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How to dock a Cat
Here is an email we received from a student asking about how to dock a Catamaran.
Good day Grant and team,
Your Catamaran Sailing Confidence course is great thank you and achieved for me the confidence you designed it to do. I am bare boat chartering a catamaran in the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland, Australia in a few weeks and, while I have reasonable keel boat experience, your course gave me the complete picture of catamaran sailing. Thank you.
I have one question which I would appreciate you answering: How do you dock a catamaran side on to a dock, for example, at the very end of a marina arm or alongside a long jetty?
Section 2.1 of your course explains manoeuvring under power (spin; slow forwards turn; vector) and sections 2.5.1 and 2.5.2 discuss getting out and coming back to the dock. However, other than the repetition of the vectoring animation, I don’t see an explicit description of how to dock the catamaran side-on to a dock.
Would you recommend vectoring and if so, where would you position the boat relative to the jetty (i.e. how far away and where relative to the two yachts you could be docking between)?
Alternatively, would you recommend approaching the dock forwards at a shallow angle, turn the wheel hard away from the berth when the bow nearest the dock is within (half?) a boat length of the dock and then, and when the bow nearly touches the dock vector the boat to the dock (or spin the stern of the hull closest to the dock towards the dock)?
I would value hearing your views which I will be putting into practice in the Hamilton Island Marina at the end of August. Thanks very much.
Kevin here is our answer. Dock the Catamaran exactly as you would a monohull. We’ve included an animation below of how we do it on a tight space. The advantage to docking a catamaran is the extreme awesome ability to maneuver. You don’t have to worry about propwalk either. Just steer the boat in at an angle. As the bow gets close, round the boat out to glide parallel with the dock and engage reverse to stop the boat. As below you can use springing with a dock line forward to drive the aft in. But you don’t need to lend on the spring as much because with the bow held by the spring the aft will naturally spin in with engines engaged opposite.
As with all our recommendations on maneuvering, try this out in deep water next to a floating buoy.
Thanks so much for the compliment on the catamaran sailing course – we get a lot and it is one of our most popular courses.
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Using a Breton Plotter aka Portland Plotter to determine a course
The marvel of eLearning courses is that when you do an upgrade – it is instantly live. No waiting for the next publication print run.
Here we have added an animation of using the Breton Plotter to determine a course in Long Island Sound from a buoy we are passing close to – to the entrance buoy to New London Harbor. We want to know the true and magnetic course. Note this is not equivalent to your heading. Heading will take into account leeway and current.
Have fun with this animation and please share with your friends.
Learn how to navigate like the pros with the NauticEd Coastal Navigation Course.
Coastal Navigation Course
Stand-On and Give-Way: You just might have it wrong
FIRST If you think boaters should know the Rules of Preventing Collision please LIKE this post via facebook or g+1 it. Thanks it really helps get the word out there and help water safety.
(Jump directly to the FREE updated International Rules of Preventing Collision at Sea course it’s quick, easy and entertaining)
Two sail boats collide. One had wind over their port side and one had wind over their starboard side. The starboard tack boat saw the port tack boat and gave the port tack boat plenty of warning with a horn, but the port boat just kept on going straight. Who will loose the legal battle in court? Are you really sure? If you said starboard is the stand-on boat over port you could be dead wrong.
Below, the aft boat who is on a starboard tack catches up to the forward port tack boat. Port tack boat does not get out of the way and starboard passes close just to prove the point that port should give way because port gives way to starboard right? right? But there is a collision because port refused to move – who’d loose?
Starboard Tack Boat and Port Tack Boat – who gives way?
Power boats give way to sailboats right? So if a power boat collides into a sailboat the powerboat looses in court right? Well maybe not!
The above might have a few sailboaties jumping up and down wanting to pick up the phone and call us – first you might want to take a look through our new Navigation Rules Course.
Inspired by our Sailing School Instructor, Tim McMahon of Sail Quest in Thailand we have revamped our Navigation Rules Course. And because of Tim’s passion for explaining the dry – we were able to turn a completely dry topic into something interesting and engaging. In fact, we actually guarantee that you will love this course AND we guarantee you will learn something. If you do neither then we’ll give you money back on this course – well that’s slightly hard because the course is free. But none the less – OUR NEW NAVIGATION RULES COURSE ROCKS – thanks Tim McMahon of SailQuest Thailand.
What we did with the revamp of this course was to go through the International Regulations on Preventing Collision at Sea. We pull the rules apart and describe them with animations and example situations. Then we added a discussion about that rule to show who and why you might loose in court if there was a collision. What you say? But I was in the right! The discussion points out why even though you may have been the stand-on boat you might loose.
