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Securing a boat without coming alongside a quay or pontoon can be done by mooring and anchoring. Moorings are laid in harbours, rivers, and bays providing convenient securing points for visiting or resident yachts.
A sail boat mooring is one or more heavy anchors or seabed weights attached to a heavy chain riser. This riser is attached to a floating mooring buoy. Light craft boat moorings have a small buoy that is picked up and brought on board through a bow fairlead and secured to a cleat.
Other sailboat moorings consist of a larger mooring buoy fitted with a ring on top to where the boat is tied with a mooring line. Another is a separate small pick-up buoy which is brought aboard to secure the boat. Laid in rows called [ trots ], boat moorings are found along the edges of river channels in line with the tidal flow.
When visiting a harbour with visitors' boat mooring buoys, select a suitable boat mooring which is strong enough and in water deep enough so that the yacht still floats at low tide. When mooring a boat ensure there is enough room for the yacht to swing around the buoy with the wind and tide without interfering with other craft. If planning an overnight stop, consider how sheltered the boat mooring is from wind and swell.
Assess how easy is it to approach and leave the boat mooring under power or sail, as well as its proximity to other boats and the shore. Be sure not to pick up a permanent mooring, as the owner may return and claim the berth.
When mooring a boat and before [ picking up ] fore-and-aft buoys, check their suitability for the size of boat. Reaching the buoys from the deck of a yacht has its difficulties. To be at the level to effectively pick up a buoy, the crew may have to lie on the deck with a boathook. Some fore-and-aft buoys have smaller [ pick-up buoys ] attached, making it easier for them to be pick up.
When leaving, tie the pick-up buoys together which makes recovery easier. Check the quality of the rope attaching them to the main buoys and if in doubt, rig your own lines to the mooring buoys.
Yachts should be equipped with two boat anchors which are rated to hold it securely in gale force conditions. The main or 'bower' boat anchor is the heavier of the two and matched to at least 50 metres of chain. The second or 'kedge' boat anchor should have 6 metres of heavy chain and at least 100 metres of plaited or braided nylon anchor warp.
When mooring a boat for short stops, the kedge is used when the weather is good, or for kedging-off the boat after running aground. The Bruce, CQR, Danforth, and Fortress anchors are all suitable boat anchors as they bury themselves well into seabeds of shingle, sand, or mud.
The [ Bruce ] is popular as a bower anchor, and the [Fortress] anchor is a good kedge option. A [ Fisherman's ] anchor is superior when anchoring on a rocky seabed. Offshore sailing requires the use the heaviest boat anchor that can be fitted on the yacht as it gives surety in exposed anchorages.
Boat anchor cable should be chain, although heavier than rope it is stronger. A nylon rope is suitable for the kedge as sometimes the boat anchor is used from the tender. The rope being lighter than chain makes positioning the anchor much easier.
The standard practice is to install a short length of chain between the boat anchor and the rope to protect from chafing from the seabed and combined with its [ catenary ], acts as a spring in gale-force conditions. The end of the chain or the bitter end is secured to a strong eye bolt with a rope lashing which can be cut in an emergency.
The holding power of a boat anchor is dependent on the amount of cable that is payed out; and in turn, will depend on the amount of cable carried and the depth of water. The minimum scope for chain is 3:1 and for rope 5:1 but where sufficient cable is available, increase these ratios to 5:1 and 8:1 respectively. In an exposed anchorage in rough conditions, paying out ten or more times the depth of water prevents the anchor dragging. Allow for the rise of tide if boat anchoring at low water.
Choosing an anchorage requires a check of tidal curves to determine the minimum depth at low tide. Allowances for boats already moored should be made, particularly if some are on rope and others on chain as they have different [ swinging circles ].
A sheltered anchorage from the wind at the time of boat anchoring may become untenable if there is a wind change and the anchorage becomes exposed. This also may happen when there is a change of direction of the tidal stream causing a change in the sea state.
