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Moving and sitting

Page 2 - Sitting still

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We think there's little better in life than swinging gently to anchor in an empty sheltered bay with warm clear cerulean water full of little entertaining fish that take crumbs of bread from our fingers as we swim gently, soaking up the sun as we go. And later with friends in the cockpit sharing good conversation and a glass of wine before sleeping safe and sound until dawn. Mmmm..., well it does happen when we get all the factors lined up - location, weather, and the correct anchoring technique.

We used to worry about anchoring, a worry that grew out of the complexity of anchoring in tidal UK, with swinging circles, scope and tides to consider and when a friend told us that in the Med we would have to anchor far more often than we ever did in Britain we worried more. Four years later anchoring was our chosen method of staying still. To us an empty anchorage is what it's all about and yes, even in the Ionion you can still find them and no, we're not going to tell you where!
Aderyn Glass anchored at Vliho

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How we anchor

Anchor ball and LED light

If actual anchoring is easy judging where to drop it isn't. We do it like this: In an empty anchorage, where we are first to arrive, all we do is motor slowly into the wind until we have enough space around us to swing (we will swing slowly, driven by wind changes) and lay three times the water depth of chain or twenty metres whichever is the greater by motoring backwards slowly or letting the breeze take us. When the anchor bites we dig it in with some serious stern throttle. Then we wait five minutes before we stop the engine just in case we've got it wrong and we start changing position.

In a crowded anchorage we line up with the other boats and try to calculate where their anchors should be. Once we have the picture we go and drop the anchor in a place where no-one else's anchor will be - we hope. Unfortunately the wind may have shifted and the boats may be lying all over the place in relation to their hooks which makes it a little more of a lottery than it should be.

Rocna anchor and LED nav light In 2016 we changed our bow anchor from a CQR to a 15kg Rocna coupled to eighty metres of 8mm chain. ♥♥♥♥♥ Rocnas are reputedly the best anchor you can get for a small boat and it's the only one of our three (CQR, Delta, Rocna) that holds in sand. We should add that we're always careful to have a look at the anchor to see if it's bitten before we rely on it particularly if the bottom is sandy. But that's easy in the Ionion, a snorkel and mask is all that's needed. Our stern anchor is a 10kg Delta which is a good substitute for the Rocna if we ever need it. ♥♥♥♥♥ We sometimes use chum weights too, 10kg of rubber encased barbell weights from the local sports shop. In port we use them on the stern line to take the line down and clear of any propellers going passed too close, on the bow line they are equivalent to extra chain.♥♥♥♥♥ The GPS has an anchor alarm which we always set and the iPhone and Android have free anchor drag apps too.

In some anchorages we take a line ashore to hold the stern in a particular position once the bow anchor is in. This isn't difficult either. The trick is to put all the warp into the dinghy, so we don't have to tow it, and flake it in such a way that it pays out over the stern of the dinghy from the top of the pile. Then one of us rows ashore to tie the end to a tree; at this point it's not attached to Aderyn Glas. The trick then is to rendezvous the two vessels which requires a good bit of boat control by whoever is on the cruiser, then pull the stern around once the line is back onboard. We have an electric bow windlass so we can play with the bow position by hauling and deploying bow anchor chain. We have a remote control for it which does make life a lot easier, essentially replacing a person on the foredeck. ♥♥We also have a remote chain counter ♥♥and we use PMR radios ♥♥♥♥♥to link the dinghy to Aderyn Glas.

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Stern anchor

Stern anchor arrangement

The 10 kg Delta stern anchor lives in a chute that hangs over the pushpit. Attached to the anchor via a swivel is ten metres of 10mm chain and thirty metres of 12mm laid nylon rope. The whole rode lives in a bucket which used to be a fuel can bolted to the pushpit. One trick we can pass on is to flake the rode into the bucket in a figure-of-eight configuration so that the clockwise and anti-clockwise twists even out as the rope goes straight. This strategy prevents hockles. Sometimes we tie a buoy to the anchor but after one enterprising yachtie tried to tie his boat to it we more often don't these days. We do slide the chum weights a few metres along the line to sink it beneath passing props though. To haul the anchor in we often use the sheet winch which saves straining backs. ♥♥♥♥♥


How we moor

The Eclipse doesn't steer in reverse until she's gone about 50m and is travelling at about three knots, consequently stern mooring to a quayside was out of the question for many years, even if we didn't have all the kit hanging over the stern. But when we fitted the new motorcycle ramp-passerelle we also provided anchoring points on the stern and, since 2015, have started to go stern-to. It is difficult and, in a cross-wind, impossible; but we keep practising. Bows to a quayside is easy, we really just have to drive up to the quay and stop in time. The stern is either held by the anchor or, in a marina and some enlightened ports, a lazy line. Actually, we find lazy lines more difficult to handle than anchors when arriving because of the need to move it along the boat's deck dodging the fenders and everything else, but they really are welcome when leaving - throw it into the water and wait until it's sunk beneath the level of the prop and off you go. Stern-to is another matter entirely but the ease with which the anchor can be recovered and the boat moved quickly away from the quay make it worth persevering with. Whether you want the cockpit against the quay or remote from it is also a consideration when you decide which way to approach.

So we have nice long bowlines and sternlines permanently cleated on and these are thrown to someone on the quay who will tie a knot or two to hold us while we sort things out. This may sound presumptuous, but in the years we've been doing this we've only once found a quay where there was no-one to take our ropes. Incidentally, if we do approach stern-to there is no way off the boat until we can lower the passerelle so we're pretty reliant on friendly helpers.

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Getting the weather

Moonrise over Ithaca from Fiskardo

Of course we need weather forecasts before we sail anywhere. The quality of these varies throughout that part of the Med we've sailed - from France (you need to speak French) through Italy (Metal Martha reads an English version at regular intervals on VHF) to Greece where you really need the internet or Navtex. We have a Navtex although coverage and signal strength seem to vary hugely over the area we sail in.

A good and more detailed alternative though, provided you can access the internet, is
Meteo Greece which offers a five day forecast for the local area. Apart from that there are all the usual sources such as GRIB, Passageweather and Poseidon; but the local nature of the Greek meteo takes into account the many variations caused by the islands. ♥♥♥♥♥

Safety on a mooring

Sitting or moving is never completely risk free and so we have a lot of alarms on board. For ultimate safety we have a gas alarm, a smoke alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm and a flood alarm. On top of these we have an exhaust temperature alarm and a fridge overheat alarm (we've already mentioned: failure of the fridge is considered a catastrophe!). ♥♥♥♥♥

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