What this means is that everything you have learned from reading and learning the Rules of the Road might be wrong. This free sailing course is a definite must do and a definite must share.
Take the FREE Navigation Rules Course now.
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How to Understand True vs Apparent Wind
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Here is our latest wind animation built using html5 technology so that it works on computers and mobile devices. It means you can bookmark this page on your phone and use it to explain the concept of true vs apparent to anyone – even whilst out on the boat.
Slide the slider bar.
We are building this into our new basic sail trim iPad eLearning course. As soon as it is up we will link this page through to the App. In the meantime please enjoy true versus apparent wind animation explanation.
FREE SAILOR’S LOGBOOK ONLINE
The NauticEd Logbook has been greatly enhanced to add specific information about each logbook entry.
Previoulsy, you made an entry of a day of sailing in a specific month and identified which vessel you were on and if you were the skipper or a crew member. While this was great and served well to build up your legitimate logbook entries, we decided that you would be served better is you could add authenticity to this experience by having a crew mate verify this sailing venture actually happened. This necessitated that the actual day of the month is identified and this gave rise to the opportunity to add some more specific optional information about that sailing venture like sea conditions, miles travelled, crew mates present and other notes.
We also made the sailors logbook entry system smart and quick so that it would speed up your past history entry process. In addition, we made it easy to replace your old logbook entries with new ones. All you have to do is make a past history entry in the same month and the logbook will automatically replace any old style entries with new style entries. There is an edit your past history window page that allows you to see what still remains as an old style entry. Right now we are advising to not make entries using your NauticEd iPhone App, but to do them online instead – for now until the App is updated.
What is significant about the NauticEd Sailor’s Logbook is that it is unique. No other logbook in the world like this exists and especially no other logbook in the world allows you to gain authenticated entries through your crewmates who were present with you on the sailing venture.
Here is a screen shot of a logbook entry page for your Sailors Logbook below. Also see the article on Crew Mate Authentication ™
If you have not started your Sailor’s Logbook entry yet, Login now for free and get going. It serves as a permanent electronic Sailor’s Logbook stored in the cloud – forever – for FREE.
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Making a sailor’s logbook entry is incredibly simple
Sailing Vacation in Martinique
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The Lee family chartered a Dream Yachts Charter Catamaran for the month of June for an ultimate sailing vacation. They asked me to come with them to assist and enjoy their company for the first 2 weeks. Who can resist an offer like that? And besides – we at NauticEd needed some new chartering photos and some content material to write about. Thus for us it was a business trip.
Customer Service Calls with Beautiful Fort De France in the Background
Their loose plan was to start in Martinique and move south through the Grenadines and to just go with the flow of whatever sounded good. The only real agenda was to drop me off in St Vincent on June 14th to catch a flight back home. I’m writing this from San Juan airport in Puerto Rico in transit.
My following report on this style of chartering and what we did in my 2 weeks is going to be 5 star, 10/10. Read on!
Martinique was relatively easy to get to. There was a direct flight out of San Juan using Seaborne airlines. It arrived at 7pm and so because the base would be closed we pre-booked a taxi through Dream Yachts. This is the way to go because the taxi driver was informed of the boat slip and he took us right to the boat. The 48 foot Fountain Pugeot Catamaran was pre readied for us and we were delighted with its presentation to us by Dream Yacht Charters (DYC). We also provisioned the basics through DYC.
The next morning (Sunday) we lightly provisioned some perishables, got a chart briefing, a show through the boat, did customs and immigration paperwork (because we would be exiting the country via boat) and headed out.
Tides were not to be a problem throughout the whole trip. Here is the Navionics screen shot of the tides for Fort De France. They showed less than 1 foot if variation.
Tides in Fort De France
Without doing a complete day by day blow of all the events – I’ll give you the high level summary so that you can be convinced that Martinique et all is a definite must visit in your lifetime preferably sooner than later (just in case you’re run over by a car). One thing to note as you sail around is the incredible history that this whole area has had. For example, Napoleon’s Wife, Josephine, was born in Martinique and thus we visited a statue of her in the capital city of Fort De France. Fort De France itself is a wonderful city and while I’m not a big one on visiting a city on a sailing trip this is a must stop. The people there are all dressed impeccably, are extremely polite and all want to help. No one harassed us to buy things. We were left to ourselves to just enjoy. Thus, we ended up staying two nights in the bay right below the Fort Saint Louis area which was originally established in the Mid 1600′s.
