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Preview: Boat Handling for Beach Cruising – Anchoring, Beaching, Rigging an Outhaul & Boat Knots

December 2, 2011

Geoff Kerr is a genuine beach cruising guru. Aboard his Caledonia Yawl NED LUDD, we learn what is involved in anchoring, getting your boat ashore safely, and how to rig an outhaul. Whether you plan to spend the night or simply remain through a single tide cycle, Geoff talks us through the beaching process.

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– This is such an epic spot where a 1/2 mile from the mainland, on this beautiful beach, not another boat in site. Something about coming to an island like this gives you a real sense of freedom, and these basic skills of beaching, anchoring, a little knot work and rope work which we’ll get into with a pull-off are skills that really are valuable in order to get to places like this. We’re fortunate today to be joined by Geoff Kerr. Geoff is a boat builder from Vermont who specializes in beach-cruising boats such as this Caledonia Yawl we’re in. Geoff’s kind of a beach-cruising guru. We’re going to walk you through some anchoring techniques, whether you plan on staying aboard for a little lunch or whether you want to go ashore and keep your boat safely tied up on shore, talk through three or four knots that, as I hear, can get you to Australia.

– That’s right, the three we know, and tie off in.

– The three we know and tie off in, and talk you through a little bit how to keep your boat safe when you’re not around. Geoff and I just left the wooden boat anchorage and we’re having a nice reach across the harbor. The wind’s out of the west-southwest, and we’re just looking for a sheltered anchorage that we can pull up and do some beaching demonstrations. Right here is Babson Island. We know there’s a nice little sandy beach here. There’s a nice little shelf here. Look at the depth, seven, eight feet at low tide, perfect anchorage, right in the lee of the wind. It’d be a nice, quiet, sunny spot. Let’s take a second and draw a diagram of what an anchorage might look like. So we have a shore here, sandy beach. Wherever we drop our anchor, we want to make sure that the scope we pick, the amount of anchor road that we let out will allow us to swing freely without hitting the shore or any other obstacles, any rocks, maybe, at high or low tide, low tide, that we might come into. While on this diagram, our boat is anchored with the wind in this direction, a wind change or a current change with the tide, our rope could swing to any number of places in this spectrum. The idea with any anchor is you’ve got your bottom and with our fishermen, you want those flukes set and your shank pulling as horizontally as it possibly can. The more you pull horizontally, the harder those flukes are going to dig in. As that angle changes a little bit, it’s still going to dig into a point and as that angle comes more vertical, it’s going to break free and come out. So we’ve got our anchor, a fisherman in this case, all rigged and ready to go. It’s important to have this all rigged up so when you get to the spot that you want to anchor you can throw it overboard without drifting away.

– Tiller likes to flop overboard, so I’ll just lash it, overboard. There, no strain on me now. Gonna watch the shore, watch the water. We are dead stopped right now. Starting to move backwards. I just felt the bottom there. I haven’t reached my 30-foot mark yet. I bet I’ve been out about 12 to 15 feet of line. If you think, okay, 12 feet of water, 3:1 scope, I can get away with on this anchor, 4:1 maybe, 12 feet of water, I want to let out 50 feet of line, let’s say. You want to pay it out. If I just fling for it here to the 50-foot mark and throw it all overboard, I have no idea what configuration that line is in. It could be knotted, it could be tangled. It could be wrapped around three rocks by the time there’s any tension on it, so I’m going to be patient, pay the line out. That first piece of leather is 30 feet of line. Then we’ll call that 42 feet and maybe cleat it off here. I use the three-bolted bow cleat, one full turn around the bottom, a figure eight and a 1/2 hitch. The prudent thing to do is we’re going to drop the main, just in case the wind changes direction or something while we’re ashore, you know? If I happen to fall asleep, which is sometimes attractive or we decide to walk up into the woods to see that amazing fern meadow up there, good to know that the boat’s not going to turn over or break while you’re gone.

– We’re ashore. What’s the next, what’s the next step?

– Well, I’d like to ensure that the boat’s here, after our picnic or our hike or whatever. What are we going to do to keep it here? It’s calm, it’s soft, I’m happy with it sitting right here but I want to tie it to the island somehow, and the simplest thing to do today would be, I think, I’ll hop back and pick up the Danforth and we’ll set it up the beach. The tide is actually falling right now but since we’ve been talking, for the last five minutes, the wind’s done a 180 here all of a sudden. Things are going to change. Danforths are a very common anchor. They’re great for setting in the sand, it’s what they were designed for. They need a very horizontal pull for those flukes to bite. And I’ve got 20 feet of nylon bow line here that I’ll just put through the ring at the head and we’ll throw a bowline in. It’s probably not going to come untied. Again, it’s probably something I’m sure we could pick the boat up with if we needed to, and maybe I’ll pull this out and reset it with some reasonable distance, and even if the tide were to come up six feet in the next hour or two while we’re here I’m pretty comfortable the boat’ll be somewhere right there. We ought to be able to find it.

– We’re going to spend the night on the island. I guess our options are either to bring the boat right ashore, where she’s snug and tidy, anchor her out or possibly rig an outhaul. Do you want to talk about bringing her up the beach?

