Tender tricks and stress-free anchoring

At the DockDinghy-dock smartsDon Street, who has been rowing rigid dinghies around harbors in Europe and the Caribbean for more than 60 years, thought he had learned everything there is to know about handling a dinghy in any conditions. But he’s come up with a new trick for handling a hard tender around a crowded dinghy dock. “The usual routine,” says Street, “is to
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At the DockDinghy-dock smartsDon Street, who has been rowing rigid dinghies around harbors in Europe and the Caribbean for more than 60 years, thought he had learned everything there is to know about handling a dinghy in any conditions. But he’s come up with a new trick for handling a hard tender around a crowded dinghy dock. “The usual routine,” says Street, “is to

At the Dock

Dinghy-dock smarts

Don Street, who has been rowing rigid dinghies around harbors in Europe and the Caribbean for more than 60 years, thought he had learned everything there is to know about handling a dinghy in any conditions. But he’s come up with a new trick for handling a hard tender around a crowded dinghy dock.

“The usual routine,” says Street, “is to row in to the dinghy dock and either climb out over the bow or, if the dock isn’t too crowded, come alongside.” The same procedure, says Street, applies when getting back into the dinghy. You pull in the painter, but unless you can bring the boat alongside the dock, you again have to climb over the bow, which, on most rigid dinghies, is the most unstable part of the boat.

Street put a padeye fitting on the transom of his dink to which he attaches a stern painter with a bowline. Now when he approaches a crowded dock, he rows in, turns the boat, and backs into the available space. Once the stern is up against the dock—this should work with or without an outboard—he climbs out over the transom onto the dock, taking the stern painter with him.

Another solution is to drill a small hole high up in the transom, run the stern painter through the hole, and secure it with a stopper knot.

“I don’t know why it took me 60 years to figure this out,” says Street. “Maybe I’m a slow learner.” C.M.


Dinghy choices

Which is better, an inflatable or a rigid dinghy? I have one of each—an 8-foot dinghy and a 9-foot inflatable. I use both when I’m cruising, but I prefer the rigid dinghy. Part of the reason is that I don’t like to carry gasoline for the inflatable’s outboard, and I definitely don’t like to row the clumsy beast even in the best conditions. I don’t particularly like to listen to the outboard when it is running, and I really don’t like the large amount of drag that is created when the inflatable is towed astern. However, it does carry a big load efficiently, and it’s nice to have the engine when the shore is a long way from the mothership.

My 8-foot Dyer Dhow (www.dyerboats.com) rows nicely, tows well, and is easy to hoist aboard and stow on deck for a longer passage.

To make sure the oars stay in the boat when I’m ashore, I use a bronze restrainer made by Shaw and Tenney (www.shawandtenney.com) that locks them in place. I also use a pair of canvas pockets I made on a sewing machine to hold the oarlocks in place so they don’t bang about and scar the interior topsides. T.T.


Stress-free anchoring

When dropping the hook in a new anchorage, first cruise slowly through vacant spots to check the depth and size up the space between boats that are already there. Note wind direction and speed and whether current is affecting anchored boats. Wind and current determine which way your boat will lie relative to the anchor.

Once you’ve selected your spot, make sure your boat can swing 360 degrees without hitting any submerged obstructions or shoals. You can assume neighboring boats will probably swing about as you do, assuming similar rodes, except for a boat that has more than one anchor set or is on a mooring (presumably, it will have a short scope).

Scope is the length of the rode from the waterline to the anchor divided by the water depth. For average wind conditions, 4:1 scope is a good minimum for an all-chain rode; figure 6:1 for a rode that is mostly rope. Ask a neighbor how much scope he is using so you can use a similar amount. If you think his scope is inadequate, you might want to move. Be sure to put out enough rode to maintain minimum scope at high water. A quick rule of thumb for determining appropriate anchor size in average conditions is one pound of anchor for one foot of boatlength; more weight is better if you can handle it.

When anchoring, try to drop the hook just behind a line that runs across the transoms of the boats ahead. Once the anchor is set, make sure boats astern of you also lie behind the line that runs across your transom. When trying to judge how far you might swing around if the wind changes direction, think in boatlengths. For example, if you’re on a 40-foot boat with 100 feet of rode out in 15 feet of water, your anchor will be just over 2 boatlengths ahead of your bow.

Chart symbols often tell you whether the bottom is sand, mud, coral, soft, sticky—whatever. If you have a choice, try to match the anchor with the bottom. A plow anchor does well in sand and grass while a Danforth might be better in mud. If you think the current or wind might change the direction of pull at some point, consider an anchor that can reset quickly, like a Bruce. C.W.

Checking Depth

Rigging an anchor buoy

If you’re in an unfamiliar anchorage and think something might be lurking on the bottom that could snag your anchor, rigging an anchor buoy is a cheap insurance policy. It allows you to recover the anchor if it fouls a cable or other obstruction. The tether line has to be strong and should be attached to the crown of the anchor so it can, in effect, be pulled up backward. When I use an anchor buoy on my Danforth, I tie the tether with a rolling hitch with six turns around one of the rod stocks that extend out from the anchor’s crown.

An anchor buoy also shows where the anchor is on the bottom. If there is a wind shift, the buoy helps you estimate the boat’s new swinging radius and lets late arrivals in an anchorage see where your anchor is.

In addition, the anchor buoy tether can help you clean bottom mud off the anchor and rode if you don’t have a wash-down hose on the foredeck. When the anchor has been pulled up so it is just below the water surface, secure the rode on deck. Then pick up the anchor buoy with a boat hook and pull up all the tether line.

Tweaking the tether line in different directions will agitate the anchor enough so the bottom residue falls off. You can also use the tether to lift a small anchor on deck, and you won’t have to lean over the bow pulpit to do it.

Paint your boat’s name on the anchor buoy in large letters to avoid confusion. I use a small polyethylene buoy and a light line that is strong enough to pull the anchor up if necessary. The length of the tether line should equal the water depth at high tide; you don’t want the buoy to disappear from sight at high tide or drift too far from the anchor at low tide. T.T.


Ease sheets

A hard beat to windward can be an exhilarating ride or a painful endurance test. If the current is with you, waves will tend to be short and steep; if your boat is less than 30 feet or so, the space between crests may seem completely wrong for the boat. It might sail over one sea, burst through the next in a shower of spray, and then bury its bow in the next one, coming almost to a stop, before slowly picking up speed and doing it all over again. The only sure solution is to ease the sheets a couple of inches and come off the wind a little. You’ll sail more comfortably and more quickly. P.N.

Words from the Wise

“Before heading out to sea, it’s essential that you really know your boat and how she behaves: how much way she needs before coming about, whether she gybes well (some long-keel boats need a lot of room), and how much leeway she makes. You need to know how she behaves: under mainsail alone; in light breeze; in light breeze with a few waves; in light breeze and a swell; in a fresh wind, a stronger wind, etc. Under jib alone, at various wind and sea strengths. Under bare poles with the tiller down in very light air, in a fresh breeze, a strong wind, etc.

“Getting to know your boat requires real commitment. It means hours of patient effort spent during the short period of your first sailing vacation. Meanwhile, your crew may be muttering; they want to cover miles, and usually aren’t interested in spending time on experiments. But knowing your boat well can pay off handsomely; it’s much more rewarding than all the books and articles you read at home in the evening.”

—Bernard Moitessier,A Sea Vagabond’s World (1995)


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