Fort Saint Louis at Fort De France
The fruit and fish markets are wonderful and we stocked up, being grateful that we only lightly provisioned at the Base Marina.
Fruit provisioning in Fort De France Martinique
We moved up the coast to St. Piere and again were delighted by a wonderfully relaxing township. The town was destroyed completely in 1902 by the towering mass of the volcano, Mount Pelee, above the town with approximately 30,000 people perishing. Ruins of the previously extravagant theater still exist and are a tourist attraction blossoming with flowering Bougainivilleas. See the interesting Wikipedia story of Mt. Pelee.
We visited the rum factory in St. Piere which is a definite must visit as well. Local rum in Martinique is awesome some of it made by locals who sell in the markets and some more professionally made. Due to the microclimates created by the terrain, Martinique grows a lot of sugar cane – forming the basis of the rum.
Depaz Rum factory
Each day we downloaded the weather forecast onto our iPads with the PocketGrib App. It showed about 15-20 knots easterly. This is an incredibly useful App to have on a sailing venture like this. Read more about how to use PocketGRIB in our Electronic Navigation Course.
From Saint Piere, we decided to check out the windward side of Martinique. We set of about 9 in the morning. Upon getting closer to the north end the Atlantic swells came rolling in and winds picked up to about 23 knots. Whilst not that bad of conditions, the long tack we would have to do or to beat oursleves up heading directly into the swells lead us to a decision about 4 hours into it to just turn around and go back to St. Piere. The decision was not so much a chicken decision, but more based in that we wanted the crew to enjoy. Slogging it out for the next 2 days in a big swell when the leeward side offered nice wind and flat seas with frequent snorkeling stops seemed like a wiser decision. However – we heard that the windward side is awesome and so don’t let that discourage you from getting around there.
Back in St. Piere we snorkeled a wreck in about 25 feet of water. The bay there is littered with wrecks which were swallowed by the 1902 eruption. They provide a wonderful home for sea life including massive barrel sponges. For Customs and Immigration, we did an advance check out of the county in St. Piere.
St. Piere wreck
Heading south back down the coast we stopped at Petit Anse for an overnight. Ashore there we again found great markets and the local fisherman chopped off a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of tuna with his machete from a massive 60-70 kg tuna he had caught.
So that was one week – wow that went fast. Martinique people primarily speak French and they use Euros for money. Knowing some French will certainly help you get by – mine came in quite handy.
Next we moved onto St. Lucia with a stop in Rodney bay in the north. Here we checked in to Customs and Immigration, topped up with fuel and re-provisioned with Gregory the local produce man who shows up to your boat in his double decker dinghy. We asked for some cilantro to go with the ceviche we were making from the Tuna. Yes he said I have some and he promptly climbed onto the second story of his dinghy, picked some from a pot he was growing on top and gave us a little bag.
Gregory the Fruit man in Rodney Bay St. Lucia
The sail from Martinique to St Lucia is a good one. Winds were out of the East and we were heading south – a nice beam reach with 20 knots of wind. Sea state varied but certainly there were some good 2 – 3 meter waves rolling through. I did make some fresh ginger tea for one of our crew who was feeling a little sickly. That worked!
We stayed briefly in St Lucia – only two nights. The second we spent at the Pitons which is a must just due to the majestic sight they provide. There are mooring buoys in the may to the south. You have to pay for permission to enter the park and also for a mooring ball. Total is about $us40. I did a little separate right up on this area due to an attitude adjusting event.
The Pitons in St. Lucia
Next we crossed to St. Vincent. Here we also had some good winds – note the boat speed.
Crossing from St Lucia to St Vincent
Strangely most people had told us to skip St. Vincent due to the crime. We did however decide to stop in Cumberland Bay which was about 2/3rds of the way down St Vincent just because we felt that the 50 mile trip from the Pitons on St. Lucia to Bequia Island was too far for one day. I’m so glad we stopped over because we had a fantastic experience in St. Vincent. The people are so friendly and wanting tourism. People said yes there is crime but in isolated spots just like in your country – right? And right they are. Given our experience of St Vincent and even our last night there I’d put St. Vincent back on the must visit list. I did a separate write up on St. Vincent and Cumberland Bay see that here.
Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent from the hill behind
Next to Bequia Island – Ahhh Bequia – that’s what all the yachties who have visited Bequia say. Why – don’t know – there is just a special relaxing feeling about Bequia. Why – still don’t know – it just is. Partly because of Admiralty Bay (the main harbor) and how stunning it is and partly because every islander living there tells you so.
