Thursday, July 28, 2011

Challenges of Single-hand Cruising

While I was waiting for work to be done on Ruyam II, I was mostly docked at the Joma Marina at the Road Town harbour. It gets quite hot, it is full of bugs, and it gets really boring at night and during the weekend since there is nothing or no one around. Besides the water inside the harbour is not for swimming at all. The town is a 20-25 minute away on foot, and it is not very safe to walk alone at night. Since the radar installation was delayed until after the past weekend, I decided to sail out of the marina and spend a night at Peter Island, at the Great Harbour, where there is wonderful swimming opportunity at and around the beach club and the restaurant stays open late during weekends. Saturday morning I left the marina and sailed directly south across the channel. With winds at 15-18 knots on the beam it was a very pleasant 1.5h sailing.

One drawback of the location I chose was that anchoring was not really an option on the beach club side of the harbour. It is a very deep bay and doesn’t get shallow enough until you are literally yards away from the shore; however mooring is provided in front of the beach club. I had never done this before, but I was ready for the challenge and pick a mooring ball without any other crew on board.

Well I tried and missed the first time, stopping a little early and being carried back away from the ball by the wind and the current. The second time I overshot the ball, that was between the two hulls and decided to slowly back onto it and run forward to catch it with the boat hook as it passed forward. The ball was nowhere and I noticed that we were not moving back anymore. I returned to the helm and looked to see where the mooring ball was. It was at the starboard side stern and stuck to the hull. The boat was slowly turning to port, pivoting at the mooring ball. It was obvious I had the mooring anchor line caught at something below. I immediately went to the windlass and started to drop anchor, at around 25-30 feet. I had to, because I was alone and I was going to dive and have a look at what had happened below. I put on my goggles and dove off the starboard stern. It looked worse than I thought. The mooring anchor line was wrapped around the prop. While I was trying to back I must have been a little bit too late putting the engines back into neutral. I could hold on the last step of the stern and inspect the situation. It looked like it was only a few turns and was quite loose, except the last round of loop that was stretched by the pull of the boat with wind and current. I decided to use the port side engine in reverse briefly to actually drive the boat on to the ball to loosen the stretched line and quickly dive to dislodge the last loop from the prop. It worked. The rest of the loops came off easier and after about six or seven dives to the prop all the line was off the prop and we were free.

I took a few deep breaths, a drink of water and started to assess the situation. The anchor was holding at the moment, but I did not have sufficient scope on the chain to spend the night at anchor at that location. I decided to weigh anchor and try again to get the mooring ball. All this time a family of four were watching me from their deck, comfortably tied at the next mooring ball. When they saw me attempting to get the ball again, they offered help. The skipper and her daughter hoped on their dinghy and came over to take the port side dock line, and passed it through the eye of the mooring ball pennant, giving back the bitter end so I could tie at least one side of my bridle. I thanked them and said that I could fix the second line myself, saving a little bit of dignity.

Once the ordeal was over, I had a wonderful weekend at Peter Island. But I don’t think I will try to take a mooring ball singe-handed again, except in absolute calm weather in a very safe harbour.


  1. Before I was up to the last paragraph,reading all the story above, I was thinking to write a comment as;

    ' Do not ever try to take a mooring ball single-handed again when you feel that conditions are not safe enough '

    as you have already stated.

    Additionally I suggest ; You better do not prefer a single handed sail until its not necessary,at least during your first year on RUYAM II in Caribbean ..

    Wish you enjoy your sailing without any problems again Captain Al.


  2. If no problems,then no solutions
    Many problems many solutions...
    That all adds up to experience....
    This is only possible if you sail as much as you can....
    Bravoo Captain...