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Trusty Anchor Bridle has a Horror Break Just Before Dawn

This is how we handled the challenge and high anxiety of our bridle breaking in the dark in the calmest way we know how.

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Our anchor bridle broke around 3.30 am yesterday morning. For the uninitiated, the anchor bridle is generally a length of nylon or polyester line that is attached to the chain hook, thereby creating a triangle between the bows and the anchor chain, taking all of the load off the windlass (which is the winch that we use to lower/raise the anchor) to keep the boat pointed into wind. 

Our anchor bridle is made of 3-strand twisted rode ( aka line or rope) which is the marine industries most recommended because it is simply most suited to this purpose – meaning it has some ‘stretch’; it is a shock-resistant, durable, flexible type of line that sinks in the water.  Clearly, our bridle line was under considerable stress and tension when it snapped in huge winds.  Even the stainless steel bridle hook had been bent under the force.

The Captain and I were both up anxious and wide-eyed, all senses on hyper-alert, sitting and listening in the saloon. You certainly don’t sleep when the weather is life-threatening in sound and potential impact.  We always use Anchor Pro to run our anchor alarm system and due to the high winds, we’d set a wind alarm on another device for winds over Beaufort 8.  We topped out at 53.8 knots of wind which is 100 km (or 62 miles) an hour.

The bridle lines: the left line broke, the right line was woefully worn.

We felt the jerk of the boat on a gust of wind.  And then a moment of what sounded like steel scratching on the hull. Perhaps it was a wave, we thought.  So we waited another minute and heard the sound of steel again – which is most definitely a sound you don’t want to hear.  Immediately the Captain gingerly ventured forward with his trusty torch to return directly to the helm and immediately start both of the engines.  That was a clear indication that something was very wrong.

He re-entered the saloon to inform me that the anchor bridle had broken.  It was broken on the port side as far as he could tell, and we ran the potential risk of getting a hole in our hull.  And we have rocky land immediatey to our port side. We immediately responded by putting on our life jackets, lifelines, and head torches.  We grabbed our marriage savers (our Expand Sena Bluetooth headphones) so we could talk between the front and the helm because as you all well know, your voice gets carried away on the wind.  

Marriage Savers
Wearing our trusty bluetooth headphones

Our challenging tasks: I was to drive the boat forward on to the anchor to get some slack in the line and to maintain a heading into the wind, which was continually shifting and the boat was being tossed from side to side.  He was going forward to deal with the break by bringing up the anchor chain with the snapped bridle line.   We used the windlass to raise the line and the starboard side of the bridle was still seemingly attached.  He jacked up some 3 strand mooring lines that we had onboard, and using his sailors skills he tied a rolling hitch knot onto the anchor chain and tied this off around the port forward cleat.   

We had to work together and communicate clearly to make certain this port line was equidistant to the line that remained in-situ on the starboard side of the bridle.  We lowered the jimmied line back into the boiling sea and prepared another 3 strandline on the starboard side just in case that side snapped too.  During this drama, the turbulence of the wind never abated.  The Captain’s beanie was blown off his head into the brine and his headtorch nearly went the same way. 

The Captain splicing a new 3 strand nylon bridle

Emergency response complete. We turned off the engines.  And then we waited for dawn for a clearer view. Daylight arrived and after an evaluation, we decided to totally remove the bridle and set up the starboard side the same as the port side also with a rolling hitch and tied off on the cleat – so again, it was the engine’s on, driving forward trying to hold Waiata’s heading directly into the wind, and the Captain doing the tough work out front removing the bridle from the eyes at the front of each hull and sorting out the lines in front of the boat.  In the space of 15 minutes, he was snowed on, hailed on, and then rained on … in that order. It’s just as well we made that decision as we found that the line had almost worn through on the shackle in any case.  