Right Before Entering Bequia, Local Photographer Kenmore Henville came out to greet us with his camera.
Kenmore Local Bequia Photographer
He shot a dozen or so shots of us – this being one of the best. Mainly because I am on the bow.
Our Catamaran in Bequia Island
We stayed two nights in Bequia just hanging out and visiting the locals ashore.
We did a scuba dive just out side the bay on the north end. I’ve done probably 100-200 dives in my life and I would have to say that was near the top. An unassuming little dive looking place with plenty of coral and tropical fish. We dove with Dive Adventures of Bequia. They had good equipment and friendly knowledgeable dive masters. Ashore there are some great restaurants, a fruit market and a few places to reprovision. We then headed back to St Vincent for my last night but went via the southern and east end of the island.
Either one of the following statements is true – we got up enough speed to ram right over the top of an island, there is a giant tunnel through this island or it doesn’t exist but is shown on the digital charts. See below!
Electronic Navigation East of Bequia
The truth is the island does not exist and for purposes of this article and electronic navigation discussions on NauticEd, I purposefully steered the boat right through it. There was no change in depth as we went through it. It is not named nor does it have a height listed with it on the chart as all the other islands do. In our Electronic Navigation Course we descibe this type of error and point out how it occurs.
Again because of the bad wrap St. Vincent had gotten with some guide books we were slightly reluctant to head back to St. Vincent but because my flight was out of there at 6:30 am we sailed back there and into Blue Lagoon harbor. There I arranged with Sams Taxi service to Pick me up at 5am. I was assured of his reliability and true to his word he was waiting for me at 5am. Blue Lagoon is a nice stop over and people there were friendly. There is a super market close by and a little bar there for some off the boat drinky time. The entrance into Blue lagoon is the smallest entrance to a bay I’ve ever experienced. The red and green channel markers are only about 50 ft apart.
Blue Lagoon St Vincent
Whilst I snuck off early in the morning the Lee family spent the day visiting Kingstown and reported having a good day at the markets with again friendly people.
That was 2 weeks – wow that was fast.
Overall, I’d rate this as one of the top Charter trips to do and certainly this is aided by the time I took to do it. The Lees still have 2 more weeks to go and they will visit Canoaun, Mayreau Island, the Tabago Cays, Mopion ( ahh mopion), Union and curiacoa then back to St. Vincent, St. Lucia with a drop off back in Martinique.
I applaud the Lees for this commitment to doing this. They are not crazy sailing people, they are just regular people who committed 6 months ago to “just do it”. They wanted a vacation where there was no rushing and could do what they wanted, under no schedule. And I myself will find it hard to enjoy doing a one week long trip ever again. Last year I did New Zealand’s Bay of islands for 10 days and that was incredible. This one week business due to our rush rush rush lifestyle is not good. By day 5 when you are just beginning to really relax and enjoy, you’re already thinking about how you’re going to catch the flight.
Even with 2 weeks doing Martinique, St Lucia, St. Vincent and Bequia, that was too short of a time to properly explore.
When you call us at NauticEd to Book a charter vacation, be prepared we will talk you into a minimum of 2 weeks. It will go like this – lets just say you’re zero years old right now. How many weeks would you like to design your life now spending at work versus how many weeks would you like sailing the Caribbean, Pacific or the Mediterranen? 2000/4? 2000/10? You pick! (perhaps the other way around – right?)
Start your sailing vacation by contacting us here
The point is whatever you do – make sure you’re relaxing and having true fun on your vacation. To make a booking through NauticEd visit us on this page – we don’t charge a fee and will give you all kinds of advice. Chances are we’ve been there.
A couple of tools that we used heavily on this trip was the Marine: Carib&S.America HD – Navionics Navionics iPad Caribbean (and south American) Charting App. This is the best tool ever for navigation. You can buy it here. The App shows your projected track based on your heading, leeway and current and so to get to a desired harbor, you just start heading in the general direction and then adjust course until the projected track averages you right onto your destination. I’m not suggesting this and an alternative to learning proper navigation skills however. You need the valuable understanding in coastal and electronic navigation fundamentals else you’re going to make some big and dangerous mistakes – like assuming the electronic chart is correct for one. But the iPad App was just a delight to use. We used this exclusively almost over the onboard chart plotter.
The next App we used every day was PocketGrib App. We downloaded the weather via this App. It gives predicted wind, swell, clouds and barometric pressure. Being June there was little concern for a hurricane but using this app we were able to make sure that the pressure stayed above 1000mB. Pocket GRIB downloads an extremely small file via cellular data and reconstructs the data over the chart of the area giving you vital up to date and projected information in a easily readable format.
