So we got our balls tangled. Big deal. Happens to the best of us. Even if we wont admit it. Yes. Tangled balls tend to go unreported and those suffering continue to suffer. True, this is a uncomfortable subject, but we must help to shed some light on this affliction, if only to help those who suffer in silence. No we're not talking about some offshoot of "E.D.," we're talking Mooring Balls. And everything we just said above is true. No one admits to getting hung on a mooring ball. No one. And if you ask, you'll hear "nope, never happened to me, but I have seen it happen." How is it that no one you ever talk to has ever committed this sin, but most of us have seen it happen? It's called ego. Tangled Balls happen to all of us at some point regardless of experience, but it is viewed as a novice mistake. Maybe so, but we can all act like a novice from time to time. Just none of us can admit it. Let's start the healing... we'll go first.
Hello, my Name is Kevin from the Mayday Crew and I tangled my ball.
Everyone together.. "Hello, Kevin."
It was the end of our second day of our charter. Again I found myself in the BVIs and again wrapping up a day of sailing mooring up in the North Sound. Mooring up went as usual. Clean, smooth, and in one shot. We got set up for an evening of decompressing with our friends in the area. Late that night we started to see flashlights on the water. A sure sign of our buddies heading over in their motorboats and dinghies. We had our share of adult beverages with our friends before casting them off around 2 in the morning.
The morning comes quick on the yacht. And this morning was no exception. The sun and activity on the water gets you out of bed early. And so does the 3-year-old on the crew! We were all up and kicking by 7 a.m., and this is late for the cruising crowd. I don't know if it was the late night, the night before or if we were all just still a bit jet lagged but we had one groggy crew that morning. Ok. So maybe the late night revelry had something to do with it. Must have, the 3-year-old on board was ready to rock and roll!
Time to shove off! Called the Captain of the day, me (we take turns). The crew readied the yacht for another day on ocean though a little slower than most days. We prepared to leave the mooring as we always do.
Make sure all watertight hatches are shut.
Raise the swim ladder and secure the lifelines.
Stow anything that can blow overboard.
Make sure the mast light is off.
Turn the engines on.
Turn the VHF, Chart Plotter / GPS, and Radar.
Raise the dinghy on the davits and secure.
All persons accounted for.
The Irish portion of the crew headed to the bow to handle the bow dock line we use to tie off at the mooring pennant.
I was at the helm. The bowmen gave the all clear and me, El Capitan called out, "castoff!"
As we drifted off the mooring with the wind, I gave it some gas to assist the turn and get us into the clear water outside the mooring field.
The engines revved and we turned right on mark. One small problem. We had allowed the wind to "assist" us with our turn a little too long. The result? The wind not only helped with out turn but also pushed us sideways. We thought we were turning perfectly on our mark, but what we couldn't see was that we were actually turning on a MOORING BALL off our port side! When the Captain hit the gas he sucked the mooring pennant into the port prop and around the shaft. Mayday crew indeed.
After throwing the boat into neutral as quickly as I could the first thought raced though my head. How did this happen?! I stood there red faced and a bit defeated. A novice mistake! And every moored up yacht in the field witnessed it! Great.
The crew quickly gathered, not to point fingers (we can do that later), but to quickly resolve this situation and not become a danger to other boats around us. After all.. if we did manage to get it untangled the boat will float away. We certainly are not going to start the engines with people in the water.
So, this is what we did.
First thing we did was put the boat in neutral as soon as we got hung up.
Next we checked the bow for clear water. It was clear, but deep. Around 60 feet or so. We decided to drop anchor anyway. We figured we could let out at least a 3:1 scope. Not great, but good enough. This was about the max we could do safely as more scope would have given us too much swing room should we get off that ball, allowing us to swing into nearby yachts. Not good. So, we kept it short. Besides, we didn't need it to hold all day or in a storm, a few minutes at best.
Anchor down and we are not moving. At this point we shut the engine down so we could get to work fixing what I had caused.
Then one of the guys on the crew jumped into the water with a mask to inspect the situation below the water line. He reported back that he thought he could get it undone.
He made short work of it and had us off in less than 5 min.
We learned quickly that you should put on your sailing or diving gloves before attempting this. If not, you're going to get some nicely cut and scraped up hands. Barnacles you know... with our "diver" on board, the stern swung around on the anchor and we were free of the mooring trap. We got the engines running again, watching our gauges, listening and feeling for anything out of whack. It took only seconds to feel the comforting tug of the anchor chain to know the anchor had dug in nicely. Ok, we could now begin to gather our thoughts and assessing how this happened. Almost. We had one more issue at hand. This one we created to help with the other BIGGER problem. We had an anchor down in a mooring field. Yikes. True, better to lose an anchor than drift into another boat. So we felt justified in our decision to drop anchor, but still, we had to get it back carefully. When we dropped anchor we were very lucky to not have any mooring balls in the general bow area. But if we dragged or didn't get the anchor up quickly enough or up in the right spot, we stood a good chance of getting the anchor hung up on a mooring anchor line or on its footer.
We would have to release the anchor while remaining in the same general place (where the anchor releases) to be sure we didn't drag the anchor though the water and across a mooring line.
We managed to save ourselves from ourselves (and myself!). I had become more used to helping others and it was a real eye opener to be the one in need of help.
True, I did have our charter company's number on hand should we not be able to resolve this ourselves, but to be straight we didn't actually consider this as a real option (though it could have become one). Why? As the saying goes, it's the journey not the destination. This was just one of those things along the way this trip. Reminding me how grateful I am that everyone is different.
Now for the self-reflection, self help, whatever you want to call it.
What we did wrong.
We were all tired from the previous evening's festivities. We underestimated how our lack of sleep could affect us the next morning.
The Captain (me) did not ask for a watchperson on the port side (this Catamaran is helmed from the starboard) when we pulled off the mooring ball and should have.
The Captain (still me) assumed that the bow crew was on watch and was monitoring the port side.
The bow crew assumed the same thing about the captain.
We did not communicate with each other well enough.
These kinds of mistakes fall under one category.
Sailing Fat, Dumb, and Happy or FDH.
When you're in this state, you're bound to have a surprise or two. And we were, especially me.
It didn't matter how carefully we followed our casting off procedures or that we ticked off everything on the list. It's your awareness of your ever-changing environment that keeps you on your toes. A carefully crafted routine is a good start, but this can never become a crutch for knowing what you can and can't see (there are a few meanings there. Pick the one that works best for you).
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev