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Location: Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

I’m prefacing this blog with the fact that I am only writing about this because we found it, and all is grand now, and because it was the sole activity of my day today.

Our morning started early, which meant that there was heaps of time for heaps of activities throughout the day (the students have really gotten a kick out of how much I say heaps; thanks, Tim Linsell). After our first breakfast in almost two weeks, the students were off to shore for the first time in Fernando de Noronha to embark on their full-day island tour, where they stopped at tons of scenic beaches and sights all around the island. This included a beach where they had to climb down a ladder in order to get to the beach; a ladder that is only in one direction, either up or down, depending on the hour. When they got down, they had the beach to themselves for a while, and throughout the hour, the crowd filled in. When the ladder direction switched up, there was apparently a Disney World-style line to get back up. They also went to a beach that was voted beach beach in the world five times, including in 2023. The tour included a stop for lunch, where they got the burger and cold soda they had been dreaming about for the 11 days of passage from St Helena.

Back on board were myself, Freddie, Meg, and Will. Let me go back a bit. When we arrived, the harbormaster told Freddie (the captain) that there was a big swell coming. That night, we were rolling pretty well, almost like we were still on passage, and so the next morning, Freddie wanted to reset our anchor since we had dragged a smidge (a totally normal thing to happen on a night like that). Buuuut as we took up our anchor, I patiently waited to see our trusty port anchor rising through the clear blue waters up into the pocket. But alas, that dream did not come true, and by the end, only the chain was there, and I thought, hm. Am I crazy? But no, I am not, and our port anchor had gone for a little adventure away from its Vela-y home.

And cue anchor shenanigans.

We quickly developed a plan to go find it, and Meg and I were in our bathing suits and dive kit faster than Freddie could get the lift bag out of the anchor locker and the dinghy ready. We haven’t been diving in quite a while, so it’s safe to say we were pumped to get to breathe underwater for a bit. We dinghied out to around where we dropped the anchor the day before, and the search patterns began. Some expanding square, some following rock lines, and some U patterns mixed in there, too. We managed three dives before we were out of air and out of deco time, but at that point still unsuccessful. I do recognize that I have already spoiled the end of this, so you know what happens, but the ride was still fun and worth being told. Anyways, we paused to fill some tanks, have some lunch, and come up with new plans for an attack. Essentially, our goal was to try to get us dropped as close as humanly possible to where the anchor dropped and search pattern out from there. Our first plan was to use the radar to pick up the dinghy and have Freddie’s radio when Will needed us to roll in, but we needed some sort of radar reflector. Cue the mega pot (see photos). Will then wore the mega pot on his head while Freddie tracked us on the radar and told us when to drop. But while the radar reflecting was successful, the find was not.

Next plan: thanks to Nick and his Garmin in reach, we (read Freddie) devised our best plan yet. We plugged the coordinates into the Garmin and had the dinghy take us to where Vela sat back from the anchor set. We would then seal team 6 style roll and negative entry when Will told us. We had the bearings ready for the direction the anchor was and began our U-pattern search. A wild 7 minutes and 11 seconds later, we found the flippin anchor. I l was so excited I was screaming Megs name under water and we did all the happy dancing. We tagged her with a surface marker buoy and went back to the surface. The second we broke the surface, we were screaming with excitement. We got the lift bag, brought the anchor up, and towed her back to Vela. Once safe and sound back where we could see her (aka tied to the side of the boat with the main preventer line), we got to work with our plan of reattaching her. We tied a line onto the end of the chain and slowly fed that out of hawse pipe while people took up on the line to get the chain next to the anchor. Then we went in with a new shackle, attached the anchor back to the chain, took back up with the windlass, and snugged her back into her happy home on the port bow.

If you’ve read this far, bless you. Also, hi, Mom, I know you’ve read this far, but I’m sure you’re wondering why all of this happened. Our original guess that the four staff had was correct. Very satisfying. It was the canter link that broke (see photos). The canter link is a special chain link that comes in two parts, fits together like a puzzle, and is used to attach anchors to chains. By the time the students got back from their island tour, Will had dinner ready, and we were the correct amount of total weight once again. All is well that ends well. See ya next time, folks.