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Captain's Blog


Since so many marinas and harbours expect a yacht to moor bows- or stern-to, having to raft up alongside other boats can be a bit of surprise. Most British sailors will be familiar with the procedure but a surprising number of local boats find the process intimidating, and in particular are not sure how best to secure their boat to the quayside. If you sail in the Balearics, there is a good chance that you will have to raft in lovely harbours like Ratjada in Mallorca or Ciudadella in Menorca, and some of these pointers might be helpful.

Be prepared

Most sailors are friendly, a few are not, but all in the Mediterranean will have experienced novice crews on charter yachts attempting to berth alongside them. The quickest way of making sure that you will have a positive reception when berthing alongside someone else's sailboat is to be prepared and remember that you may well be rubbing fenders with their pride and joy (and possibly their entire life savings)

The comments in the berthing section are very relevant. Spend a little time thinking about your approach, including which way the wind will blow your yacht, whether you have lines ready in all four corners and that the crew (particularly a novice crew) know what is expected of them. Never be hurried. A few minutes in the fairway letting the wind blow the yacht around so you can see how she wants to lie is particularly useful. Most charter sailors are uncomfortable approaching the wind astern, but if the wind is blowing off the harbour wall at an angle, it can be by far the easiest way of making a controlled approach.

Using the crew

If you approach strategy requires your crew to jump smartly ashore before you get blown off, make sure they know this in advance. It can also be worth saying whether the bow or stern line is more critical, as well as working out what you will do if either line is not secured before the wind blows the boat away.

Securing ashore

If you are an inner boat, you have a responsibility to ensure that you have springs securely attached. Each boat that rafts onto the outside of you will secure with springs, and if each inner boat has four feet of play in its springs, the fifth boat could be moving twenty feet with each surge. If you can, get additional springs ashore even if you are not the inner boat, running from bows and stern to the quay at an angle. I always try to do this if I am boat #3, and occasionally #4. Using the dinghy to carry a long line ashore can be easier than passing over two or three pulpits.
You should also be ready to help other people trying to raft alongside you. For a novice crew, the reassuring sight of people waiting to take their lines and secure them to cleats on their own boats can make a real difference.
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