Prior to the trip, I arranged an international dataplan. The cost was $120 for 800Mb. I used 500 Mb over the 2 week period. I was fairly intensive because I stayed in touch with any student that needed customer service. I normal person (saying I guess that I’m not normal) would probably be fine with 100Mb per week.
I can’t say enough about this trip and what we did. I soooo much recommend it and I sooo much recommend Martinique. I’m not sure why it was left to be last on my check off list of all the island chain from Puerto Rico to Grenada. But a can say then that I must have left the best for the last.
For your first Charter trip I’d say the BVI’s is the one – hands down – must – just do it. 10 days minimum.
For your second trip or if you have not been there – go to Martinique. Don’t die with out this one. Pick up a little French before you go – stop listening to rubbishy morning radio on your commute and slap in a Pimsleur French learning audio for your morning drive. Why because once you’re confident at chartering – we’re going to send you to Corsica (ahh Corsica – done it twice) – then Tahiti and Bora Bora.
If you want true bareboat charter consulting, give us a call and we’ll lay out some plans for you, including getting you all the confidence you need to charter. Start here
A last note – it was such a pleasure chartering with Richard. He became my friend 10 years ago when he called me and said he wanted to not just learn to sail but make it part of his life. Prior to that he’d done a weekend school course followed by renting a boat for a day. When he called me he really had no idea how to make sailing part of his life and was disappointed at that point so far in that he saw no clear path to achieve what he wanted. His first introduction was my advice to join a club, then I took him to Belize on a sailing trip. He was hooked and began coming with us on trips, sailing with the club in between. He built up to skippering the charter boats on our trips and now look at this trip. He chartered a 48 foot catamaran for 1 month taking with him his 10 year old daughter. That’s a wow. I’m impressed.
Here she is at 3 yrs chartering with us in La Paz Mexico.
Driving the Dinghy 3 yrs old
And here she is at 10 yrs driving the dinghy.
Driving the Dinghy 10 yrs old
How well do you think this kind of stuff works for self esteem for a kid?
Invest in the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master program – then fill out this form to start a booking.
Here’ my closing “Plato” shot
Hmmm I else can I help people realize their sailing dreams?
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The guide books give St. Vincent a bad wrap and many people have told us to give it a miss. Our plan to sail from St. Lucia to Bequia Island however was not quite going to work as it is around 50 nautical miles. While it is easy to do this in a day – it’s just a lot of sailing and not always desired by the vacationing crew. So we decided on a stop over about half way down St. Vincent. We picked a little bay called Cumberland Bay listed in the Guide to the Windward Islands as a good and safe stop. We also thought to conveniently time this with a Customs check-in at Wallylaboo bay just to the south the next morning.
Our guide Maurice, Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent
What a nice and special stay over we had at Cumberland Bay. First we were met by Maurice who is one of the local hosts for the bay. He met us at the entrance with his row boat. When we agreed to let him be our bay guide/host he rowed furiously as we followed with the engines on idle into the bay.
Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent from the hill behind
The bay is deep and thus requires a special type of mooring much like a Mediterranean mooring but slightly more primitive. For our Catamaran, we made an aft bridle from a dock line with a figure 8 loop knot in the center. Then tying 3 dock lines together we gave one end to Maurice who rowed ashore and tied to a coconut tree. At the same time we deployed the anchor into deep water (15 meters) off the front and backed the boat towards shore. Once Maurice had secured the tree we tightened up slightly on the anchor which held us fast. The steady of shore breeze kept us out from the shore whilst the anchor held us from swinging.
Aft Bridle tied to a coconut tree
Then began the market place (on our boat). One after the other friendly locals come up in anything that floats and try to sell us fruit, fish and local made jewelry. We embraced them all and were always able to find something to buy. Plus if you need something, the very resourceful locals will find it.
The Rasta man in Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent
Maurice suggested that we dine at Mojito’s Restaurant, the only one in the Bay during this season plus he organized a taxi ride to “the most beautiful waterfall in all of the world”.
Waterfall Cumberland Bay
Mojitos was an unexpected surprise. The food was the best you can get in any 5 star restaurant but in a delightfully primitive setting complete with local dog and cat respectfully watching over with weepy eyes. Complete with Mojitos, main course of curried fish for me and banana flambé for desert the bill was about $us20 per head. To dine under a coconut tree with a lapping sea shore with incredibly polite and attentive service was the just the treat we needed after a 5 hour double reefed mainsail sail from St Lucia that day. I shan’t forget Mojito’s.
