Bob and I took a three year hiatus from the Loop while we attended to work and family responsibilities. The good news is, that in the end, we are responsible adults. The bad news is that during the ensuing three years, we did not grow any younger and it will be up to the Arkansas Traveler to right that issue. It’s a little tougher to fold into the engine room and the fingers are a little rusty with the lines. Whining aside, the improvements to the boat, the updates to the navigation and electrical systems, and the art of provisioning have returned us happily to trawler life.
A few days before Christmas, son David drove us to the boat with a mountain of food and gear. After two days of stowing, straightening, and saying good byes to David and friends Tom and Margaret, Tom cast off our lines and we headed south from Iuka, Mississippi toward the gulf. Thirty-four miles through the cut is our favorite inland anchorage; a secluded spot in the uncrowded waters of Bay Springs Lake. It is a perfect place to downshift from the hectic days of readying the boat and crew to life at seven miles per hour.
While at Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka, the capable folks at the boat yard installed and upgraded several systems on the boat. One was replacing the windlass that had seized up when we first purchased the trawler in early 2010. The previous owners rarely anchored and the salt air and lack of use over her first eight years did not bode well for the windlass. We have always done well lowering and hoisting the anchor (20 feet of chain and 250 feet of rope rode) by hand; the arm-strong method. Lowering the anchor with a machine had to be easier, or so I thought. At 1630 we glided into the anchorage and Bob went to the foredeck to ready the anchor. He flipped the breaker for the windlass and I stood on the flybridge staring at the two arrows on the switch. One pointed up and one pointed down. Years and oceans of sailing and power boating had not prepared me for this moment but I knew that the anchor was supposed to lower so I pushed the down arrow. There was a whir and then a clunk and nothing happened. Apparently the up arrow is for “out” and the down arrow means “pull ‘er back in.”
I had inadvertently pulled the anchor tight to the boat and no amount of arm-strong on Bob’s part could un-jam it. We quickly (and manually) dropped our second anchor, a Danforth generally reserved for the stern, to secure the boat. We resorted to using tools and un-shackled the anchor, fiddled carefully with whatever levers and knobs were on the windlass and finally worked through the jam. Bob then hoisted the Danforth and I returned to the flybridge vowing to never push another button. I knew that I didn’t like windlasses anyway, and now there was one more reason.
At 1730 we lowered the anchor properly, made the line fast to the samson post, and watched the light diminish.