Someone out there might have a boat-anchoring story with a happy ending, but not me. Mine are all grim tales of frustration, disappointment and imminent disaster.
I blame my humble beginnings. As a wee child, I learned to be frugal, a character defect that has plagued me ever since. Because I’m so thrifty, I tend to buy things that will barely accomplish what they’re meant to do. This has caused much grief and gnashing of teeth. I’ll save a buck on a can opener, only to find out at home that it only opens some cans, and only when you hold it just at the right angle. A can opener is one thing, but when it comes to buying a boat anchor, the last thing you want is one that won’t do what you want it to do when it’s needed.
The first boat I used on the Kenai River was a 12-foot john boat with a 10-hp outboard. I deduced that a 10-pound “mushroom” anchor would be adequate for the Kenai — they were on sale — so that’s what I bought. Three incidents involving that anchor have stuck like bugs on the windshield of my memory.
There was the time a friend and I were fishing the Kenai a few miles downstream from Skilak Lake. Things were going well until a strong wind came screaming down the lake and onto the river. Everyone else went home, but having the river all to ourselves felt so good, we stayed. Our only problem was that we couldn’t get that little mushroom anchor to hold, not even in still water. We finally buried it on a gravel bar, and let the wind blow us down to where we wanted to fish. We were frozen fairly solid by the time we thought up this “fix,” and it wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
A couple of years later, I was fishing for silvers with another buddy at the Kenai Keys, the Big Hole. We weren’t having any luck, but two boats that were anchored side by side on the edge of the fast current were pulling in one fish after another. When they had caught their limits and left, we happily pounced on their spot, but our elation soon turned into frustration. My inadequate anchor wouldn’t hold in the current. Not only was it too light, but it was the wrong type. Ten feet of chain between the line and the anchor would’ve helped it to hold, but I’d saved money by tying the line directly to the anchor. We went home skunked and frustrated.
Another time, my friend John Briski and I went silver fishing on the Kenai. Where the Moose River runs into the Kenai, we launched my boat and motored downstream a few miles to Morgan’s Hole. After maneuvering the boat into my favorite spot, I turned to John and said, “OK, drop the hook.”
He gave me a blank look.
“This is the spot, John. Put the anchor overboard.”
John had served aboard ship in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, so I was fairly sure he knew what an anchor was. But I also knew he’d spent too much time in gun turrets, so he didn’t hear well. Thinking that must be the problem, I went forward to get the anchor. To my amazement, the anchor wasn’t in the boat.
Back at the boat launch, I’d thrown the anchor ashore to hold the boat until we were ready to go. When ready, I’d asked John to “get the anchor.” For reasons neither of us ever fully understood, he had untied it from the rope and left it in on the bank.
My favorite spot at Morgan’s Hole was best fished from an anchored boat. What to do?
We went ashore and found a large rock, trussed it up like a beef roast, and tied it onto the anchor line. It worked. We caught our limits. In a wicked twist of fate, that miserable mushroom anchor was still there when we returned to the boat launch. I finally had to give it away to get rid of it.
The best thing I can say about that anchor was that it provided grist for a lot of stories to tell grand-children. That, and the memory of the expression on John’s face when I told him to drop the hook.
Les Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.