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Rafting Up

Rafting up is one of the things cruising sailors do more of than any other sailing group.

Rafting up can be a good experience or a total disaster depending on how you approach it.

Equipment

Your boat should be adequately equipped with-
  • fenders - at least two good sized ones.
  • lines of adequate strength, generally 12mm is OK but bigger boats may carry bigger line. You must have a bow line, a stern line and at least two other lines to act as springs. All lines should be of sufficient lenght to go around your neighbor's cleat and have the end returned to you for securing.
  • adequate deck cleats or suitable tie-on points are a must.
Ettiquette

Ask first - or be invited. Never come alongside another boat, however well you know the people, and simply throw a line on the deck.

Anchoring or Mooring decisions

If you and another boat or boats are not at anchor or on a mooring when you decide to raft up, the decision has to be made as to who drops an anchor (or picks up a mooring) and who ties alongside. The decision should be made before any steps are taken to tie up together. You should also be conscious of the need for more than one boat to anchor if it is a big raft up, and sometimes that is best done with the second anchoring boat tied up stern-to and the anchor laid out in the opposite direction to the first.
When you are the main or only anchoring boat in a raft up, always let out extra scope, at least 5-7x is necessary even in quiet conditions.

Have your gear ready

After you have been invited to raft up, stand off until you have your fenders in position and your lines ready, one end tied on to a cleat and the lines coiled for heaving. The spring lines should be at hand in the cockpit or on the deck, ready for use.
Do not expect the host vessel to provide fenders or lines. Make sure you have the fenders and lines on the correct side of the boat according to the host's wishes.

Approach to the host vessel

If you are towing a dinghy make sure it is tied close up to the quarter of your boat away from the side your fenders are on. Then make your approach slowly under power, from a position astern of the host. Watch the effects of wind and tide on the host vessel and adjust your appraoch accordingly. Never make an approach with your bow pointing to the side of the host. When nearly level with the host, bring your boat to a stop, put the gears into neatral and tell the forward hand to heave the bow line onto the host's fordeck, not at the person waiting there to take it. Do not stop your engine. The helmsman can then heave the stern line, but should always be near the cockpit and ready to control the boat with the engine if conditions suddenly demand it. When the bow and stern lines are secured, make fast the spring lines and then switch off the engine.
Pay careful attention to the position of the spreaders relative to those of the host boat, and adjust the lines so that the two sets will not clash when the boats roll in a wash.

Securing Lines

Lines can be made fast to cleats or winches or to any other strong points that are intended to take side loads.
Make sure the lines are taught enough to hold the boats snugly together and that the fenders are properly positioned to prefent hull contact.
Check the mooring lines and fenders regularly and adjust them to keep the boats snugly together.

When you leave

Slip your lines in this order:
Springs then stern then bow, after you have started the engine and made sure the cooling water is OK.
If the host boat is leaving at the same time and is at anchor, wait until you are sure he does not need any help to lift the anchor.

Above all, remember that good seamanship, commonsense and consideration for other sailors will earn you an eager invitation to share the good times, while neglect of these basics will find you sailing alone.



    Related links
  • Blue Water Rallies
  • Blue Water Sailing
  • The Circumnavigators Handbook
  • Cruiser Log
  • Cruise Web
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