Check the weather forecast before boat anchoring, taking into account any predicted changes in wind direction or strength. Consult the tidal atlas and tide tables to assess if the changes will affect the anchorage. If anchoring in shallow water, check the water level at low tide and whether there is sufficient water to keep afloat and to allow the yacht to leave safely at any time.
The approach and leaving techniques to moor and anchor are similar. The differences are the equipment and crew procedure. When arriving, decide on a method and route of approach with the aim of stopping the yacht at a spot to drop anchor or pick up the boat mooring.
More precision is required when picking up a buoy than anchoring. When anchoring, stop the yacht in the chosen spot and as the boat anchor is dropped, move the boat backwards to prevent the chain from fouling the anchor. A system of hand signals to allow communication between the foredeck and the cockpit is preferable as noise interferes with the spoken word.
Boat anchors and anchor chains on most cruising yachts of up to 10 metres can be handled safely without winches. On yachts greater than 10 metres, the use of manual or electric anchor winches to handle anchors and chains is essential.
When the wind is forward of the beam, approach on a close reach under mainsail alone.
- Let the sail flap in your final approach to stop the yacht
- If anchoring, wait for the boat to stop before dropping the anchor.
- Lower the mainsail after the yacht has fallen back and the anchor is set or mooring secured.
When the wind is aft of the beam, sail upwind of the boat mooring or anchor spot, lower the mainsail.
- Sail towards the mooring buoy or anchor spot under headsail alone.
- If the boat moves too fast in strong winds with the headsail sheet eased, lower or furl the headsail and sail under bare poles.
- In light winds, partly hoist the top of the mainsail to create sufficient power to counter the tide.
How to leave is determined by the wind direction. Decide on the route and check for obstructions, then brief the crew.
- If lying to a boat mooring, the boat is given steerage way by the buoy being pulled aft along one side before releasing it.
- When an anchor is being recovered, provide steerage way by pulling the boat to the anchor.
- If the wind is from ahead of the beam, leave under mainsail only or in light conditions, mainsail and headsail together.
- If it is on or abaft the beam, leave under headsail alone.
- Break the anchor out before the headsail is hoisted, sailing slowly as the anchor is stowed.
- Hoist the headsail when ready to drop the mooring.
- Sheet it in and sail away.
- Sail into clear water before turning head-to-wind.
- Hoist the mainsail then sail off on the preferred course.
Approach a boat mooring or anchorage under power into the strongest element either the wind or the tide. This gives maximum control over where the yacht stops. If not sure what is the stronger element, look at similar boat types that are moored or anchored. Plan the course to clear other boats or obstructions along with an escape route in case of unforeseen circumstances. Brief the crew and have them prepare a mooring warp or anchor and cable.
- When leaving, the yacht will be pointing towards the wind or tide, whatever is the strongest.
- This is the direction that the boat will set off, unless there is an obstruction.
- Drop the mooring buoy or motor forward to pick up the anchor.
- Reduce speed as you head into the wind or tide.
It is preferable to pick up a mooring than to come alongside. One or two crew members should have a mooring line and boathook ready pick up the boat mooring. To check the approach and inspect the mooring’s pick-up arrangement, make a dummy run. With larger cruisers, the bow can be high out of the water causing difficulty in picking up the buoy or to thread a mooring line. If this is the case, come alongside the buoy where the freeboard is usually less, just forwards of the shrouds.
- The foredeck crew equip themselves with a boathook and mooring warp.
- When making the approach, the helmsman may lose sight of buoy in the final stage, so the foredeck crew should indicate the position and distance of the buoy by hand signals.
- When the buoy is alongside, the foredeck crew hooks the buoy and either pulls the pick-up buoy on board or ties the mooring line to the buoy ring or to the chain under the buoy.
- A round-turn through the ring is made and then a bowline is tied.
- If a pick-up buoy is pulled aboard, the condition of the rope or chain between it and the main riser should be checked. If the condition of the rope or chain is unsound, use a warp to tie to the main chain with the mooring line being led through a fairlead.
- Lead the strop through the bow roller to a substantial cleat, bollard or Sampson post.
- Secure the lighter rope of the pick-up buoy over the strop to prevent it skipping off and insert the bow roller pin to prevent the strop jumping out of the bow roller.