– Yeah, I think, I never sleep better on an island than when I know the boat is high and dry and it’s going to be there in the morning. Kayakers, you know, what a joy, you unload your boat and you can carry it right up and tie it to a tree and you’re set, and remarkably or surprisingly, even with a boat this size, it’s perfectly doable to get the boat above the tide line. This is a reasonably low-sloped beach. I’ve got a couple tricks in the boat that will let you and I move this right up to the rack line–

– Let’s have a look.

– With no trouble. I’ve got a couple of tubular fenders in the boat that pumped up with air make wonderful pneumatic rollers. And then if you and I just grasp ahold of here and heave on three. One, two, three. And, with a little effort, moving the roller–

– Right up the beach we go.

– We could have it up there above high tide line and commence to cook dinner and never think about the boat again, and the reverse, to launch the boat, it’s downhill. It’s even easier.

– Now the coast of Maine isn’t always like this, you know, right here, we’ve got a very vertical kind of rock face where you may not have this kind of a setup to come ashore. We may talk a little bit about setting up an outhaul in a situation like this?

– Oftentimes, with the tides in Maine, if you don’t happen to have, as you noted, this beautiful, gently-sloping beach, it’s the only way you can keep the boat accessible, either have an outhaul or have a dinghy, it’s one or the other.

– So this is your outhaul getup. Something you just kind of put together?

– Yeah, this is something I actually saw this demonstrated in the back pages of one of the main island trail guidebooks one year. ‘Cause outhauls are fairly common in Maine and what this allows us is imagine our anchor and anchor road made off here, at the appropriate depth. Then, we’re going to rig a long piece of line through here, tie its ends to our bow line, and that becomes our haul-in and haul-out.

– Our clothesline, so to speak.

– Our clothesline. I now have a big, continuous loop. So we’re going to set this up to be able to land on that gnarly shore. We’ll pick out maybe that first tree as someplace to make off our line on the shore end.

– Sure.

– So we’re going to set our fisherman out here I guess we’re about half-tide now, the tide’s ebbing, 11-footish tide, it might go out another five feet so we want to be sure we’re in at least 10 or 15 feet of water, out here, and we have 11-foot oars so we ought to be able to figure that out fairly easily. We’ll set that anchor, make it off to our temporary mooring buoy and then row the boat to shore, paying out our continuous loop line and once we get ashore, with one end of that loop, we can haul the boat back out to its mooring anchor. Does that make sense?

– Let’s shove off.

– Let’s give it a try. All set, the stove’s bubbling…

– Let’s have a look at this in a diagram. We’ve got a beach and a bowled shore we’re talking about. We’ve got a little tree over here, on this rocky outcropping. We’re going to place our outhaul cross in water depth suitable, and all we’re doing is anchoring that to the bottom with our fisherman, anchored cross. Then it’s simply a clothesline from the other side of that outhaul cross around that tree which we tie the painter of our boat off of and we can haul and retrieve as we need it.

– Make off the end-shore end to a tree or something. She should sit right there on her mooring buoy for the evening. As long as we tied reasonable knots and used good line, we ought to have a boat in the morning. We’ve been out here today on, you know, the elements of a real serious adventure, and I’ve probably used four, maybe five knots and I bet folks already know two of them. Even a simple boat like mine has a few cleats on it, and you see people cleat so many different ways. The simplest thing I know, and I’ve seen it hold thousand-ton ships is once around the base, that gives you your friction, and a figure eight and then throw a 1/2 hitch and that is as strong and secure as if you did 10 figure eights. Beyond that, you’re just doing something with the extra line.

– Once around the cleat, a figure eight and then the tail comes through.

– And she comes up into a 1/2 hitch, and that’s the lock. Often in boating, you find yourself in a situation where your rope’s too short, and you need a longer rope. You know, suddenly you needed a tow line or your dock line’s too short or you need more anchor line, so you’re joining two pieces of line, even two pieces of line of different diameter. Just form a bight, once around and the key here is that the end of the line locks under itself and we could pick this boat up with that knot. Just form a bight, once around and the key here is that the end of the line locks under itself. And, the key to every, every knot in the world is that it can be untied. It breaks open even if we’ve lifted the boat with it, it’s going to break, tension comes off and we can recover our line. One of the classic, most useful is a bowline. We’ve got a tow line coming from a dinghy. I’m going to bring the bow line around this mast fort, mast partner, which will hold it, make yourself a loop. Bring the line up from underneath, go around the standing part, back down, pull it tight and every trade in the world uses a bowline if your life’s going to be hanging on it. Square knot, used commonly on a boat for tying sail ties and reefing lines. One 1/2 knot, second opposing 1/2 knot, and you’re in business. You might also make off a line to almost any object in a quick and dirty fashion. One 1/2 hitch, another 1/2 hitch, she’ll lock up tight and take any strain.

– When summer comes, we jump in these boats and get on the water. Part of that fun is getting ashore. Land ho! There’s nothing like going ashore with your friends and family and having a lobster feed. It’s also nice to know that your boat’s going to be safe and where you left it. Anchoring, beaching, and knowing how to tie a few knots are the skills that are going to make it all happen.

– Good job, Stella.



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