The One Where We Anchored Out For The First Time

Several different titles would have been appropriate for this post. Here are a few that I debated:

The One Where We Got The Worst Night Of Sleep, Ever

The One With The Idea That Sounded Much Better In Theory Than Reality

The One Where My Life Flashed Before My Eyes

The One Time Saving Money Wasn’t Worth It

But alas, I decided to go with The One Where We Anchored Out For The First Time.

Before I set the scene for one of the most memorable night’s of my life, let me simply explain this concept down for my non-boating friends. (Because honestly, a few months ago, I had absolutely no idea what “anchoring out” even meant.)

When boaters say they anchored out, they mean that they spent the night on the water NOT tied to a dock. The boat is held in place by the anchor. This is important because due to wind, current and tides- boats don’t just stay in place in the water.

Yes, that’s an important detail so I’ll say it again. Boats don’t just stay in place in the water.

So back to our overnight anchorage adventure…

Our time in Brunswick provided a lot of time to study the charts. Ultimately, we decided to make Hilton Head Island, SC our first major stop. Being almost 100 nautical miles, we opted to make it a two day trip.

I can’t exactly pinpoint how or when we decided that our very first night away from the comfort of our first marina would be on anchor, but at some point we committed to that idea.

If I’m being completely honest, anchoring out appeals to me for two reasons. First, it’s free. And secondly, I’m envious of other boaters sunset and sunrise pictures from remote anchorages. Besides those two positives things, I really don’t love the idea of anchoring.

But I was on board for this particular experience.

We left Brunswick on June 1st around noon with our buddy boat, Howaho. It felt surreal to finally be on our way somewhere!

Being brand new boaters we set our sights on an anchorage in the Doboy Sound. We chose our spot based on its location. Specifically, the miles we’d drive on Day 1 to get there. And the subsequent miles we’d drive to Hilton Head the next day.

First Day's Route To the spot where we anchored out for the first time.

We arrived to the spot we planned to anchor around 6PM. I set our anchor. Which, in simple terms, means I dropped our anchor while Brent used the motors to make sure the anchor got caught on the bottom.

In hindsight, I should have looked around at my surroundings and felt uncomfortable.

In case you’ve forgotten your geography lessons, a sound is a large ocean inlet between two bodies of land. In other words, we were attempting to anchor in this huge body of water with very distant land on either side and the ocean in front of us.

Oh, and did I mention we were anchored out in the middle of nowhere?

More information that wasn’t super meaningful to me prior to our experience: that particular night was very close to a full moon and we were experiencing a super tide.

Anyway, all of this information will come in to play later in the night.

After setting our anchor we prepared to go over to Howaho for dinner. I cubed a watermelon and made a really pretty tomato, basil and mozzarella appetizer. Fancy! And a hilarious memory because I tried to ride in our dinghy with both of those things on my lap. They ended up all over me!

The fact that the water was growing very choppy should have also been cause for concern. However, we were so excited about our dinner we failed to even pause to think about it.

Beautiful sunset. Great company. A joyful celebration for our first official day on the Loop.

As we left Howaho in our dinghy I distinctly remember commenting that I’d sleep well. The night before we’d been excited about our impending departure and I’d woken up several times. Then it had been a long day on the water. Little did I know the adventures ahead…

When we arrived back on Light & Salty we set our anchor alarm (an app on our phone that tells us if our boat moves out of position) and everyone went straight to bed.

Around 11PM, not long after falling asleep, we awoke to the worst sound in the world. It was our anchor alarm going off.

Brent and I rushed outside- trying to shake the sleep and orient ourselves to the shore and Howaho’s light. It felt like we’d gotten further away from both, but it was really hard to tell in the pitch black vastness around us.

We convinced ourselves that our boat was simply rotating on the chain and the alarm sounded due to the tide rising. We did note a very strong current. Water was rushing by our boat! There wasn’t a lot to do except reset the alarm, and try to fall back to sleep.

At 1AM the alarm sounded again.

There’s really no way to describe this experience and convey how usettling it is to try to see in complete darkness having litterally no idea where you are in relation to anything around you.

At this point we decided our only option was to completely start over with our anchor, lest we be swept out to sea as the tide recedes through the sound.

We both put on our lifejackets and I headed to the bow (front) of our boat as Brent fired up the engines.

I remember looking down at the huge waves and current rushing past our boat. Not to be too dramatic, but I was hit with the realization that if I slipped off the boat it would likely require a Coast Guard rescue. I’d be swept away in a heartbeat. Needless to say, I held on tight and prayed out loud.

We have a machine that pulls up our anchor (called a Windlass.) I activated it as Brent moved our boat forward to pull the anchor. It obviously wasn’t settled well and didn’t require a lot of work to get it pulled up.

Then we went through the whole procedure of setting the anchor again.

Around 2AM we climbed back into bed. Naturally, our adrenaline made us feel like coffee was running through our vains.

I listened to a podcast, watched the clock and prayed for sleep.

At 4AM the alarm went off for a third and final time. We rushed outside, once again. At this point we were so far away from land and Howaho that we decided we’d be safe enough for the next couple hours.

We’d barely reset the alarm when we heard a loud rumble. At first I thought there might be a storm coming. However, the noise grew louder until I looked out the window and realized there was a fleet of shrimp boats passing close to our boat heading out to sea.

