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Mediterranean Mooring & Anchoring

In the virtually tideless Mediterranean, it's common to moor end on (bows-to or stern-to) using fenders to keep boats apart. Meanwhile, your anchor or a mooring line holds you off a quay or pontoon.  Your anchor will be also be used far more often than (for instance) in southern England, often in quite demanding circumstances. Read on for hints:

End On Mooring

Prepare. It's S A F E R to brief the crew first . . .

  • Sails stowed
  • Anchor ready to run
  • Fenders, 3 per side
  • Engine running
  • Ropes ready to throw, one each side, windward one to be made up first

Mooring lines are common in marinas and town quays, linked to the quay by a messenger or pick-up line.

  • Arriving. Manoeuvre bows or stern to the quay, send the windward line ashore. Pick up the messenger line with a boat hook. Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp shellfish, and pull the boat away from the quay while you're walking away from it. You'll reach the main mooring line. Make it up to a suitable cleat. 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.
  • Leaving. Cast off the quay side ropes, leeward first. Pull the boat out with the mooring line, and wait for the messenger line to sink. Engage gear when all ropes are well below keel level.
  • If you cut a line with your prop, the marina will insist you recover it, or pay for a diver to do so.

Own Anchor. Using your own anchor to hold off from the quay is common in the East Mediterranean. Find a slot. Approach between neighbour's anchor lines. Drop the anchor 3 to 5 boat lengths from the quay. Let the rode run out steadily until you're a length from the quay, then slow the rode to dig the anchor in and slow the boat. Throw windward line ashore - or go closer to step ashore if there's no-one to help.

Bows- or stern-to? Some sort of passerelle may be needed once you're moored up; anything from a 2cm x 20cm x 200cm wooden plank to a neat hydraulically driven gangway will do.

  • ‘Bows-to’ gives more manoeuvrability, especially in strong crosswinds, and 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 either teamwork between the anchor person and the helm (a hand signal system, or blue-tooth communications), 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 with an un-choppable chain holding you off the quay is the reward. Use Nisos Charter's video to brief your crew for stern to.

Harbour Hazards

Crossed anchors. Using your own anchor has shortcomings. Crossed anchor lines are common, especially among inexperienced crews, or where the quay is 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. One day, you'll lift someone else's anchor or chain. Pull it right up (ask for slack if necessary), thread a rope loop under the item, lower your own anchor and pull it free to one side, then drop the over-lying 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. Additionally, rig your boat to allow a lot of fore and aft surging, probably using crossed stern lines as springs.

Yawing at Anchor

At anchor, a 25kt plus wind may cause your vessel to sheer from side to side. This is less common with long keel vessels. Options for safer anchoring in strong winds are:

  • Reduce Yawing. A vee shaped stern sail, with the vee at the luff, and clews hauled down to tbe boat's quarters effectively reduces yawing.
  • Forked Moor. If you still yaw at anchor, reduce the chance of lateral jerks pulling your anchor up. Lay a second anchor in a 'forked moor' with the two anchors 60 - 90 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

When anchorages are crowded or narrow, or the coast dips steeply into the water, a long line ashore may be needed to reduce swinging room. With any off- or cross-shore wind, you'll need a crew member who is competent in the tender, or a strong swimmer taking a light messenger line, or a lot of ingenuity. Swimming shoes are strongly advised to avoid sea urchin damage. Tying the line around trees may damage them - and is illegal in some countries. So use alternatives to anchor your line.


Reviewed June 2016


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