Anchoring Solo and Using Safe Anchor App

When I came to Medicine Beach it was under duress.

I had heard about the anchorage before.  This is my third year sailing solo to Canada in the late summer/fall, and this was  my second trip this year. So far I have always checked into customs at Bedwell Harbor, Poet’s Cove Resort, Marina & Spa (my favorite part) and then stayed at the marina to enjoy their pool, pub and view as well as get a massage at the spa. Before my first trip a friend told me about the channel between Bedwell Harbour and Port Browning (dinghy and small boat passage only) and that the closest liquor store was at Medicine Beach.  I filed this info away for another time, but had never had occasion to use it given that Poet’s Cove had a small liquor store on site as well as a great little pub on the property.

I had booked my massage appointment from a mooring ball at Matia Island and I was anxious to get checked into Canada, see if I could move my massage up, and head to the pub for some conversation since I had been solo for five days and had grown bored of my own company. The pool and hot tub were calling me too.

As I approached, I called the marina to ask about the unattached dock (no electric or water) and was told that a Sea Ray convention had booked everything. Although that dock was usually first come/first served, it was not today. I could see that less than 20% of the dock was occupied and couldn’t imagine such large power boats camping out on what is typically a dirtbag sailor dock.

I processed through customs easily and started thinking of what to do.  The mooring field was full. I had not checked it out before, but there are quite a few balls there, just dinghy to shore to pay the provincial park fee.  It is right around the corner from the resort. I called Port Browning which was also full.  Although it was Labor Day weekend in the states, I had been here before at this time and never had a problem. My choices for other marinas or mooring fields was limited and I suspected I would have the same problem throughout the southern Gulf Islands.

So, anchor it had to be.  This sounds easy enough but the thought came with a great deal of anxiety.  I have a manual windlass and I had anchored successfully a few times with a friend, but also failed just as many times. I had never done it alone.

I had been thinking about this for some time, and had actually addressed the problem before the trip in several ways.  The windlass was manual, not made for this boat, and not positioned in a way where it was useful.  I decided it was as useful as a hood ornament. I had 100’ of chain and a 25# CQR anchor.  Manually putting this out and taking it back in was an exhausting process, and if it didn’t set the first time, I had lacked the stamina to try it again in times past.  I modified my tackle in several ways.

I bought a 25# Mantus anchor and stowed the CQR as an emergengy anchor.  I shortened my chain to 50’ instead of 100’.  I still had 200 feet of line and rarely anchored deeper than 20’ of water. Once I had the Mantus, I discovered that it didn’t fit well on my old roller which also didn’t allow the addition of the cradle that helps keep the anchor from hitting the bow.  A new Mantus roller arrived and was installed. I was given an unexpected wonderful gift of a Mantus swivel, which although a little large for my purposes, would work on my size chain. That’s pretty much it, the anchor, the roller, shortening the chain.

I looked closely at the chart for Bedwell Harbour and found 25’ areas at Medicine Beach.  I approached with much trepidation because if this didn’t work, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I found my spot, lowered the anchor, backed up and set it. That was too easy. I backed up again because I didn’t believe it could be so simple, and came to a jolting halt and sprung forward – indeed set.  Just to be sure, I used the Safe Anchor App, along with my Bad Elf GPS receiver and set a perimeter alarm…and then I waited. I watched for hours and as the lines on the app changed color with the time, I was relieved to see them all in the same quadrant of the perimeter.

I stayed put, finally relaxed, and wound down with a book and some dinner.  During that time I used the tiny bit of reception that I had to see what, if anything was at Medicine Beach.  Visually there appeared to be a park entrance, but not much of a beach.  The only thing I found online was that there was a Nature Sanctuary here, and a short walk up the road, a liquor store.  That was it.  Although the beach didn’t look like much, it was fairly populated for a Friday afternoon.

Since I went to bed with the sun, I woke up early.  I was still in the same spot and in more of a mood to explore than I had been the day before.  I managed paddle board to shore and hiked the small trail through the Sanctuary.  The trail is about a mile and my Fitbit showed about 17 flights of elevation. The trail came out on a road that was surprisingly busy.  I headed back toward the road leading to the beach, but ended up taking Schooner Way at the intersection because I saw some signs ahead.


Here was the famed Medicine Beach Liquor Store, but there was more.  A pizzeria where you could buy by the whole pie, or by the slice, a convenience store (Penderosa) with free WIFI, a coffee shop, garbage drop off ($3/small bag), and a post box. There are tables outside of the coffee shop and a picnic table outside of the pizzeria.  The convenience store seemed relatively well stocked, but rather more like a store near a campground than a 7-11.  The liquor store had a large selection of beer, wine and cider in addition to the usual fare, but the prices are steep.  Tax was included, and I know the exchange rate is in our favor, but an average box of wine was still double that of the states after the exchange rate conversion.  I settled with a can of wine – yes…a can.  It was novel, and a brand I knew, and not horrible. That is the best I can say. I sat at the picnic table outside the pizzeria and used the WIFI to check email and communicate with the world.  All in all, this little place was a surprise to me, and I will be happy to come back here.

PS, I got that space on the dock on Sunday and my massage on Monday.