July 28, 2011

Anchoring rules

WHAT DO YOU DO if someone anchors too close to you for comfort? Well, it helps to know the rules, for a start.

The first boat to anchor has certain rights over others who come along later, and those rights are the result of centuries of practical seamanship. They spring from common courtesy but they are also backed up by the law.

A boat that is firmly attached to the seabed by an anchor and line must be given room to swing freely. It does not matter if you think she has too much rode out, and is swinging over an unreasonably wide arc. She is entitled to whatever swinging room she chooses. Furthermore, you can’t box her in. She must be allowed reasonable maneuvering room when she wants to leave, and that might be quite a lot of room if she’s an engineless sailboat.

If someone attempts to anchor too close, your first obligation is to inform the newcomer that he might foul your berth.

Admiralty case law states: “A vessel shall be found at fault if it ... anchors so close to another vessel as to foul her when swinging ... (and/or) fails to shift anchorage when dragging dangerously close to another anchored vessel. Furthermore, the vessel that anchored first shall warn the one who anchored last that the berth chosen will foul the former’s berth.” (U.S. Decision No. 124-5861 — 1956).

There is one point to remember, however. If you start to drag, it doesn’t matter that you were the first to anchor. You must take immediate action to avoid collision and find a new berth.

Today’s Thought
Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy.
—Emerson, Uncollected Lectures: Social Aims.

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #228
What’s the difference between a windlass and a capstan? Well, a windlass is a winch, most often an anchor winch, that has a horizontal barrel or barrels. Yacht windlasses often have two barrels, a smooth one with flanges for hauling rope, known as a gypsy, and another with recesses for links of chain, known as a wildcat. A capstan, on the other hand has a vertical barrel. In days gone by, the capstan was turned by men using spikes fitted horizontally into holes around the capstan head.

“Glad to meet you, Gloria, I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Yeah, but can you prove it?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Nikolay said...


Some time ago you mentioned you sold your Cape Dory.

As I am presently in the market for a boat, I looked them up.
I was very pleasantly surprised by some of their design features such as full keel, keel hung rudder, keel-stepped mast, and outboard shroud chainplates.

I was curious if you have any words on their sailing characteristics, known issues, general flaws etc?


John Vigor said...

Nikolay, Most of the Cape Dories were designed by the highly respected naval architect Carl Alberg. His Swedish heritage shows in their lines -- thorough-going sea boats, conservative but not sluggish. Solid and beautifully finished with high-class materials, yet reasonably priced. Very high degree of ownership loyalty; and everything you need to know about them is at www.capedory.org one of the best organized bulletin boards on the web.

John V.