“The most beautiful waterfall in all of the world” is a tall order to fill for me. Having grown up in New Zealand, I was interested in testing Maurice’s opinion. In my opinion he did not quite hit the mark. Still, the $us15 per person taxi ride through the local villages up up up and down down down the step well maintained skinny precarious roads in a modern Toyota van through the valleys plus the waterfall was a fantastic experience.
I asked about the crime and attitude of the people from St. Vincent. Maurice recognized the problem but also was positive in that things are changing for the better and that RESPECT is highly promoted. He was more complimentary of the government than critical. A local along the waterfall path greeted us smiling and said “Thank-you for visiting our country. Please bring more of your friends we welcome them”.
Overall from one data point of one bay in St Vincent we were overwhelmed by the respect that the locals showed towards the tourists and their $us500,000 boats. We felt welcomed and yes – respected.
I’d rate Cumberland Bay, St Vincent a must stop over with a Pleasantly Primitive label.
The Customs and Immigration office in Wallylaboo we found out is only open after 5pm. And so rather than backtracking we decided to do the Check in in Bequia Island instead which is the next island to the south in the Grenadines. Rules of the country St. Vincent and the Grenadines allow you to check in any time inside 24 hour after you arrive. In general, care must be taken in all these islands to follow the Immigration rules. It is a bit of a paperwork nightmare, but still sovereign respect must be given where it is due.
A few days later we sailed into Blue Lagoon, St Vincent. It is just to the south of the capital city – Kingstown. Again – we received a warm welcome and friendly people. The taxi driver who took me to the airport the next morning at 5am was reliable and friendly. His comment was also that there are good parts and bad parts to any country. St. Vincent has many good parts – and I agree.
I’m pretty sure if you visit St. Vincent, you’ll have a good experience.
St Vincent Map
Have you got your NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Sailing Certification yet?
Anchoring an unfamiliar boat
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Most charter boats use all chain anchor rode. The rules of anchoring say with chain you should use a 5:1 ratio. For example, for an overnight anchorage at a 4 meter depth plus 1 meter from the water line to your boat you should use 5×5 = 25 meters. If you have a 15 meter long charter boat then this is just over a boat and a half length. The trouble is no one has marked the lengths on the chain. So how do you know how much to let out?
Anchoring a Charter Boat
This thought process gets a little more impossible the deeper you go. For example 15 meters deep (50 ft) you’d need to lay 16×5=80 meters (250 ft). Your charter boat does not come with this much chain/rode and nor do most boats for that matter. Typically you’ll have a maximum of 50 meters onboard. Thus at deeper depths the 5:1 rule needs to be relaxed a little to accommodate or better yet only anchor in shallower waters. The most important thing is that there needs to be plenty of chain, at least a full boat length laying on the sea floor during a strong gust condition. This ensures that the anchor is always being pulled horizontally across the sea floor and thus making the anchor dig in more rather than getting pulled upwards (and out of its hold of the bottom).
When chartering, the anchor chain is frustratingly never marked for lengths. Here’s what we do. Take with you some plastic tie-wraps. On your first anchoring, swim the anchor after you have settled and you feel it is a good length of payout. Ensure that there is plenty of chain laying on the ocean floor. When you are satisfied with the lay, mark the chain with one of your tie-wraps remembering the depth that this is good for. Mark it prior to letting out the bridle/snubber so that next time this is where you stop the paying out – then attach the bridle/snubber and pay out enough to make the bridle/snubber do its work. As you anchor at different depths you can attach different numbers of tie wraps. We attached 1 tie wrap at a comfortable 3 meter depth and then 2 tie wraps at a comfortable 5 meter depth. This made it so we would not have to snorkel it every time and be confident that what we were letting out would be fine.
See our video we shot in Martinique of our anchor chain laying on the ocean floor.
Motoring into wind the drop spot is selected. The helmsperson and the foredeck crewperson work in unison to let away the anchor. The foredeck crewperson holds their hand up palm facing the helmsperson to indicate to stop the boat dead in the water. The anchor is lowered until it hits the bottom and then the foredeck crewperson points to the helmsperson to back the boat away. The chain is paid out at a rate to allow the chain to lay in a straight line on the ocean floor. When enough has been paid out, the foredeck crew person closes fist to indicate to stop the engines and allow the boat to continue drifting back. This will load up the anchor allowing it to set from the momentum of the boat. The bridle or snubber line is attached and the job is done. After this, it is important to sit and wait for any signs of slipping backwards. Preferably snorkel the anchor every time.
