As we move forward through February and the mornings start to get lighter and the evenings start getting longer, boats around the country are starting to be awoken from their winter slumber. The peaceful winter waterways will soon be making way for the hordes to return and the busy season to begin. So it is about time we had a gentle reminder about mooring and more specifically tying up in a sensible manner.
There are far too many boat owners out there who believe that a couple of ropes, one fore and one aft, loosely tied at 90° to the bank will suffice. Quite simply they won’t, with this arrangement you will get excessive movement as any boat passes, however slowly they pass. The situation is made even worse if they are moored using pins as the excessive movement of the boat and the snatching of the ropes will break the pins loose and set the boat free and of course this is always someone else’s fault.
With a little extra time and care spent mooring up you can greatly reduce the movement of the boat due to passing boats, wind or tidal conditions. A couple of spring lines are all that it takes. Rigging up spring lines takes a few moments extra but makes for a much more comfortable time on the boat. To set spring lines is simple. Send out your normal bow and stern lines ideally at an angle of around 45° to the boat however this is not always possible or practical. With the bow and stern line secured take a line from the bow of the boat to a point on the bank adjacent the stern of the boat and a line from the stern to the bank adjacent the bow and secure them as necessary. The scissor effect of these two ropes will keep the boat against the bank side but will also reduce the fore and aft surging as other boats pass.
The above method would require very long ropes on larger vessels so a method for normal length cruising ropes can been used instead. You send out your bow and stern lines as normal and then take the loose ends back to a cleat located amidships on the vessel. This creates the triangle effect we are looking for but requires much shorter ropes. If no cleat is available on the boat, then shorter lines can be used from the bow and stern cleats/studs/bollards and returned to a secure mooring point on the bank side as close to the centre of the boat as possible. This will again provide the triangles we are looking for that vastly reduce fore and aft motion.
In the photograph above we have used the two rope spring method which we use most of the time on the canals and on smaller non tidal rivers. It is a simple way of quickly and effectively securing the boat whilst reducing surging motion. We tend to only use the four rope method on larger rivers and in busy towns or cities where extra ropes mean extra safety and in sea ports and harbours where the extra lines are needed to soften the effect of passing commercial and fishing vessels both of which make huge wakes which take a considerable time to settle down again.
The beauty of spring lines is that they don’t have to be excessively tight to work effectively. This is great on rivers where you need to allow for the rise or fall of the water levels but still want a comfortable time on board. The flow of the water will keep the boat against the mooring using two of the lines in the process. The opposing two lines will reduce the fore and aft motion of the moored vessel due to passing boats.
A little extra time and effort is all that it takes for a more comfortable night aboard. With a little practice setting spring lines becomes second nature and will become part of your normal mooring routine. We don’t even think about it now, we always moor using spring lines. It takes us no longer to moor our boat then someone messing around trying to secure two loose ropes to the bank but we have a greatly more comfortable time onboard and we don’t feel the need to scowl at passing boaters, however sensible or not they may be.