Unexpected MOB On Day Skipper Course
We were on Bolero IV, a 41' Hanse sailboat, practicing picking up moorings under sail off the Kames Hotel at Tighnabruich. There was a light breeze and we had a reef in the mainsail to show things down. The wall to wall sunshine was glorious for our Day Skippers. The sailing in Scotland can often be so lovely.
Having tacked & heading back to the buoy, Chris on the foredeck shouted: "My hat, I've lost my hat!" As it blew off his head and landed in the water next to the boat, we all looked over the side as his sporty baseball cap floated by and away past the transom.
John on the helm looked at me expectantly. I just shrugged my shoulders knowing we were short of time and said: "We'll have to ignore that and get on with the exercise."
As John steered the yacht towards the mooring, Doug was on the mainsheet spilling and filling. Everyone was concentrating hard on the task but a little voice in my head kept saying "Get the hat, get the hat!" Halfway to the buoy I turned to John & asked if I could take the helm. "I just can't let that hat go!" I explained.
Using the classic 'reach - tack - reach' method, we sailed away, then turned back towards the hat. Stephen found it difficult to keep the hat in sight as it was waterlogged by now and only just on the surface.
As we tacked, Shirley shouted "watch out for the ropes" and Stephen ducked. Taking your eye of the MOB just for a moment is all it takes to lose sight of it. Stephen was so disappointed, feeling like he'd let the side down. However, I felt that the close reaching course may get us close to the hat. My greatest concern was that the hat might sink before we got there.
Sure enough, as we got closer, Stephen caught a glimpse of the hat from his high vantage point next to the mast. We luffed up, spilled wind from the sail and stopped right by the hat.
Having recovered the sodden thing with a boat hook, Chris put the wet hat squarely on his head grinning from ear to ear!
Top tips for Anchoring
- Stay well clear of boats anchored using rope, they will rove around all over the place when the wind picks up.
- When determining the scope, allow for depth at high water, waves, swell & wash from other vessels.
Scope - minimum 4x depth for chain & 6x depth for rope in light to moderate winds, i.e. up to Beaufort 4 (I invariably let out another 5m for good luck).
- The chain is better on the seabed than in the chain locker! If it's windy, use more scope.
- Lay the chain out along the side deck in 5m long loops using a mat to protect the decks. Each loop will total 10m. Secure it to a cleat.
- Having stopped the boat, let the anchor down quickly to the seabed, then pay the chain out as the boat drifts back.
- Let the wind / stream take the boat back. Using the engine too soon could jerk the chain & upset the anchor.
- Watch transits to see if the anchor drags.
- When anchoring in mud, put the kettle on & have a cup of tea while you wait for the anchor to settle. Watch the transits. Take your time, relax & finish your tea!
- With the boat head to wind or stream, gently dig the anchor in. Slowly at first, gradually increasing the power. More wind? use more power. Check transits as you go. If the anchor drags it's best to lift it and start again.
- For windy weather, set 2 anchors in a V. Digging in each one in turn. Lay the second (kedge) anchor from the yacht, it's hopeless in the rubber dinghy unless you have an outboard engine and the kedge rode is rope.
- Set an anchor watch if necessary. A GPS anchor drag alarm wouldn't wake me up!
Tips on weighing anchor
- Tight chain is heavy work, no good for man nor machine. It can burn out the windlass motor. Take in the slack, cleat it and let the weight of the chain drag the boat forward. When it goes slack, take in more chain. Repeat until the anchor breaks free.
- In windy weather or streams, use sail or engine to slacken the chain.
- If using a trip line, grab the buoy as soon as possible & keep the rope away from the propeller.
- If the anchor refuses to budge, take in as much chain as possible and let the wind / stream do the work.
Tips for looking after your windlass
- The windlass is designed to lower and raise slack chain. As soon as you hear the motor working harder, stop winding. Otherwise you risk burning out the motor plus creating excessive wear on the gypsy.
- Prevent this wear on the gypsy by taking the load off the windlass while at anchor. Tie a rope to the chain with a rolling hitch, lower the chain until the hitch is well over the bow. Then tie the rope to a cleat. Let out some more chain to form a loop between the rolling hitch and the bow. This method of 'snubbing' the chain can also eliminates the rumbling noise in the forepeak cabin as the chain moves from side to side over the seabed.