When the San Juan Bay Marina, my second home during the past 10 years, brought in a guy to run the place whose card highlighted CPA, MBA and I don’t know what other A’s, I knew my time was short. Overnight he raised my slip fee from $324 per month to $475. When grandpa’s summer camp sailed away in June, I knew I was not going back to have an A stick it to me.

With the 2004 cruise over, Skip and mate Mick went to work on the design, construction and placement of a mooring out in San Juan Bay that would hold Pallas, my 14 ton sailboat in a hurricane. Out came PLAN 1: 

We bought a large plastic garbage can, six 60 pound bags of redi-mix cement with small rocks, 20 feet of 1/2 inch chain and 100 feet of 3/4" yellow poly rope and lugged it all to the boat, which was at anchor, with the dinghy. Mick did one devil of a job manhandling those sixty-pound bags down into the dinghy and later up on deck. .

My advisory committee had warned me not to use salt water to mixed the cement and luckily the cooler was full of water left by the ten bags of ice we had loaded aboard a week earlier. We began to mix the first bag by pouring about 1/3 of a bag into a bucket, and then stirred the mix. It turned out to be an almost impossible job as the dry pounder stuck to the sides. So I added more water until the mix was slightly fluid then tossed it into the garbage can where Mick kept it turning with the handle end of the mop. After the third bag we began to learn that the trick to mix cement is to hit it with lots of water right off, which we did. The container was full in no time. We imbedded a three-foot long clamp deep into the mix and let it set for three days.


On Monday, with 20 feet of chain connected between the barrel and the two leads, we hoisted all three anchors, motored to the appointed spot, pushed the can over the side, and according to tradition, both of us hit the sack for a napecito. When I looked around a half hour later, we were on our way to Miami or Maine or somewhere in betwix. THE BARRELL DID NOT HOLD WORTH A DAMN!!!!!! The bottom turned out to be a lot harder than I had estimated and the nice round smooth plastic 360-pound garbage can just took off down wind. I started the engine and easily dragged it back to its appointed place, dropped two anchors and began to develop Plan 2.

When tropical storm #2 began to brew near St. Lucia, I figured that if I sat and did nothing it would head straight for San Juan and if I took action it wouldn't. So I stole Lilly's car and went to Astro, a heavy duty industrial marine shop and bought a 100 pound (wanted a bigger one but then.. how was I going to handle it) ship anchor and stuffed it, 40 feet of 1/2" chain and 150 feet of 3/4 braided nylon line with thimbles and shackles into Lilly’s trunk. A marina employee helped me haul it out dockside where I left it to return Lilly her car before she woke up. So far so good.

Back at the marina by two p.m., I decided to haul everything to the boat in the 6-foot dink. Hell, it held all 270 pounds of Jim plus two grandsons. Using high tech engineering I managed to lower the anchor gently aboard, then the chain etc., then me, and rowed out to boat.

I hoisted all out of boat except for the anchor as 100 pounds is mucho for this viejo. I secured the anchor to boat,  just in case, hooked the main halyard to the anchor intent on hauling it out of the dink and alongside the boat when I would fasten the chain and line. Then I would motor out to where I wanted it dropped, somehow release the halyard, and anchors aweigh.

But then Murphy stuck his nose into the Plan. The main halyard winch fell apart, like in four pieces. No problem as the sun was scorching. I took all parts into the shade of the cockpit, figured out that the problem were the little springs in the pawls, hit it with WD40, got one together but at the critical moment Murphy again made the second little spring fly into oblivion. I couldn't find it. Hell, one pawl will work. I struggled to reassemble it but the damned thing would not go back together. Time to head for Plan 3.

I’d use the dingy. I put the chain back into the dink, jumped into the dink with tools and made anchor, chain, and line fast. With the bitter end secure, I dropped all the line into the water and started to row out in the right direction. At the end of the rope, I eased the chain over the side then grabbed the shank of the anchor and shoved it over the side in one quick motion. I started to go until one fluke snagged a corner of the dinghy pulling it under. Water flooded in, the dinghy capsized and down went dinghy, anchor and the skip.  

Sitting amidships, fully dressed, I hung on to the dinghy sure it was going to float but when I opened my eyes I saw the surface about 7 feet up, the water had an eerie greenish hew and getting darker. At first I thought I was caught up in either the dinghy, the chain or the anchor but it turned out that I’d been hanging on tightly. I pushed away, rose to the surface and paddled for a few minutes waiting for the dink to surface. No dink, so I began to swim for the boat thinking just how I was going to hoist myself up with no ladder out. About half way back to the boat, the dinghy surfaced so I swam out to it still with shirt, shorts, shoes and cap. With the dinghy in tow I spotted a US Coast Guard rubber launch, one of the bright red ones exiting the fuel dock. I waved and they rescued the old skippee.. once again.

Otherwise all went without a hitch. Pallas is moored for the moment. Plan 4 is in engineering: how to tie it all together. Stay tuned.


William Butler, 2004