After lunch I stepped up into the cockpit, thinking I would sit for a few minutes and watch the grey waves rolling out from the shore north of Blacksod Pier But as I looked around, it was quickly evident that Coral had moved from where we had anchored. For the second time that day she had dragged her anchor through the sea bed, not actually drifting, but not staying in place either.
I called Susi and Dave out to have a look, and their exclamations confirmed what I was seeing. Where previously the lower slope of Slievermore, the mountain on Achill Island, had lined up with the end of the pier, now the whole hillside was visible across the water. “There is no hurry, but we should move fairly soon,” I said, but no sooner had I spoken than the weather changed. First heavy rain rattled on the deck, then the wind increased so that Coral, lying sideways to the wind with the dragging anchor, was blown over so we had to hold on to keep our footing.
Soon we all had our full waterproofs on and the engine running, and while I did my best to hold her bows into the wind, Susi and Dave were struggling with a recalcitrant winch to haul in the anchor chain. As the wind blew up to 25 then 27 knots, sharp waves were gathered up by the wind and thrown against her hull. It seemed to me there was no point in anchoring again in the same place where the holding was evidently poor, and that it would be better to move three miles up the bay to where the pilot book indicated was the most sheltered in the bay. Once we had the anchor safely stowed we motored away from the shore and turned north.
By now the wind, touching 35 knots at times, had blow the surface of the bay into substantial waves and was blowing the tops off in streaks of foam. As they crashed against Coral’s side the spray flew up into my face; as her bows lifted on a crest and then plunged into the trough beyond, sheets of near solid water flew high from each side of the bows, blowing back into the sprayhood with a crash, or coming right over the top into the cockpit. I hung onto the tiller with one hand while wiping the water off my glasses with other, then discarded the glasses altogether, peering through poorly focussed eyes stinging with salt at the port marker as we passed, then at the low headland beyond that we had to go around. Dave, dry under the hood, was able to read from the pilot book and direct us into the anchorage.
The rain then stopped as abruptly as it began, but the wind increased again and veered a few degrees. Blue sky had been gathering in the west, and suddenly the sun came out. As the sea turned an azure blue streaked with white, Susi called out that she could see rainbows in the sheets of spray. Evidently a weather front was moving through. And as we motored toward a beach on the northern shore of the new bay the waves decreased in size and Coral pitched less and less until she was moving comparatively smoothly.
We dropped the anchor in five fathoms of water, paying out plenty of chain. Coral blew downwind and, as the chain became taught, swung into the wind. We took turns to reach over the stem head and hold the chain, which stretched like a solid bar under the surface. “It feels like it is set in concrete on the sea bed,” Dave observed. I took a bearing of the large white house on the hillside on Coral’s beam. The compass read 30 degrees, and it still did so an hour later. The anchor, so far at least, was holding.
This what it looked like after we had settled: