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Mediterranean Mooring Techniques

In the vitually tideless Mediterranean, it's common to moor bows or stern to a pontoon or quay, using fenders to keep boats apart, while your anchor or a mooring line holds you from the quay.  Your anchor will be used far more often than (for instance) in southern England, often in quite demanding circumstances.

End On Mooring

Mooring lines are common in marinas, and on many town quays in the West Mediterranean and Adriatic. They are usually linked to the quay by a light messenger line. The technique is to position bows or stern to the quay, send a line ashore to stop the vessel moving away from the quay, then pick up the messenger line with a boat hook. Once the messenger line is in hand (gloves are essential, many sharp little shellfish live on these ropes!), pull away from the quay while walking to the far end of the boat. Keep pulling until the main mooring line is aboard. Make it up on a suitable cleat. Then adjust warps and fenders. Occasionally, the line is connected to a buoy; in this case, pick the buoy up with the boat hook as you close the quay. When leaving, before engaging gear, pull the boat out with the mooring line, and wait until the prop is well clear of all lines. If you cut a line with your prop, the marina will insist you recover the line, or pay for a diver to do so.

Own Anchor. Using your own anchor to moor end on is common in the eastern Mediterranean town or village quaysides. Drop the anchor about 5 boat lengths from the quay, at right angles to the planned berth, and preferably between neighbouring anchor lines. Let the rode run out freely for about three boat lengths as you close with the quay. Then hold the rode until some tension comes on to straighten it and dig the anchor in. From then on, use the rode as a brake. 

Bows- or stern-to? ‘Bows-to’ has the advantage of more manouevrability, especially in strong crosswinds, and gives more privacy once moored. But you’ll need to develop a suitable system for handling your kedge at the stern, and a technique for jumping ashore from the bow, since quaysides are often low. In harbours where there is ballast below the wall, bows-to may be the only way to approach close enough. ‘Stern-to’ is more difficult to achieve (some vessels really don’t do straight backwards) and requires teamwork between the anchor person and the helm, or a cockpit control for the anchor winch. Anticipation of prop walk, and the hazards of a whizzing prop close to other people’s lines and chains raise the adrenaline levels. A bigger anchor holding you off the quay is the reward. Chain stretches less than a rope rode in a cross wind, and ropes may need to be sunk below the props of passing boats - a good use for an old CQR . . .

Harbour Hazards

Crossed anchors. End-on mooring using your own anchor has shortcomings. It is common for anchor lines to be crossed, especially where there are many inexperienced crews, or where the quay is slightly concave. It’s then best to be on board when neighbours depart — to sort out the mess after they've moved your hook.

Fouled Anchor. The time will come when you lift someone else's anchor or chain. Pull it right up (ask them for slack if necessary), thread a rope loop under their chain to hold it up, lower your anchor, pull it aside until it's well free, then drop their chain by releasing one end of your rope loop. Alternatively, buy a releasing hook, and fish for the offending chain with this.

Heavy Wash. Some harbours suffer periods of heavy wash - as ferries arrive, or fishermen swarm out. This sets up heavy rolling among yachts abreast of each other. To preserve your masthead gear, make sure your masts aren't aligned with your neighbour's. 

Strong Wind Anchorages

There will be times when, in a sheltered anchorage, a 25kt plus wind causes your vessel to sheer from side to side (less common with long keel vessels). To reduce the chance of lateral jerks pulling your anchor up, lay a second anchor in a 'forked moor' with the two anchors 60 degrees apart. You'll then yaw much less, and the anchor which sharply pulls you around will be correctly aligned, with much less chance of being upset.

A long Line Ashore

A long line ashore serves if anchorages become crowded, or where the coast line dips steeply into the water. For the latter,  assess 'how steep'. The technique is to back onto the shore with some 40m of chain deployed, letting more out once it touches the bottom. Meanwhile, your lines are taken ashore whilst you reverse . . . requires a crew member who is competent in the tender, or a strong swimmer taking a light messenger line. Swimming shoes strongly advised to avoid sea urchin damage. Tying the line around trees is bad for trees - and illegal in some countries.

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