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VISAR – Thoughts about Moorings

Overnight moorings versus anchoring? Here in the British Virgin Islands it’s
quite a dilemma for many boaters.Why
is this decision a topic for a VISAR column?
The reason is that VISAR’s crews are frequently called out either to
help people who have dragged anchor in the middle of the night and are in
danger of being run ashore, or they are needed to help in situations where
people have crushed fingers while picking up moorings.

There’s the bit of you that wants to find
those wonderful “secret spots” in which to spend the night, away from the
madding crowds – bobbing serenely under a star-filled sky; then there’s the
part of you that wants to dine ashore and seek out the night-time action.

When you find the secluded and tranquil
bays you inevitably have to anchor – there’s a good reason there a re no
moorings – there’s no commercial advantage attached to the cost of installation
and maintenance of the moorings.The
problems with anchoring are severalfold.
Many of those charter boats frequently don’t have much experience of
anchoring overnight.Often, the captain
of the boat spends the entire night doing a good imitation of a meerkat –
popping a head through the hatch whenever a puff of wind causes the boat to
move.If you do find that the anchor is
dragging you’ve suddenly to be totally awake and alert, as do your crew.
You’re on a boat that’s new to you and making sure that you hit the right
breakers for the deck lights and windlass and get the engine started.
Not easy.
Toes are stubbed on deck fittings as you fumble in the dark.
When you finally get the anchor re-set you
inevitably just doze for the rest of the night as you can’t be totally sure
that you’re going to hold for the rest of the night.
You greet the new day tired and wondering what in heaven’s name
is restful about sleeping on a boat!

If you decided that you wanted to spend the
night in a more sociable spot then the odds are that you can choose between
picking up a mooring or anchoring.
Except for the fact that the moorings have already been installed in the
more favourable anchoring spots it ought to be a relatively easy decision to
make.If you’ve arrived late in the
afternoon the odds are that the moorings will all be occupied and you’ve the
challenge of anchoring in a tight spot of deep water.

Assuming that the basics of anchoring and
mooring are understood, what are the secrets of making both manoeuvres safe and
efficient?When approaching a mooring
or preparing to anchor have you ensured that you have a clearly understood set
of hand signals for communication between the bow and the helm?
Have you a real appreciation of way and
windage?

Let’s take anchoring first.
If you read any of the standard yachtsman’s
guides the recommendation is for a ratio of 3:1 for daytime anchoring and 5:1
for overnight.Why not go 5:1 for
daytime and 7:1 for overnight.These
days almost every boat is equipped with an electric windlass so hauling all the
rode & chain back in isn’t exactly a hardship, and the benefits of the
extra scope are unquestionable.Do you
really back down hard enough to ensure that the anchor is well dug in?
Do you snorkel to get a good visual
confirmation that the flukes of the anchor aren’t fouled by something or that
your chain isn’t bumping against coral?

Overnight moorings are robust.
Generally they have 1”-1 1½” nylon line for
the pennant, with a generous eye spliced into the trailing end.
Sometimes making the eye fast around a deck
cleat on a 35′ yacht is a serious challenge.
This, combined with a lack of/confused communication between the crew
member and the helm, can readily result in fingers being squashed between the
line and the cleat.There is an element
of human nature that finds it very difficult to let go and do it all again, and
overcoming that isn’t easy.Try tying
off a line from the starboard bow cleat and running it under the
lifelines.When you’ve hooked the
mooring run the bow line through the eye of the pennant and around to the
opposite bow cleat, effectively creating a short bridle.
Be careful though not to make it too long,
as you may run the risk of bumping into your neighbours.
Make it too short and whoever is sleeping in
the forepeak will spend the night listening to the anchor clanking at their
feet.Play with it and you’ll find a
good workable length.This also makes
for very easy casting off in the morning.

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