Saturday, 3 August 2013

Catching cleats.

I hate coming alongside.


Don’t get me wrong, I love moving on, the journey, arriving somewhere new and all that but the actual coming alongside is not fun. There is a point between entering a marina/anchorage/mooring and being securely attached to land which I find really, well, not to my liking. Once the ropes are on, I’m happy but it’s just that short time and I know I’m not alone.


We have now attached our beast to solid land over 50 times and each time it still gives me the heebie jeebies. First you have to work out where there is room whilst making sure you don’t end up somewhere you can’t then get out of. Once a gap has been spotted you stand a couple of feet above the pontoon with a coil of rope in your hand judging the moment to throw the rope to catch it whilst watching out for any place where the boat may meet something else solid, ready to get a fender in the way if necessary (although the eldest deck hand is very good with the roving fender). As you get closer you find all sorts of interesting challenges - pontoons with no cleats, French staples, cleats so covered in other ropes they are impossible to lasso, to name a few.  Then there are exciting things like the wind which can blow you off your line or the current which can sweep you the wrong way and oh yes, the small matter of not having brakes.

A cleat.

We have had a couple of less than elegant arrivals but statistically we do well, generally Mark places the boat nicely and I just have to drop the line over but even that thought doesn’t help me! We’ve seen many ‘professionals’ make a complete pigs ear of it, there was a fishing boat which took out an electricity pole, a police boat which ended up sideways and a racing boat which took a chunk out of it’s bow. One skipper we met accidently left his wife behind on our deck when we were moving boats around and one last week tried many times to get back into his berth before finally hitting the boat next to him – hard. Sailing school boats can also provide lessons in how not to do it, I watched one student recently who picked up a rope, found it was all tangled, panicked and jumped off the boat onto the pontoon without the rope whilst the boat drifted on past.


When you come into a marina you have no idea where there will be space, no amount of studying charts will give you a complete idea especially in the summer months when many visitor pontoons are stuffed to the gills, rafting up gives you a whole new set of issues including what part of someone else’s boat you tie yourself to. Marinas like to put the visitors reception pontoon where you have to go through the whole marina to get there then when you are given your berth sometimes pass all the way back through the berths to reach your spot. It’s always better when there are people stood on the pontoon to help but there again the incident which led to our only insurance claim (he was a very nice French man, we apologised profusely) was watched by a member of marina staff….

Crowded quayside at St Malo.

Mooring buoys and anchoring are better for me, apart from the time the hook decided to fall apart as I reached for the buoy, how Mark managed to understand my frantic waving and back us out of a tight spot without hitting anything I’m not sure (Genius, pure genius. Mark). We have two engines which gives us a certain amount of manoeuvrability (Mark can do a very neat turning on the spot) but without enough room any move becomes tricky.


So if you watch a boat coming alongside and the crew don’t give you a cheery wave, they are probably not being grumpy, just hoping that the immediate future will be over with quickly and safely, and looking forward to a nice cup of tea.

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