When leaving a boat mooring, the foredeck crew prepares to disengage from the buoy immediately on command. If a pick-up buoy is aboard, its line is uncleated and held with a turn around the cleat. When the buoy is dropped, the skipper is informed when it is clear of the boat. If a mooring rope has been tied to the buoy or chain, it is led again as a slip line and can then be easily released and recovered.
Some tidal harbours or rivers have pile moorings which provide fore and aft moorings along the edges of a channel, parallel to the main tide flow. [ Piles ] are large wooden or metal stakes driven into the seabed equipped with mooring fittings. Boats often raft up between pile moorings but there is usually a limit to the number of boats allowed on each pair of piles. When rafted between a pile mooring, all the boats must secure to the piles as well as to the neighbouring vessels.
Leaving a pile mooring is a simple procedure the only consideration is the exit in relation to any nearby hazards. When lying alone between a pair of piles, leave into the tide, either bow or stern first. If inside a raft, recover the pile lines using the tender, then leave as for a raft. If on the outside, recover your pile lines and leave as for an alongside berth.
Leave into the Tide
- Pull the yacht up to the up tide pile and pay out the other line.
- If leaving bow first, rig the bow line as a slip
- Drop back to the stern pile and release it.
- Motor ahead and slip the bow line.
- When a strong wind on the beam may cause difficulties
- Rig both bow and stern lines as slips.
- Ease both out allowing the boat to blow to leeward
- Slip both lines and motor away into the tide.
Picking up a pile mooring is simple if selecting empty piles then only two mooring lines are needed and the operation can be completed from on deck. If choosing to come alongside another boat, approach as for an alongside berth. Six warps or lines plus fenders will be needed, and the tender will be used to attach the pile lines. Plan to approach into the strongest element and brief the crew in advance with a boathook handy and the mooring lines.
- Stop the yacht alongside the rear pile
- Keep the pile ahead of the shrouds when stopped.
- Attach the stern line.
- Motor forwards to the bow pile and attach the bow line.
- Adjust both lines positioning the yacht midway between the piles.
A Strong Wind on Beam
- Approach the leeward side of stern pile
- Stop with the pile alongside the windward shroud.
- Secure the stern line.
- With the bow angled to windward, motor forward.
- Stop with the bow pile on the leeward bow.
- Secure the bow line
- Centre the yacht between the piles.
To leave under sail is a fairly easy manoeuvre if berthed alone between pile moorings. If the yacht is the outside boat in a raft on piles, it may be possible to leave under sail if on the leeward side, after using the tender to recover the pile lines.
Pile moorings are found in tidal areas so it is best to leave bow into the tide giving the most control. If lying stern to the tide, use warps or lines to turn the boat before trying to leave. Now with the bow pointing into the tide, the method of leaving is determined by wind direction.
Under sail, use the mainsail alone, or with the headsail, with the wind forward of the beam, and the headsail alone if the wind is on or aft of the beam. Rig the bow and stern lines as slips before hoisting sails, and manipulate them to turn the yacht to help it sail off.
Wind Forward of the Beam
- Rig both pile lines as slips
- Prepare the mainsail for hoisting.
- Hoist the mainsail and let it flap freely
- Cast off the stern line.
- Pull in on the bow line to give the boat steerage way.
- Slip the bow line and sail away.
When approaching a pile mooring under sail make the approach into the strongest element.
- Brief the crew well in advance,
- Make a dummy run to assess the situation.
- Prepare bow and stern lines and have a boathook to hand.
When the wind is on or aft of the beam, approach under headsail alone
- Make the bow warp fast.
- Lower the mainsail
- Drop back to the stern pile to attach the stern warp.
- Centre the yacht between the piles.
- Use the jib sheet to control speed.
- In this case, use a running moor.
- Let the jib flap to stop by the stern pile first.
- Attach the stern warp
- Sail on to the bow pile to attach the bow warp.
- Where the wind is light and the yacht cannot make way over the tide, hoist the top part of the mainsail to produce extra drive.