Even our stainless steel bridle shackle was bent under force of the wind

One thing about sailing is you’ve got to think ahead. Always discuss a plan for ‘what if’.  And you’ve got to perpetually think about redundancy and a variety of potential states of emergency.  There is no chandlery store here.  Our closest ship chandler appears to be in Athens.  As we already had a better 3 strand nylon line than the one that had broken, we decided to make a new bridle. The Captain has splicing skills and all the tools needed to make a new bridle.  We checked out the ‘best practice’ and it seems that the bridle that was supplied when we bought Waiata was only 5 metres long on each side.  We know that the length on each side should be about the width of the boat, and so Captain Greg made a longer, stronger bridle with each length being 7.5 metres.  Of course, we then had to go through the entire heart-racing process again … motor forward on the anchor, bring up the jacked up bridle lines, routing and attaching the new bridle before lowering it into place, and then remove and sort out the interim lines process too. During all of this raising and lowering of the anchor chain and the days of wind we have endured, our 40 kg Rocna anchor that we lovingly call ‘Bertha’ has never budged an inch.

This all happened in Batsi, on the Greek Island of Andros. It has been a long story so thank you for reading. It has been cathartic to write down the process of what we went through. But the words don’t convey the feelings of utter fear that make the adrenalin course through the body.   It was a very long day, both mentally and physically exhausting.  And as I write this the wind is still howling and already this morning we have again exceeded Beaufort 9 on several occasions. The forecasts all show that the wicked wind is not going anywhere till Friday.  But we do feel safer on our newly minted bridle. And so to end the day that started so rudely early and stressfully, last night we fired up the generator and wound up the heat in order to luxuriate in 20 degrees.  Exhale! We feel like we earned it. And bloody well deserved it.   

Today’s wind has been higher than when our bridle broke yesterday

“Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.”

Anchors Away – a classic 40’s movie and Naval song

14 Responses

  1. Gosh guys, it all sounded horrific, glad you are safe and on your way to other parts, I do remember the particulary high winds when on Santorini, halting even the ferries for days. Stay safe please xx

    1. It’s been so scary Tricia – Foster was in touch about his own scary story which he likely shared with David.
      Truth is I was so scared a few tears leaked from my face – Greg was calm as always. Bless. Sending our love to you all

  2. Well done! My heart was racing as I read your story. So funny I was just saying to Skip how lovely it was lying in bed this very stormy Rotoiti morning knowing the anchor wouldn’t drag. So you have 2 bridle lines? Why is that?

    1. Lucky you being in bed in Rotoiti. Greece and Leros will surely be calm by the time you return. We have one bridle that attaches to the anchor chain and that has a port and a starboard line. It is the standard bridle that comes with the new Lagoon we would presume as Waiata has just turned 4. We are grateful that each line was spliced individually- if they had spliced it as one we would have had no bridle holding us at all.
      Hoping to see you at some stage in the future. This hellish wind has lasted a week and we have another 24 hours of it before calm is due. So far we’ve topped out at just under 60 knots!

  3. Wow Connie – you really conveyed the stress of that situation. Well done for holding it all together & well done the Captain for having the knowledge & skills to know what to do & be able to fix things!

    1. Thanks Chris. It is wearing and tiring as there’s been no let up in the high winds but we have fixed the bridle and seem to be coming through this hellishly howling time ok. Friday we expect to be able to leave at last! Your anniversary dinner looked lovely. Congratulations on 10 years. We passed 4’years yesterday!

  4. Wow, I say wow !!
    What an eventful night, a scary experience indeed but handled well between the two of you and of course her ladyship (Waiata) sitting proud during the winds.
    Congratulations guys 👏🏻

    1. Thanks Alex, its been a tiring 6 days so far and starting to wear us out, but only 24hrs to go according to the forecast an it’ll ease off.

      You might find it interesting; if you go on google you’ll see that Batsi, where we are , has a little protected harbour. Its even free with free power et al. We chose not to go into the harbour after some research and instead trust “Bertha” our anchor after reading about boats dragging anchor in the harbour (stern too) and having to leave before they were bashed against the concrete piers in the middle of the night.

      Sure enough during the BIG 40kt + gust the harbour is a mess and we notice only a single local boat choose to stay in there. Thinking through your plan ahead of time is so important and what might seem like a good initial choice sometimes needs some serious thought. Bertha on the other hand has not moved an inch, despite bending our bridle hook and snapping the 1/2″ bridle.

    1. My eyes leaked tears of real fear Tania – but captain Greg was calm. The perpetual howl of the wind is so tiring. We have another 24 hours and probably an anchor watch tonight as it’s supposed to be the worst of the last week tonight. And then it looks like fair winds and we can get in with sailing away from Greece.

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