We also used the App – DragQueen Anchor Alarm which is an anchor watch alarm. This alarm will definitely wake you in the night no worries. It did us – we had the tolerance set to low for swing.
We highly recommend the NauticEd Anchoring Course. You will learn the best types of anchors and ones to dump and make into lawn art. What types are best for each bottom type. Bridles and snubbers, The course was written by Alex and Daria Blackwell who have dozens of years of global sailing. They’ve anchored in more bays than most of us have had hot dinners. The Anchoring Course is a requirement for the Bareboat Charter Master Certification – and rightly so!
Take the NauticEd Anchoring Course now.
Anchoring A Sailboat Course
Picking up a mooring ball can be tricky when you have high freeboard
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While lying on my stomach and stretching over the front of our high freeboard catamaran with a boat hook trying to pick up a mooring ball in Les Anses D’ Arlet, Martinique, I decided there has to be a better way. Especially since here in this part of the Southern Caribbean they don’t attach a yucky slimy line to the mooring ball that you catch with a boat hook. There is only the steal loop in the top of the ball. It’s just impossible to lift the mooring ball with the boat hook and I simply could not reach down that far to loop a line through it. What to do?
A few options I thought of immediately was to send a crew member out in a dinghy or even more fun – to jump in and swim it.
Still, there is a better way with so much less effort. We did this in Petit Anse in Martinique. All you need is:
(1) Make a dock line that will reach to the stern whilst tied to a cleat at the bow without any knots in between.
(2) Drive the boat to bring the mooring ball to the aft of the boat next to your swim platform
Bring the mooring ball along side to the aft
(3) loop your dock line through the steel loop on the ball.
Place the Dockline through the mooring ball ring at the aft of the boat
(4) Then just walk your free end to the bow and cleat it off as the boat backs away. Initially, make sure the dock line goes around the outside of everything on your boat – lifelines, stantions and shrouds. Do the same as you walk back to the bow with the free end. The helmsperson uses the engine to keep the mooring ball close to the boat as you walk forward so that the free end does not get pulled out of your hand.
(5) On a catamaran – use one more trick. You’ve got to, at the same time, get another line through the mooring ball loop to take forward for the other hull. Thus, take an extra line and put it through the mooring ball loop at the same time as the other. Take it forward as well but making sure that both ends stay on the boat.
(6) Once you have secured the first dock line to one hull, then take care of the other side with the second dock line. All the while taking care that all the lines are clear of wrapping around each other or on the inside of a forestay or anything else. It’s best done with two crew members one assigned to each line and a helmsperson who can maneuver the boat to keep the ball close to the boat. The second dockline will probably not reach from the forward cleat diametrically opposite the boat to the aft – that’s ok just leave both ends free and cleat them off once the first line is done. Just take care not to drop either end (we did but quickly retrieved it with a boat hook).
Secure the Line to the other side of the boat using the second dock line.
(7) Finally make adjustments to the lengths to get it just right.
Adjust Lines to get it just right
You can even achieve all this by backing the boat up to the mooring ball and letting the boat swing around after it has been cleated off.
Train your crew to let go of the dock line if it gets too taught and is going to pull them over. You can always start again. Practice makes perfect.
In Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent the Mooring field is quite tight. We used this trick again without a hitch. Practice this method at your home waterway next time you are out. Then by the time you get to the Caribbean, you’ll be an expert.
Your Own Attitude Makes or Breaks Your Own Vacation
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Southern St Lucia is known for the swarming and pushy “official guides”. Each one claiming that they are the official. Years ago when I visited by land and sea I was overwhelmed and was glad to leave. At one point we had a dozen “guides” pushing for us to hire them people whilst in the background men carrying machetes with 30 kids holding out their hands begging for money. Thus, this time around I wasn’t too keen to return – although they say it has become better. Still we stopped over at the Pitons National Park because they are incredibly majestic and not to be missed in this lifetime.
