5 days ago
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Care to Dance?
The La Paz Waltz is the one thing that spoils the joy of anchoring out in this great city. La Paz is situated at the mouth of an enormous estuary. As the tide comes in and out of the narrow channel where everyone anchors, it creates a terrific current. If the tidal swings aren’t big, or if the wind isn‘t blowing, the effect is not that bothersome. However, when the tidal swings are greatest the current is amazingly powerful and if the wind is blowing, then The Waltz begins.
The current over the different keels of the boats, combined with the push of the wind above (which is usually in the opposite direction of the tide) makes the boats twist and turn over their anchors, sawing back and forth. All the boats move at their own speeds and soon, boats will be moving towards each other, and then swinging away. Sometimes the boats move around like egg beaters. At one moment two boats will be close enough to toss water balloons at each other, and then the next moment will see the boats moving in opposite directions, away from each other. When The Waltz is on, the 70+ boats at anchor will be pointing in about 50 different directions.
Unfortunately for us, there’s a high wind storm right now that is coinciding with some very big tidal movements. Despite wind speeds up to 30 knots in this storm, the boats are being held perpendicular to the winds by the flow of the water on their keels. At the same time, the wind is pushing the boats up over their anchors, and so the boats move awkwardly in the waves and wind.
The tough part of The Waltz is that all the boats respond differently to the conditions based on how deep their keels are, what type of chain or rode they use, and how much windage they have. Incredibly, this afternoon, I watched a boat named Arabella drag UP wind because it has a 9 foot keel and a low-profile, flush deck. Our boat has lots of windage and shallow keels so JaM responds to the wind more than the water - which is exactly opposite of the mono-hulls around us. It can make for an unkind surprise. Suddenly, two boats that would be anchored safely apart from each other in a normal anchorage, will be uncomfortably close during the La Paz Waltz. To make sure our boat is safe in the conditions, someone (basically me) has been on board constantly since the winds started.
So, to while away the time on anchor watch, I’ve been working on new lyrics more appropriate for this Christmas in La Paz, set to the Christmas tune of “Let is Snow“.
“Oh, the weather outside is frightening,
But the anchor chain is tightening,
And there’s really no place to go,
So let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.”