Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Boating 101: Part 17

The more attentive among you may remember that before we left for Desolation Sound I said I was going to make a run to Nanaimo for some stern tie line.  Stern tying for you landlubbers is the practice of setting an anchor and then tying the ass end of the boat to a convenient attachment point on the shore, usually a tree.  We have a variety of skills that we have had to learn along the way and stern tying was obviously one we hadn’t learned – we didn’t have any stern tie line so stern tying wasn’t an option. 

Harbour Chandler in Nanaimo is a wonderful place and they just happened to have 1/2” nylon line in 340 foot spools for $44.95 per spool so I came home with two.  Then of course we had to find an excuse to try it out so today when we arrived in Squirrel Cove, more or less at the front door to Desolation Sound, we resolved to do a stern tie. 

We first cruised the outside of the anchorage, which is remarkably full for this early in the season.  We located a suitable tree on the shoreline and pulled up ahead of it to drop the famous Sarca.  It was a little cranky about taking a bite in the bottom but eventually it hauled us up short.  To be honest I’m not sure it brought us up in line with the tree that we initially picked but there’s a lot of trees up here so we adapted.  Once we were sure we had the anchor firmly set we figured out the next step. 

We’ve never actually seen anybody do a stern tie so we had to improvise but its not rocket surgery after all.  As usually happens with a new project the damndest things turn out to be problematic.  The things you think up front will be difficult are usually no problem but it seems there’s always something comes out of left field.  Today it was how to get ashore with the line.  We were at extreme low tide and still there weren’t many rocks showing.  The shoreline around this cove pretty well drops straight down so it wasn’t going to be easy to get the dinghy somewhere that I could step out with two lines in my hands.  I made a reconnaissance trip, found a spot that I thought would work and then Marilyn came along for the real trip. 

With the ass end secured we then proceeded to the bow.  We’re quite sophisticated in that department now, after I spent $70+ on a little bit of stainless steel in Anacortes. 

Its not a good idea to put a bunch of strain on your anchor windlass.  The shock load up a chain can be significant in a bad blow.  When the chain is slack it actually acts like a cushion so you don’t get much shock loading at all but when it starts to tighten up there’s obviously no give – it’s a chain after all.  The way you ensure that there is some cushion even when the chain is tight is by securing the chain to the boat with nylon lines.  And not just any old nylon line will do – these lines should be 3 strand twisted line because it has much higher elasticity than the double braided lines that we use for mooring lines.

So tonight we’re tied fore and aft in a cove that probably covers 10 acres with about 25 other boats.  According to the cruising guides this place typically holds 100 boats in the high season.  I’m glad we’re not going to be here then.  We stern tied just for the hell of it today but you put 4x as many boats in here and everybody would have to stern tie just to get everyone to fit.

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