Cruising

The Fine Art of Gunkholing Page 2

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Lines taken ashore can be secured around trees or boulders. While cruising in the North Channel last summer, I found several large granite boulders that had mountain climbing pitons and iron rings affixed to them, which were very convenient for tying off lines. While I don’t condone permanently altering an anchorage just to secure lines to shore, I do advise being creative and taking advantage of your surroundings.

When tying off to trees, take care not to damage them. A few cruisers I met in the North Channel carried scrap pieces of carpet to use as chafing gear. These, or something similar, like flexible hoses, can be used to prevent your lines from harming trees, or to prevent rocks from harming your lines. Keep in mind that you may need 100 feet or more of line to reach a suitable tree or boulder.

You may also need multiple lines. Windy conditions in a tight gunkhole may require you to secure your boat in a web of lines. If one side of the boat is closer to shore than the other, an anchor set from amidships can help hold the boat off the rocks. If the shoreline is very steep (nearly vertical), you may be able to tie directly to shore, as you would a dock, using multiple fenders to protect your hull. Again, a midships anchor can be set to hold you off your “rock dock.” Once all the lines are set, you can adjust the line tension so your boat is perfectly positioned. If done correctly, you’ll feel like you’ve just leased a transient slip in nature’s preeminent marina.

If other boats are already secured inside your gunkhole, you must consider what technique they’ve chosen to secure themselves. One boat swinging freely at anchor with another tethered in place with lines to shore can lead to collisions if the wind or current should shift. Obviously if all boats in a gunkhole are tethered to shore there is no danger of colliding. Likewise, if each boat is swinging freely at anchor, there must be room for them to swing together. You want to be sure there is space between the boats and that all boats are anchored on the same sort of rode. A boat anchored on chain rode will swing much less freely than a boat anchored on rope.

Gunkholing is all about exploration. Some creative seamanship and boathandling can go a long way toward opening up new cruising grounds and anchorages. Don’t be afraid to explore new areas. If you’re prepared to do a little extra work and employ some unconventional techniques, you’ll enjoy some very memorable new anchorages and lots of peaceful solitude.


What Look For When Selecting a Gunkhole

  • Study charts to determine possible gunkhole locations. Look for small coves, narrow channels or rivers and hidden backwaters. The best gunkholes will have deeper water hidden behind a shallow entrance or some other choke point. In tidal areas look for spots that can be entered only on a flood tide.
  • Look for a hole that provides protection from prevailing winds and currents. Consider how exposed you’ll be if there is a dramatic change in weather and wind direction. Look for back-up anchorages in case you have to evacuate a tenuous gunkhole on short notice.
  • If there’s not enough room or depth to swing at anchor, look for stout trees and suitable boulders for securing lines. Is there enough room to set more than one anchor?
  • Carry the proper equipment, including up-to-date charts, a handheld depthsounder or leadline, multiple lines 100ft or more in length, extra anchors and chafe protection.
  • To discover secret gunkholes, talk to local cruisers and mariners about areas not covered in guidebooks.
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