There are times when an anchor must hold or more than sleep will be lost. The North West Coast of Australia with its few good anchorages and fierce, persistent southerly winds produced just such a test for the sailing yacht Banyandah when en route from Dampier to Carnarvon.
The weathermen had promised a fair breeze, so we rose from our comfy beds at the ungodly hour of 2:30 AM to begin a 55 mile hop because those same weathermen had warned that after dark that fair breeze would swing to the southwest with a powerful punch, so a good anchorage was needed. Searching the many islands and reefs found on the chart before Northwest Cape, only one seemed hopeful, Mary Anne Islet, a tiny pile of sand atop a huge sunken reef. Being desperate to use this rare fair wind as all other wind had been straight in our face and strong, we decided to give it a go, hoping the reef would provide a good enough lee and bottom for our Manson Boss to hold.
Arriving late in the day, not long past low water we were alarmed. Mary Anne was not as expected; instead, turbid water made visibility non-existent, with not even a hint of the reef edge and dangerous shallows everywhere. Compounding this, a strong current set around the reef, making pulling the Boss in against the forecast wind difficult. And then worse, the nature of the bottom was uncertain. Our chain grumbled. And though the anchor held, an hour later we moved out into deeper water to lose the swell that grew alarmingly when hitting the shallows.
At midnight the wind turned southwest and roared past 30 knots, gusting 40. The huge fetch over the then deeply covered reef created a steep short sea that slapped our lady, sending spray over us the rest of the night while Banyandah bounced sideways, caught in the confusion of a nearly four knot current.
When the moon lit up the early hours, with a small chartplotter ticking away next to our bed to verify our position, we relaxed into uneasy sleep, still aware of any change, but feeling the Boss was in charge. With the coming first light, whitewater all round, but still in the same spot, it was wide smiles all round.