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Is a mooring more secure than anchoring?

Vol. II, No. 88

Catamarans moored off of The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI. Photo by Daniela Clark.

Let’s face it: many cruising sailors are afraid of spending the night on anchor.  Maybe ‘afraid’ is a bit of a strong word to use, but maybe not.  While a seasoned cruiser usually learns to trust his or her ground tackle, a less-experienced skipper often  prefers to use guest moorings.  Moorings do have many advantages: they’re spaced well (reducing the concern over swinging into other boats), they’re cleaner (no mud on deck), and of course, they’re  not likely to drag like an anchor can.

Nights on moorings can be worry free, but that doesn’t mean a skipper needn’t take precautions.  In fact, in my experience cruising, I’ve had three anchored boats drift into mine (that’s right, never my fault!), but three previously moored

This is not a good way to tie up to a mooring.

ones too.  When occupied boats break off of their moorings, the culprit is usually one of two things: the mooring tackle is not maintained properly, or the operator of the boat uses a bridle that permits chafing.  For the former situation, taking a swim and checking the rigging is the answer, though not always feasible, especially in New England.  But it’s the chafing problem that can easily be avoided.

A guest mooring line usually has a loop spliced into the end of it, often with a plastic thimble inside to protect the line from chafing. The user runs a dock line through the

On a catamaran, this is an acceptable way to tie to a mooring.

loop, cleats each end on deck, and voila? Not quite. Though the risk of chafing may seem low, it’s actually quite high. As the boat shifts around all night due to wind and current, the line moves back and forth through the thimble and even the plastic can saw through a dock line.   To avoid this sawing motion, simply wrap the dock line through the loop one extra time before bringing the end back on deck to cleat it. This extra wrap creates enough rope-thimble surface area to prevent the line from sawing and chafing.  For catamarans, the method pictured here with two lines looped through a single time is also okay, as the two lines create a fixed system that will not move when the boat swings back and forth.

One final tip: watch out for the anchor. An anchor mounted near the bow can act like a dull knife sawing through a mooring line.  If plastic can chafe through nylon line, metal most certainly can.   That reminds me – why not  use the anchor now and then?  Get comfortable with your ground tackle – don’t just keep it on deck to cut mooring lines!