Of the six nights we spent underway during our recent trip to the Grenadines, I believe we put down an anchor for two of them. On the other nights we took a mooring ball, which had its own challenges.
When you look at the Sunsail website for the charter company’s profile of each sailing location in the Caribbean and other parts of the world, you find that Grenada is designated as “Expert” level. I don’t know the entire reason for that designation (wind, anchorage shelter, and availability of provisions in-transit are likely factors) but I believe the lack of availability of well maintained mooring balls may be a factor.
It may be unfair of me to say, but I expected that if we paid a fee for a mooring, then the mooring would come with its own pendant attached. None of the ones we used did, so each mooring involved first deploying the dinghy to get our own pendant installed. That was mostly fine for us this trip, because we had a lot of seamanship and experience on-board. But if I had wanted to do a charter with just my wife aboard this would have been a significant hurdle.
The first time we deployed the dingy to a mooring resulted in my first big blunder as we motored in to a mooring at Sandy Island near Hillsborough.
The ball had no pendant and I made the mistake of jamming our boat hook into the tiny loop where a pendant would go, as if then I’d be able to drag the 37-foot yacht to a dead stop, hoist the two-foot line five feet onto our foredeck, and get a pendant tied on.
Instead, I quickly found myself on my belly reaching off the bow as my arm twisted around to the other side of the boat under the anchor. Finally I think someone yelled to let go the boat hook, which I did, and then we had to deploy the dinghy to retrieve the boat hook before we could think about installing our pendant.
Other than that, our other moorings went pretty smoothly, though each had its challenges. For example, in Tobago Cays I broke what I know is a cardinal rule of mooring by hesitating too long with the mooring line just a turn around the cleat – until the boat drifted off the wind and the line got stuck under the keel. After fixing that problem (I reluctantly dropped my hard-won line) we made fast and found out from a park ranger that all moorings are required to have two independent lines attached.
Good idea, of course, but it meant once again deploying the dinghy.
In between these we had a couple of anchorings that went smoothly once we found a spot with enough sea room.
And then there was the quick mooring at Palm Island where I learned what might be another of my sea rules to live by.
Out went the dinghy, mooring line tied on, I’m on the foredeck and the Skipper tosses to me from the dinghy a loop. I wasn’t going to make the mistake I did at Tobago Cays so I immediately cleated it on using that cheater’s cleat hitch where you jam the loop through the underside of the cleat and then pull the loop tight around both horns.
But then I had this awkward loop, a knot that wasn’t really safe to leave unattended, so much slack in the line that I worried about it getting snagged on the anchor as the boat swung around, and left to stare sadly at the knot on the ball side of the line which I wished was on-board.
Soon our Skipper came back aboard from the dinghy and offered this valuable advice:
If you have a loop, always get the knot onto the boat.
When I spend time with experienced people, it’s good to hear their quick pearls of wisdom like that. Sure, there may be times when getting the knot back onto the boat is not the right move. But I think generally it is the right move, assuming you can do it without losing hold of your secured line.
Under the best of circumstances, tying a boat up for the night is a simple matter. But often things don’t go in the ideal way, and when they don’t, every little bit of experience is absolutely vital.