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Barry's Blog # 48 - Med Mooring - What a nightmare!

I'd like to have a word or two with the person that came up with the idea of 'Med Mooring' as it's commonly known or if you want to label it correctly, stern-to mooring. It is by far the most stressful thing I have had to come to grips with whilst sailing through the Greek islands.

Basically Med Mooring is when you sail into a small harbour and have a quick look to see if there's a gap between two other yachts that you think you can fit into. Once you've chosen your spot you need to steer your yacht away from the gap so that you come to a complete halt about three boat lengths away with your stern facing the gap. Then you have to drop your anchor and wait for it to reach the bottom before beginning to motor backwards towards the gap.

That sounds easy enough, but you also have to factor in what depth of water you've dropped your anchor into and so far I've encountered depth ranges from 3 metres to 15 metres. You also have to factor in which way the wind is blowing and how strong it's blowing because the minute you bring your yacht to a halt the wind will grab hold of the bow and begin moving it away from where you want or need it to be. Luckily A B Sea is equipped with bow thrusters which give us a fair amount of control as long as the wind isn't too strong. Not all yachts have bow thrusters.

With all of those factors taken into consideration you can now begin to motor backwards towards the gap whilst continuing to let out your anchor chain. It is usually at this moment that you start praying that you've judged your boat lengths and water depth correctly because if you run out of anchor chain a couple of metres from the dock your yacht will come to an abrupt halt and you'll have to wind all your chain back in, go back out and do it all again.

For the sake of this blog let's assume you've judged your distances perfectly and you bring your stern to within half a metre from the dock, usually there's a kindly soul waiting to catch your stern lines as you throw them ashore, who'll wrap them around a bollard and throw them back to you. Once both sides of the stern are attached to terra firma you can begin to relax, slightly.

It is at this moment that you pray to your favourite Greek god of the day that your anchor has dug into the bottom because now you have to start winding in some anchor chain to get your yacht tautly held in place by the anchor and the two stern lines. If the anchor does not hold you have to go back out and do it all again.

To make the whole manoeuvre more stressful there is always an audience. There will be the owners of the two boats either side of you, who quite naturally are looking out for their own interests in making sure that you don't bump into their yacht. There's usually several cafes and bars with interested onlookers eager to see it all go horribly wrong and there will be a selection of other yachties standing on the quayside offering sage advice and instruction as to how you should be handling the situation.

You'd think that once you're securely in place that there'd be no more stress, you'd be wrong. Let me paint a picture. You've got twenty yachts all neatly backed up to the harbour wall and laying out in front of each yacht is an average of 50 metres of anchor chain and somewhere in the murky depths there are 20 anchors which may or may not be laying across someone else's chain. That's not too bad as long as the last yacht in is the first yacht to leave the following day and once several yachts either side of you have left you can be fairly confident that you can safely pull up your anchor without snagging someone else's.

But wait there's more!

Next to come into the harbour is a 49 foot catamaran (I'm not making this up, I witnessed this yesterday) and even though it has two hulls and two engines which gives it superb manoeuvrability, the biggest problem is that it's a charter boat being skippered by someone who goes sailing for one week a year. Catamarans are big boats, not just in their width, but also in how high sided they are and if you don't know how to handle two engines when the wind grabs hold of you it's like watching a cardboard box being blown around in a gale. The first thing the panicking skipper does is drop the anchor hoping that it will take hold and give him some control, which it kind of does, but it comes at a price and the charter skipper is not paying the bill.

He makes his first attempt to back into the gap he's chosen and guess what? Because he panicked and dropped his anchor too far out he comes to the end of his anchor chain four metres short of the quayside. Now he's got to go back out and do it all again. Now the bad situation turns worse, as he's bringing in his anchor chain he realises that his anchor never set into the bottom properly and his anchor is dragging along and picking up other yachts anchor chains along the way!

It took him 15 minutes to untangle the mess and thankfully on his second attempt he managed to back his catamaran into his chosen gap successfully. There was almost an audible sigh of relief from all the yachties, bystanders and onlookers and the crowd dispersed. Nothing to see here, move along now.

All in all the whole 'Med Mooring' thing is a stressful bloody nightmare and as soon as I find out who's responsible I'm going to go have a word with them.

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