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Sailing with Charlie: Mooring

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The season has been extraordinary. The number of private yachts, charter boats, superyachts and megayacht power vessels has been overwhelming. It’s putting a great strain on the mooring ball system where, in many anchorages, there are not enough to go round and no room to add any more. In the BVI the use of a mooring rather than a yacht’s own ground tackle is vigorously encouraged by charter boat companies since more and more neophyte yachtsmen do not have the necessary experience to anchor safely.

Most yachtsmen try to make it to their evening destination close to midday to ensure they’ll get a mooring and often those who leave it too late are frustrated when none are available. For those safely moored the antics of novices trying to tie up provide a source of entertainment; ribald hilarity in some cases.

Recently Charlie had to shake his head in disbelief at the antics of two yachts, both racing for the last available mooring at a popular anchorage. There was no slow approach from downwind – both yachts of approximately 40ft were barreling along at close to six knots and both had an armed (with long boathook) person ready at the bow. Boat A had a heavyset lady, wearing a black swimsuit, at the ready. Boat B’s bow person was an elderly and paunchy European in a Speedo. They got to within screaming range of each other.

Boat A: Back away! We saw this mooring first.”

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Boat B: “Non, non, zees ees not possible. We are ‘ere.” (Possibly French.)

Boat A: Bow woman has boat hook raised in a defiant manner. Boats are within 15ft of each other. Helmsman rams boat into reverse to try and avoid collision. Black smoke pours from exhaust. Both bow persons are reaching for the mooring pennant, Paunchy gets it first. Bow woman raises her boat hook and brings it down, thwack, onto the back of Paunchy. Paunchy loses the mooring line but has a back up crew who quickly manages to secure it – improperly. Now, each boat’s bow roller and anchor are scraping together and finally Boat A has to concede defeat with a certain amount of effing and blinding. Several boats in the anchorage are cheering and clapping …

This kind of behavior does not lend itself to a stress free yachting holiday.

When it comes to anchoring how many other yachtsmen have had a situation whereby another boat (S/V Obstinate) drops anchor and, when the necessary scope has been paid out, his stern is only a few feet away from your bow. You shout over politely that perhaps he’s a little too close only to be told that all is fine. Here’s the trick: Surreptitiously start your engine and give it a quick burst in forward and then shut it down immediately. As your boat slowly moves forward and softly nudges Obstinate’s stern yell over again and reiterate your concern. As he inspects his stern for scratches he’ll likely concur and move. If he doesn’t, take your dinghy and inspect your bow. Then tell him that repairs to scratches are an expensive ordeal and could you have his registration or documentation details.

Sometimes cunning is a wonderful tool.


Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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