d been dragged aground or continued to bang against the other boat in the wind.

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