What is the Sound of One Chain Dragging?

It’s the day of the summer solstice (1816 local time), and as you can probably guess from the time, I’m on the 4-5am anchor watch. We’re in a lovely little anchorage off the south shore of an island called Lillemolla. There are half a dozen smaller islets that form a ring of natural shelter at the foot of thousand-foot cliffs. Sea eagles work the area, casually gliding in the breezes beneath the cliff wall. And off to the west, the city of Svolvaer (Lofoten’s capital) is visible several miles distant.

We anchored last night just before midnight in a fresh easterly wind beneath a light drizzle. In the past four hours, the rain has departed, the cloud cover has risen and the wind has swung 180 degrees to the west. As a result, Polar Bear is in the process of swinging too, so anchor watch consists of monitoring the depth meter and two different GPS units, along with a couple of visual points on the island, to make sure we keep enough water under the keel.

The peace and (sort of) quiet at this hour is delightful. It’s not as quiet as one might think: the snoring from every single quarter of the boat is staggering in its volume. How anyone gets any sleep with another human being near them is beyond me. And given the brisk breeze, I’m sitting in the cabin as I type, so the aural assault is relentless.

But the sound that’s interesting right now is that of the chain dragging as Polar Bear slowly swings to a new position downwind. You’ll hear a gust in the rigging, hear the water pressure increase on the steel hull, and then the sound of the links tumbling across the seafloor. It’s a slow process, slow enough that we’ll likely be safe over the remaining hour-plus before we raise the anchor at 6am and head to Trollfjord…

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