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Anchoring and Mooring


'Have a cuppa' method of anchor setting

On the West Coast of Scotland we met a couple who did all their intricate pilotage and manoeuvres under sail. This included anchoring, even in confined coves. Their boat had a working engine, but they used it only for motoring in extensive calms, getting in and out of marinas and, most importantly, for setting their anchor after the initial drop. However, they were convinced that once you dropped your anchor, especially on a kelpy, weedy or otherwise difficult bottom, the best way to get it to set was to make a cup of tea. This gave the anchor 10 minutes or so in which to work its way onto the bottom through any obstructions. A slow application of reverse power then completed the job that the anchor had begun for itself.

We are convinced that they are right, especially for CQR anchors, which refuse to set if you drop them and immediately motor backwards at five knots. Give the anchor a chance. It does also help to have good heavy chain to keep the pull on the anchor parallel to the bottom or nearly so. The modern tendency to use light, high test chain does little to help anchor setting.

Warp reels and flaking long ropes

Stowing long warps - over 50 metres - is always difficult. No matter how carefully coiled, they almost always emerge from the locker looking like over-cooked spaghetti. There are two solutions.

A warp reel, secured to the deck with its axis fore and aft is a convenient and efficient means of stowing up to 200 metres of rope. Aligning the reel this way allows line to be paid out very quickly, through a snatch block on the rail, either fore or aft, for anchoring or tying up ashore. Re-stowing the line is a little time-consuming, but with practice takes no longer than coiling. Aligning the axis of the reel athwartships is less flexible in use, unless the reel is mounted quite high up, which is undesirable for weight distribution, windage and vulnerability to waves. Our own reel, bolted fore and aft on the coachroof, holds about 180 metres of 16mm, double-braid nylon line.

Sometimes it is convenient to keep a long line, of up to 120 metres, on deck ready for use to tie ashore, either for med mooring or tying to trees. A normal, circular coil, even if kept tidy with light line ties, will not uncoil cleanly. It will end up a tangled mess. It is more effective to flake the line in overlapping figures of eight, which are much more likely to uncoil cleanly. A flaked coil of this kind can be tied with light lines for stowage or for tossing into the dinghy for mooring to the shore.

Tying to trees ashore

In many of the more challenging cruising areas, such as the Chilean Canales, Alaska and Fiordland in New Zealand, mooring by tying to trees is virtually a necessity both for the safety of the boat and for a decent night's sleep.

Opinions differ about this best type of line to use for this purpose. Polypropylene has the advantage that it is cheap and floats, which keeps it clear of kelp and the propeller. However, it is not as strong as nylon, polyester or spectra and must therefore be of larger diameter. Polypropylene is also not very nice to handle nor easy to stow. The long lengths needed for tying ashore are not generally very useful for any other purpose. Nylon and polyester can be of smaller diameter and spectra even smaller. They can be used for other purposes, such as anchor rode and are easy to stow, but are a good deal more expensive.

The object of the exercise is that the boat should end up moored to the windward shore with at least two stern lines and an anchor forward. For very confined spots two bow lines can be added. The ease of the whole manoeuvre depends a great deal on the ability of your boat to reverse reliably into confined spaces and hold position against the wind, once the anchor is down. Most cruising boats cannot do this. As a result, once the anchor is down, the helms-person must hold the boat in position while the first line is rowed ashore. Some crews pay out the line from the yacht while the dinghy tows it ashore. It is far easier to put the whole line in the dink, row ashore, tie it to a tree and then row back paying out the line. This way the line is not being towed and the rower is returning down-wind. This first line should be long, probably at least 120 meters, even if the stern ends up only 20-40 metres from the shore. With the first line aboard, the boat can be winched round until the stern is toward the shore, when the engine can help reverse into position and the second line got ashore. It is very helpful for unmooring in the morning if the lines are long enough to allow very long bowlines which can be loosed from the dinghy without going ashore.


The New Bahamian Moor

Bahamian mooring has been around for a long time as a method of lying to two anchors on separate rodes dropped from the bow. However, the standard methods proposed by most books and articles which cover the subject are cumbersome and do not achieve the level of security of which the moor is capable. The first of the standard methods involves tying a rolling hitch in the rope rode of the secondary anchor around the primary rode, usually chain. Tying a rolling hitch in the middle of 50-100 metres of heavy line is not an inviting prospect. The second method requires the shackling of a swivel to the primary chain and then the shackling of the secondary anchor rode to the swivel. This method has all the disadvantages of the first and also requires a very heavy swivel.

There is an easier and more effective alternative. The two anchors should be laid out in opposite directions from each other, preferably with the primary toward the direction of likely greatest wind. A large, strong snatch block is then shackled to the primary chain. The secondary rope rode is led through the snatch block and the chain with the block is lowered until it is well below the keel. The chain is made fast, but the rope rode is then taken in until the two anchors are effectively dug in hard against each other, with the two rodes rising in parallel up to the bow rollers. With this method you have effectively laid a mooring, which limits the boat's swing, allowing it to weather-cock without excessive yawing. At any time that there is sufficient wind to begin raising the snatch block, this tends to dig the anchors in more firmly against each other. The anchors never have to reset because the pull is always in approximately the same direction no matter how the boat lies.

With the two standard methods, there is no possibility of adjusting the tensions of the rodes once the anchors are laid. Because the attachment of the rodes must be done with at least the secondary fairly slack, there will be a good deal of slack in the system. The boat inevitably tends to lie to one rode with the other slack. Though swing is somewhat limited, there will still be a tendency to yaw and there may be enough movement that the anchors will have to reset if the boat lies to a new wind direction.

We use the new Bahamian moor a lot, both when strong winds are predicted and when it is important to limit swing, as in a river or a mooring field. The moor is particularly effective in anchorages where the are strong williwaws, a situation in which many boats finally drag. The moor also keeps the rodes off the bottom and clear of chafe in coral or foul anchorages. Un-mooring can be a little time-consuming, but we feel that the extra security makes this well worthwhile.

 Tandem Anchoring - Just how does it work?

We know a number of experienced cruisers who swear by tandem anchoring. We also know others who are very skeptical of it. Tandem anchoring employs two anchors on the same rode. Usually a lighter anchor of a different type is attached to the trip line ring of the bower anchor by a short length of chain. Opinions vary on the length of this chain, some using a metre or less others as much as ten metres. Though it is common to use the trip line ring of the bower as the attachment point, in fact anchor manufacturers have pointed out that these rings are not generally strong enough to take the full load of anchoring. In addition this ring is often at a point on the anchor which might actually help to unset it.

Devotees of tandem anchoring claim that the use of two anchors of different types ensures that varied holding characteristics of different bottoms are catered for and that even when anchors are re-setting there should be at least one well dug in. Most devotees admit that retrieving the anchors is somewhat cumbersome, but this is true of all systems using two anchors.

While not denying that tandem anchoring may work in practice, the skeptics, which include us, wonder just how it works. After all, if the bower anchor is dug in and holding, the lighter secondary anchor must be doing little or nothing. If the bower unsets in heavy conditions, the boat is then lying to the lighter anchor and the bower is no more than an anchor weight. From this point of view it would make more sense to place the bower ahead of the lighter anchor. On balance, it seems very unlikely that both anchors would or could dig in firmly at the same time. Thus, though there are two anchors down, you would only actually be held by one anchor at any one time and sometimes this would be the lighter of the two. This does not seem a sensible use of two anchors.





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