Guest Mooring, Ghost Mooring
Picking up a mooring can be a bit like buying one on eBay: You don’t always get what you expect.
Often in the U.S. Northeast, in several places down the U.S. East Coast, and in heavily chartered areas of the West Indies, moorings may be the only choice for a visiting sailboat. Have a boat hook ready even though some moorings have a handy float with a whip ready for pick up. Occasionally, it’s possible to run a length of heavy, chafe-proof rope that you’ve saved for such times around the chain connected to the float and back to the bow. If you must rely on the mooring line attached to the buoy, pull as much of it up as possible and examine it for chafe before slacking off. Sometimes you can shackle your own anchor rode to the chain of the mooring below the buoy.
In tropical waters, savvy sailors jump in with a mask and fins to see what’s down there. You may discover, as CW editor Mark Pillsbury once did at Union Island, in the Grenadines, a line that was, in his words, “so frayed it wouldn’t hold a toy poodle.” If no better moorings are available, shackle your own anchor rode to the usually strong heavy eye buried in the chunk of concrete. In Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park some years ago, I routinely had to go down to attach our own line to the eye at the end of a stainless-steel rod protruding from the bottom. On the days with current, this took a fair amount of breath holding.
If you dine ashore and leave the boat swinging to a buoy, it’s good practice to leave a crewmember in the cockpit to move the boat if necessary.
On principle, I don’t trust any moorings, but there are exceptions. The Massachusetts staff of Nantucket Moorings often move their moorings daily to suit visiting boats, so they know exactly the condition of their gear; you can trust it. In the British Virgin Islands, you can feel safe when picking up moorings marked Moor Seacure; the company takes care of its gear. But be careful in the B.V.I. when pulling up a National Parks Trust day mooring that’s set for charter boats to use in many environmentally sensitive areas because you’ll never know what you’re going to get.
Tom Zydler is a frequent CW contributor who’s anchored or moored his boats and those of others in many of the world’s harbors.
What to Look For
Moorings can be set up in a number of ways, but there are some common places to inspect for trouble.
• On an all-chain rode, the first few feet you pull up can look healthy, but there can be significant wear deeper down where the links “work.”
• Pay attention to nylon and metal thimbles at the ends of pendant lines.
• If you encounter an all-rope rode or one that connects to a chain, check for chafe along the length of the line.