Prepping for Landing
It’s easy to imagine that all neat berthing maneuvers result from smart boathandling. It’s a sorry business if the person at the blunt end stuffs the bow into the woodwork at 3 knots. However, even if the skipper slides her in like a pro, it doesn’t end there. What about the deck gang, especially if there’s only one of them? Entering a strange harbor, it’s often impossible to predict which side will be to the dock, what fenders will be needed, or which ropes will be asked for first. My wife has this down to a T. We carry five biggish fenders, which should be plenty. She rigs two on each side and keeps the third ready to deploy once she can see what’s coming. Three in the right place is usually enough. A stern line is secured on each quarter and led to the point amidships from which she’ll hop ashore. Same goes for the bow lines. Springs are coiled ready on deck. In the event we ever do less than this and our luck runs out, we inevitably end up with a last-minute scramble that may or may not end well.
Let Her Drift
Anchoring in a strong breeze, there’s really no point in backing off from the anchor while laying cable just because textbooks say so, especially when there’s no stream. Instead, stall with the wind on one bow or the other as you let go. The bow will blow off smartly and the yacht will slide sideways downwind. Once the right amount of cable is down, snub it off and wait for inertia to do the rest. You’ll know when the hook bites because she’ll suddenly head up to the wind. All that remains is to put the engine gently astern and dig in the hook, then pour yourself a drink.
Safety on the Cheap
Every cruising yacht intending to stop somewhere other than a marina or an anchorage should carry one or two extra-long lines. Nylon is the favorite, but because of cost, you may end up using whatever you can lay hands on. The ropes may lurk redundant in their locker for years until something unforeseen turns up, and suddenly, nothing else will do. They can be bent to the bitter end of an anchor cable that seems too short as a big tide rises in deep water or the wind comes on as if it’s personal. They are a lifesaver in a monster raft-up, and I once used mine in 65º North when a katabatic wind fell off a glacier at midnight and started to rip the pontoon to which I was lying away from its moorings. I could barely stand in the gale, but I managed to run my super rope ashore, tie it to a tree and bring my end back to the windlass just we started breaking loose. The line saved my boat and the dock as well. Check on eBay for ridiculous deals on 50-fathom ropes. I just found 9/16 nylon with 4½ tons breaking strain for under $150.