AGLCA members and Gold Loopers, Scott & Karen DeVoll, if given the choice between anchoring out and docking at the marina, will almost always choose to anchor out.
Other Loopers have repeatedly asked Scott & Karen, “You guys find the best stuff. Where did you learn about it?” Believe it or not, usually they find stuff by simply being willing to explore an anchorage and search out the hidden jewels.
“Sometimes we get a hint from Active Captain, and talk to locals, but mostly we stay out of marinas, anchor out and explore."
They admit that part of the allure of anchoring is cost savings. If you aren’t in the marina, you aren’t paying fees for docking, electric and water. There are other costs more common to docking at a marina, like having dinner in restaurants. When thinking about the 365 days (give or take) the average Looper takes to complete the Great Loop, if you are docking at a marina most of the time, the cost will quickly add up. In an anchorage, you are more likely to stick with the food you brought on board (or perhaps you go fishing or find some wild blueberries). You might hop into the river to swim and wash up instead of using the water hookups at the marina for a shower. All this adds up to significant savings over the course of your Great Loop adventure. Karen & Scott would say it also leads to significant enhancement of your enjoyment of the trip.
Won’t We Miss Out on Socializing?
Absolutely not. Certainly there is more going on in the marina, but you can just as easily meet people at anchor. You can still host docktails with other Loopers ~ it will likely be a little less elaborate at anchor, but as the DeVolls note, “Docktails with your own drinks from your boat and a few crackers or nuts is all it usually will cost you.” Fancy isn’t the name of the game ~ you just have to be neighborly. And the trade off is more peace and quiet and the possibility of stumbling upon something amazing.
You can still meet the locals while on the hook. Anchored outside Marsh Harbor, Scott and Karen watched three local fishermen come up close to their boat with snorkel gear on. The fishermen dove in with spears and came up with 5-6 lobsters on each spear! The locals kept doing this and the next time they were close by the boat, Karen went up to talk to them, “The head guy yelled, ‘I bring you treat, I bring you treat’. They came up alongside the boat and traded lobsters for beer.” Beer is expensive in the Bahamas and it was a fair trade all the way around.
Know How to Anchor
Your anchoring skills will help make (or break) your experiences in the anchorage. Be sure you learn all that you can about anchoring. Read books, attend seminars, participate in forums and practice what you learn. The Devolls recommend you:
- Know what different kinds of anchors are out there and for what conditions they are made.
- Know the conditions you will be anchoring in so you can plan to have the proper anchors on board.
- Figure out how much rode you will need and be sure you have enough with you.
- Have more than one anchor on board and learn the most effective techniques for deploying them.
The more effort you put into preparations outside of the anchorage, the happier you will be inside the anchorage.
Where can we find some of the ‘best stuff’?
Scott and Karen found great stuff throughout their Loop. While exploring the 7 northern Cays of the Abacos the DeVolls made the acquaintance of a small shark cruising along the outer sandy areas. “When the tides went out there was a long, curvy sand bar that appeared. We were able to walk all the way out to a rock with a tree sticking out of it. We found very pretty pieces of coral that had broken off and washed up on the sand bar and we found our friend the shark again. We named him Sharky. We tried to follow him from shore but he knew we were there and kept avoiding us. We found our first sea biscuit and all kinds of other shells, coral, etc.”
At Towhead Island Anchorage on the Ohio River, they made dinner with a couple of Loopers and spent the evening eating, talking and getting to know each other. “To finish the evening off, a large pod of white pelicans flew overhead and landed just in front of the boat. It was like poetry in the sky with the white birds with black tipped wings flying gracefully and landing with shear grace on the flat calm water.”
Caya Costa Island is a Florida State Park only accessible by private boat or ferry. The DeVolls were anchored here during a storm and before they left, they wanted to see what the seas might have churned up and left on the beach. They ended up returning live star fish, shells and octopus back into the water. They also found plenty of shells too. In fact, they loved Caya Costa so much, they noted this is one place they will return to again and again.
Egmont Key, near Bradenton, Florida, is Karen’s favorite place. It’s a state park, only accessible by private boat and the island is loaded with historical significance. It was once used to hold captured Seminole Indians, it was occupied by the Union Navy during the Civil War and Fort Dade was built there during the Spanish-American War. There was once a whole town on the island, but only the building foundations, brick streets and concrete sidewalks remain.
Allan Pensacola Cay – Follow one of the two trails to the “Sign Tree.” Boaters have taken trash and random items that have ended up on the beach and hung them all on the tree. There are many things you might expect to see, like wood and rope, but the DeVolls found a jeweled toilet seat attached to the tree too! You have to wonder how that made its way to the beach.
One night while at Allan Pensacola Key, they put a waterproof light down in the water to see if they could attract any sea life to the boat. Imagine their surprise when a huge sea turtle came right up to the boat for a visit! “It poked its head, which was much bigger than Scott’s head, up against our hull and looked right into our eyes. It was the most amazing thing that happened to us on the whole trip."
Check out the AGLCA March Newsletter for more on anchoring. If you aren’t a member, join now!