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Thursday, February 01, 2018

MOORING STERN-TO SHORE

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina for the winter while we are in Auckland enjoying summer.

Many aspects of cruising in the Med are completely different to those found in New Zealand and one major difference is how cruisers secure themselves over-night.
Most cruising boats in New Zealand waters are privately owned and the vast majority of their skippers prefer to swing to their anchors overnight and experience the tranquility of eating aboard. But this is the least common preference for boats cruising in the Med, where there are many chartered boats, mostly bareboat sailing yachts. It's mainly Europeans who charter here, typically for one to two weeks duration and mostly having several people aboard making meal preparation aboard more challenging. In any case they mostly don't want to spend their limited vacation time preparing meals, but savoring the atmosphere of the many tavernas ashore.
Add to this that some charter boats aren't equipped with ground tackle suitable for the occasional strong winds and that many don't have experienced skippers aboard and the result is there's often a reluctance to anchor. Instead many crews prefer to overnight in marinas (an expensive option), or moor stern-to a village quayside or a taverna's jetty (the latter two options being mostly free of charge).
In areas where the above options aren't available most boats moor stern-to shore, that is they deploy their anchor, reverse close to shore and secure stern lines to rocks, trees or embedded steel rings which are sometimes provided so that yachts can secure their lines safely and without damaging trees.
One advantage of this system is that small to medium sized bays can accommodate larger numbers of boats moored stern-to shore than free-anchored. Another is that small boats moving at speed in the mooring area (which is common in the Med) can only pass by off your bow. Also some bays are very deep for anchoring but shelve up to the shore making stern-to mooring a better option, especially because there's very little tide to be a concern.
But I want to highlight several major disadvantages we've observed with this system.
- It takes considerably more time to deploy and retrieve your anchor and stern lines than just to deploy and retrieve your anchor.
- At least one and sometimes two crew members need to go ashore to secure and free your stern lines and moving on can be tricky at night and/or in deteriorating conditions.
- Lines can become fouled in running gear during deployment and retrieval.
- It's possible to damage your rudder, running gear or keel when reversing into shallow water.
- Rodents and other vermin can come aboard using your stern lines, although the use of rat shields on lines will reduce this.
- Other boats will often moor stern-to very close-by, even alongside and this reduces your privacy.
- While mooring stern-to is generally secure with winds over the bow or stern, problems can occur if strong beam winds develop with the added windage causing anchors to drag or stern lines to break. If strong beam winds do cause problems it's a good idea to deploy a strong line to from roughly amidships at the greatest angle possible to a securing point ashore. If you are anchored stern-to and your boat starts dragging sideways the best course of action may be to release your stern lines and swing to your anchor. This could at least be a temporary measure while other options are considered. Strong beam winds are a lesser problem mooring stern-to quaysides where boats are packed tightly together.
You can spend a few entertaining late afternoon hours observing cruisers trying to moor stern-to shore; dropping their anchors too far from shore and running out of chain before they can deploy their lines, dropping their anchors too close to shore and dragging their anchors, unable to reverse into a space during a strong beam wind or fouling other moored boats' ground tackle.
Another common mistake is that crews moor stern-to with their anchor chain and stern lines completely taut allowing no movement and placing additional strain on all parts of the system.
Recently we saw a yacht's crew making several attempts to deploy their stern lines, finally securing them to trees. Shortly afterwards a moderate breeze sprang up and the yacht's weight pulled one tree out by its roots amid a minor landslide of rocks and dirt.
In a strong wind it's generally much safer to simply free anchor so that your boat swings its bow into the wind resulting in the least windage.