The Pitons in St. Lucia
About 2 miles out we spotted our first “guide”. With our research done, we already knew where we wanted to go and thus we didn’t need a guide to take us into the mooring field. We tried to wave him off. No luck. As we approached a mooring ball there he was holding up the loop. So we decided we’d get another ball. Nope – that didn’t work he just moved to the next one. Again we tried to wave him off. No luck. As we approached we clearly stated that we did not need help to lift the mooring loop 5 feet into the air and frankly I was wanting to document our aft pick up method for a NauticEd article. As we bought the ball alongside he put the loop onto our cleat then demanded $EC10 ($3). And his demand was insistent. This kind of extortion does not sit well with me and thus we refused to pay. This lead into a fairly heated reply from him with a lot of name calling at us making us feel very uncomfortable. He claimed we ripped him off because he had to spend money in petrol to come out to us. Within seconds another showed up trying to sell us fruit followed by 2 seconds later a jewelry guy and then a guy claiming to be the park ranger was demanding not very politely for $EC50 ($US15) for the mooring ball when we had already paid for ‘Rights to Moor in the national park” to customs in Rodney Bay earlier. It was all too much.
Upon reflection over a rum drink later on we concluded this: That we were there for our own selves to have a good time. Getting worked up over a few dollars is just not worth it – albeit it was extortion and intimidation tactics. The right thing for ourselves to enjoy was to embrace the system that exists. We were not going to change anything by our righteous stance. There was no point in creating bad air on the boat over $20 when the charter cost plus airfares etc. was thousands upon thousands.
We decided thereafter we would embrace everything:
The very next day a local sailor from Martinique somehow decided he was in a race with us. In the wide space of the Caribbean, with both of us on port tack he bore up and parked his course exactly 100 meters ahead of us. We were both now on a broad port reach. He in a monohull and us in a cat. I decided to pass on the lee because I did not want him to get rounded up in the high winds at the passing moment. As I got closer I gave him plenty of room yet he began coming down again onto our track. Upon passing he was only 5 meters to windward. With both of our headsails luffing. I could not turn up to fill the head sail for fear of hitting him. To get away from him I would have had to gybe 90 degrees away from our course. Crazy.
As the overtaking boat I am obligated to give way yet he is also obligated to maintain course which he was not. As we completed our pass he began coming down further right in behind us with about 2 meters to spare. We pointed at our fishing line and held the rod up. He continued and gybed and went right in behind us catching our lure on his hull. All this with thousands of square miles of ocean. Go figure.
He then anchored in Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent – 50 meters away from our boat. In keeping with our new embracing ideology, I decided to take him a rum drink and have a talk. His claim was that we did not give him room and thus he had to do what he did. He did not have very many (none) apologies. I smiled and listened and wished him good voyages.
I left not to sure how, with land about 5 miles to port of him giving plenty of room to at least hold his course and how he was luffing us down off course gave him any room for justification. However, there seemed no point in arguing. I was sure however that in his own mind he felt wronged. He accepted the rum drink as an apology from me. The only explanation to that I can have is that he’s just a poor sailor and should take NauticEd courses. Haa Haa LOL.
There was no altercation and I moved on leaving harmonious feelings and me free to enjoy the rest of my evening knowing that I took the easy way out. Forgive and forget!
As we pulled into Cumberland Bay we also used our new attitude to interact with the locals constantly barraging us with stuff to sell. Maurice our “boat boy” (it is a legitimate term used for people who help you handle mooring and anchoring your boat) was extremely helpful in helping tie our boat back to the coconut tree. We paid him $EC30 ($US10) and a few extra bucks for other help throughout the day. With all the other vendors we objectively looked at their stuff and bought many trinkets etc. but also resupply of excellent fruit and locally caught fish (caught by a guy who acted in Pirates of the Caribbean (shot mostly in this area)). I even gave an onion some foil and some olive oil to a local who was cooking a fish for the sailor who cut us off earlier that day (Still no thanks were given to us from the sailor).
Just before entering Admiralty Bay in Bequia Island we read in the guide book about Kenmore- a local guy who races out in his small dinghy, not to greet you but to take high res digital photos of you whilst you are under sail (for a fee of course). And sure enough a few minutes later here he comes bouncing off the top of 2 meter waves holding up a very expensive camera and a whistle to warn you of his impending shutter finger.
Kenmore Local Bequia Photographer
Whilst you can decide to get sick of everyone trying to sell you something – again our new embracing attitude kicked in and we ran to the bow for the photo pose.
The next morning Kenmore arrives at our boat with very professional images framed print plus digital USB stick of us on our boat giving us a definite memorabilia of our trip. Which we gladly bought.
Hully Gully under sail at Bequia Island
What I’m presenting here is that you have the ability to make your vacation good or bad. You can embrace or not. You have already paid the thousands investing in this vacation, why not spend a few extra bucks on just having a good time. If you don’t think $us3 is worth a mooring loop lift of 5 feet it is probably not – but just do it anyway. Chances are the local guy is friendly and can give you local information worth more than $3 anyway.
Have fun on your vacation.