Saturday, 6 June 2015

Gale Force

 Boats and land simply do not mix. However, for most of us, sailing near land (or sand banks) is where we partake in our habits of travel with a nautical nature.  When you've tied up and stepped ashore from another memorable cruise, gone home to tend the plants and walk the dog, during your absence a storm may be brewing, and heading your way. It's all you can do to hope you battened the hatches properly, cross your fingers and pray your boat will ride it out unharmed.

The image shows my little Shoal dipping and tugging, pulling and pitching.The kind of dance she's engaged in is not a voluntary, merry dance rather a dance of despair. Every year I hear new stories of a number of yachts that are broke away from moorings in perilous conditions just like these and left to the mercy of nature. My finger nails are chewed to the bone having to watch her like this but fortunately we survived - this time... In the past close friends and other sailor's boats haven't. Sadly, the small yacht behind us didn't make it and ended up on the seawall damaged to an extent she was ultimately broken up and skipped. For any owner this is a horrible business to have to deal with from start to finish, and I can say this from first hand experience. I believe in fate, however, and no matter what you do to avoid the worst the worst will happen sometimes. In the hope we can take something positive from a negative let it prompt us to look at our own moorings. The forces of wind and tide combined during a gale are immense therefore careful selection of a strong 'belt and braces' mooring set-up is something to aim for. If you already have a set up in place then to keep it in the best possible shape follow up with regular maintenance checks for the weakest link in your mooring.  A few pointers worth looking at.:

  • Check the structural diameter of rusty riser/ground/sinker chain by knocking off any corrosion with a hammer. If its way less than the size it should be think about replacing it. 
  • Check shackles are torqued tight and moused with wire. 
  • Check mooring warps are a suitable diameter and breaking-strain, and keep an eye on chafing (see-saw) wear. 
  • Check aged warps for UV damage and replace regularly. 
  • Check that your boats' mooring cleat is A: big enough, and B: has a substantial fixings, with a backing plate wide enough to spread the load. Are you able to run a secondary backup line to the mooring and /or to another anchor point on the boat?
Last and by no means least do anything else you can think of to limit the odds of a break away.
And remember, while there is a serious side to cruising - sailing is fun. Enjoy it.

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