CHICKEN ISLAND, Thailand // Sailing was easy for the past 4 days until we broke the anchor windlass. The windlass is the small device on the front of the boat that raises and lowers your anchor. We hadn't had a single problem the entire time and were sitting peacefully at the anchorage after day 4. The sun had just set, and we had just finished dinner. We turned on the navigation equipment and were in 6 meters of water, and seemed way too close to the reef.
We needed to move to deeper water. The problem is if you anchor in too shallow water you run the risk of swinging into the reef during the middle of the night. If you decide to anchor in too deep of water you run the risk of the anchor not setting and dragging along the bottom, possibly catching onto a rock or getting caught in the reef.
As we were laying the anchor in the new spot we went too fast, and one of the chain links got caught sideways, putting too much force on the windlass causing a fuse to blow. The next 3 hours involved us using a screwdriver and hammer chiseling the chain link out, and replacing the fuse in the moonlight. Eventually the problem was solved, the windlass was fixed, and we anchored safely for the night. This served as a reminder that everything can be fine at one time, but one small thing can stem into other problems, that can turn into huge problems.
The previous day when we were eating lunch, I scanned the horizon for boats before putting our sailboat into autopilot. As I was finishing off a can of Pringles, I noticed a huge garbage bag floating in the water right next to the boat as we motored by it. Had that gotten caught in our propellor, or sucked up by our engine, it would have been another catastrophic problem, and we would have been literally stuck in the middle of the Andaman Sea, trying to report a problem on the VHF radio where no one speaks English.
In the end though, fortunately we did not experience any major issues besides the temporarily broken windlass. What we learned from this is to always be on the lookout for these small problems. Sailing should be relaxing and easy, but a minor issue or simply not paying attention, can cause complete havoc on your boat and sailing plans.