At this moment I officially gave up on sleep and declared our night anchored out OVER. I was done.

I brewed myself some coffee and watched the sky change colors ahead of the sunrise.

In hindsight our night didn’t go well for several reasons. First and foremost, we chose a terrible spot. I think the Doboy Sound is gorgeous and a decent spot for very experienced boaters that anchored out often.

Our mediocre anchoring skills and low confidence made this spot terrible for us. We compared notes with Howaho the next day and they had a similar night to us.

The only funny moment came around 8AM, once we were well underway, when Mary Grace emerged. She declared it her “best night of sleep ever” and said she loves being anchored out.

Must. Be. Nice.

*Brent would like to note that despite the lack of sleep, he had a great experience. He never felt unsafe. And he had the whole thing under control the whole time. However, he is interested if anyone has a recomendation for a different anchor alarm app. We use Anchor Pro.

*Also worth noting, it could be user error.

I’m looking forward to sharing more stories about our Great Loop Journey soon.

Here’s a spoiler alert: We’ve only spent 1 night anchored out since the nightmare of this experience. It went better. Stay tuned for our next post about visiting our “home” (Hilton Head Island) by boat!

In the meantime you may enjoy reading:

Our Pacific Northwest Adventure: Spontaneity At Its Best

Tips For Saving Money On Hotels

The One Where Our Journey Begins

*This post may contain affiliate links. By making a purchase after clicking through a link, Mom With A Map will receive a commission.

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  1. Mark Rinkel on June 29, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    It does get better!!! The more you anchor, the more confidence you will get in your skills and equipment. Anchoring in new situations always results in me getting less sleep.

    I use anchor watch pro as well as the alarm built into Aqua Map. The key for me is to be sure to set the anchor in the app as close to accurate as possible and set a realistic alarm distance. I set my alarm distance with enough buffer I can move a bit before an alarm, but with enough time to react before I am ashore. If there are current changes expected during the night, I write down the times of each change. If I am concerned, I am awake for the expected change but it is more so that I know what might be occurring when I am woken up by an alarm. If you have your alarm set and enough room, you should be able to sleep through current changes.

    I still occasionally wake up and look at my app to confirm the distance is ok before going back to sleep.

    The Chesapeake is full of anchorages that are well protected with little current – a great place to get back into it.

    • pwsadmin on June 30, 2020 at 10:59 am

      Wow! This is incredible advice Mark. Thank you!! So would current changes occur around high/low tide? Is that what you’re recording? We are planning to anchor some this week and I will look forward to trying this out. I do think it would help if the alarm sounded at an expected time! How much rode are you putting out? We’ve been advised every way. I thought we were dragging because we didn’t put out enough. But then the next time we thought we were just swinging too far because we put out too much. Brent and I were laughing yesterday- I think we’ll finally feel comfortable and be experts on everything right about the time we finish the Loop. Haha! Hope you, Sherri and the pups are doing well!

  2. Debbie Kittredge on June 30, 2020 at 1:09 am

    I really enjoyed your blog post. Brought me back to our Loop experience which we dearly miss. Our first night on the hook was a little easier than yours. We had never, let me rephrase that, I had never anchored out before, frankly the Loop was my first big boating experience. We traveled in a 30’ Express Cruiser, smaller boat than years and we started out in Lake Erie. We were able to practice our anchoring skills as we waited for lock openings on the Illinois River. We had the old fashioned kind, throw the anchor over the bow and pull it up by hand. That was the Captain’s job, I took the helm. Our first night was with a very experienced friend, this was his 5th time around the Loop and knew all the best spots. We use his book for our waypoints as we went around. We tucked in by an island, Little Buckhorn, on the Illinois. Anchor held, we didn’t use an alarm, but it was very disconcerting when the barges came by at night and their beams flashed through the cabin. Sorry, not as exciting as your night, but this is one of those stories that will make your trip memorable. Love your writing. There is so much more about the trip to experience! Enjoy and safe travels!!

    • pwsadmin on June 30, 2020 at 10:56 am

      I love this story- what a memory. Quite honestly, I get nervous when we see barges in broad daylight! They are so much more massive from a boat’s vantage point on the water than you can possibly imagine standing on land looking at them. When did you Loop? I’m glad we can help you relive your experiences. I hope you’ll share some of your must-do stops and your stories along the way! I always love hearing tips and sweet stories about the Loop. Thank you for following our adventure!

  3. Nell Todd on June 30, 2020 at 10:27 am

    You will learn a lot along the way and you are giving your kids the gift of a lifetime♥️

    • pwsadmin on June 30, 2020 at 10:53 am

      Yes- learning a ton (us and the kids!) And we totally agree- gift of a lifetime! Thanks for following along on our crazy adventure.

  4. David Witt (Overtime) on June 30, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Here’s a link to a spreadsheet I put together detailing our trip…
    I hope you find it helpful.

  5. Bella BEE on August 2, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Thanks for the laughs! Having been a boater on Lake MICHIGAN for years, this brought back memories. It’s cool what your family is experiencing. Best wishes to all of you!

    • momwithamap on August 6, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      Aww, thank you so much! We should be to Lake Michigan later this year. Do you have any recommendations or tips for us?

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