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post #1 of 37 Old 08-24-2012 Thread Starter
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picking up a vacant mooring

I moved to the US from the UK a few years ago and up until last year sailed in the chesepeake and was able to anchor just about anywhere this year I moved up to the New york area and am sailing southern new england waters.

8:43 AM
In the UK one can pick up privet moorings if vacant knowing that you may need to leave at a moments notice should the owner return. naturally the ettiquette is always fiercly debated but i'll keep it simple. If they are not yacht club privat or run by a marina can one pick one up?

8:47 AM
I recently found myself in the thimble islands off Con. and was nervous about anchoring due to cable areas on the charts and the area was full of vacant moorings that were numbered there was a coast guard mooring availble which I had read was aviable for the public if free but I ended up taking one that was better protected?
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post #2 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

Most of the recent guidebooks should tell you what is going on in the harbour you are in.

The issue with private moorings is knowing "how good they are and if they will handle the weight and windage of your vessel. There are no Standards for moorings. It's all about the harbormaster.

You certainly should assume someone might knock on the hull for payment or ask you to move. Personally I would either pick up an approved mooring or lay my own tackle.

The information for Southern NE and LI is comprehensive and your guide books should be able to tell you including free docks and moorings set out by towns.
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

Parrot makes an important point, knowing that there is appropriate ground tackle is a safety issue. Not just for you, but for the mooring owner.

Under that mooring ball could be anything and if it's not suitable for your boat you could end up dragging it or damaging it, or both.

If, under that ball there happens to be a set up for a small day sailor and you end up hauling it onto the rocks do you plan on sticking around long enough to have it pulled, repaired/replaced, inspected and reset?

I have a private mooring. I don't mind if someone uses it while I'm not around. It's way over sized for my boat and could probably handle just about anything big enough to swing into the next mooring.

I have never come in and found a boat there that didn't have someone aboard for me to ask to move. That would piss me off.

I can't speak for everyone though.
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post #4 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

There is no standard etiquette, just local; which does make it confusing. If you read the harbormaster rules in some ports in Mass., they will indicate that the Harbormaster will ticket you hundreds of dollars just for hooking up to a private mooring without permission. I don't know if they actually do that, but it is in the regs in a number of harbors. In others, the harbormaster will tell you to just pick up an empty one, or direct you to one available. Some of the regs are on the other side of punitive and indicate that any mooring not in use may be used by others with notice to Harbormaster. Hadley Harbor, you can pick up any of the private moorings as long as you are willing to leave if asked, but other than by word of mouth, it is hard to find that fact out.
Obviously the other issue is the one mentioned above about strength and integrity of what you are attaching yourself to. In New Bedford, the suspicion is that a great number of the private moorings in certain areas are owned, but never used by individuals that keep their boats in trendier places, but want an assurance that they can get on a mooring when a hurricane comes and be protected by the hurricane barrier. Not sure anyone should feel bad about using these (assuming their integrity) as they are taking up anchorage space - but you would sort of have to know the harbor to know this. Anyway, it is all local - which is good and bad. Sail New Bedford
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

We were basically getting our a** kicked on our delivery of our boat from South Chicago to Milwaukee. We pulled into the Chicago harbor and tied up to an empty mooring for lunch, and to get into dry clothes. After that we felt much better about our trip. I would hope someone would do the same with my mooring in Milwaukee when I am gone.
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post #6 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

There doesnt have to be standard etiquette about mooring balls. If you dont own it, it isnt yours. Public ones are stated. Most come with fees which are meant to be paid.

You may not want to hear the harsh reality of this , but what gives you the right to touch or use someone elses property unless its in an emergency situation just because it either suits your convience or you failure to do due dilligence in your planning.

A private mooring is not shared property any more than a private boat is. You didnt pay for it, you dont have any right to it. As far as NEw England moorings and town/ municipal moortings. We are cruising there right now. The specifics for each harbor/ area are dilineated. You should follow them. Planning where you will anchor is part of the big boy picture and responsibility of sailing and coming into a harbor or anchorage. Charts are very specific about where there are cable areas that cannot be anchored in. We have just come through the Thimble Islands area of Connecticut and there are plenty of designated fine anchorages. If your nervous about anchoring places...dont sail there as you may be forced to anchor there some day so dont put yourself in that adverse situation.

All of this is moot in an emergency situation of course. Poor planning on your part however does not constitute and emergency.


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post #7 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

viajero, in NY waters, or even NE waters, bear in mind you are dealing with the descendants of the Pilgrims. Uptight folks with limited ideas of propriety and specific concepts of Property, and you generally are expected not to touch what does not belong to you, because it does belong to someone else.

That would include privately owned moorings.

Yes, some folks are way more laid back and as long as you are ready to cast off RIGHT NOW not in ten minutes, they may smile and wish you well. But I can tell you that a boat returning home, late six hours because of wx or other problems, expecting to tie up NOW and get ashore NOW, will not be happy to see you on their mooring.

Technically, if you hook into someone's private mooring, that's probably fourth-degree trespass, so yes, our common law and criminal law are both against you as well.

Now, if there's a dockmaster, harbormaster, someone in charge of the area who tells you "Oh just pick up such-and-such, they're gone for the weekend" that's quite common an acceptable.

But simply picking up a mooring? As a native, I'd never do that. Momma raised me right. I don't "borrow" unlocked cars, either.

Of course if you just smile and pass over a bottle of good spirits and apologize for the inconvenience...heck, you might get invited to raft up. :-)
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post #8 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

Well, it looks like I can't resist the temptation to start a classic Sailnet flame war here. So grab some popcorn and sit back!

I have never taken someone else's private mooring ball, and have no immediate plans to do so, so this is somewhat academic. But I can imagine a non-emergency situation where I might be tempted, so it's worthy of some discussion.

First, I assume that all of you are referring to moorings that have been placed into public-access waters by private citizens. If so, my question then is, what gives someone the right to claim the water that immediately surrounds his Chlorox bottle, old LP tank, or Sur-Moor float? Suppose I pull into a small, protected cove with limited space, intending to anchor, but I find a bunch of moorings that people have left to "claim" their spot? In this hypothetical example I am envisioning a weekender's cove where the owners drop unregistered balls and use them maybe one day a week on average (not for daily mooring). There is no space left for me to anchor because the necessary rode would guarantee that my boat collides with or my rode gets fouled on all these mooring balls.

In this example, what is someone supposed to do? Do these people have a right to "lay claim" on public waters by littering the limited space with a bunch of unlicensed mooring balls? Do I risk fouling my anchor line on their balls by anchoring? Or, since the cove is littered by a bunch of unused balls, do I just grab one? Would it be any more satisfactory for me to just drop my anchor 10 feet away from his ball and claim "his space" without actually using his ball?

This is not a purely hypothetical example. The Delaware River has very few protected coves for anchoring, but there is one cove about an hour's sail away that I may want to try out in the next few weeks. Last time I was there two years ago it was filled with a bunch of unused, unregistered mooring balls (old LP tanks and the like), and although it was not so crowded as to prevent anchoring, it would not take many more to render anchoring unsafe. Right now I don't know what awaits me next time I go back there.

In general, I think some of this bluster over owners' rights to the mooring fails to recognize that the owners of unlicensed moorings are borrowing public waters, and should therefore expect that there may have to be some occasional sharing involved. At the very least, they should allow the "intruder" 10 minutes to leave without an angry scowl of indignation. If they don't want to be inconvenienced by this, perhaps they could post their expected return time on the ball with a request that the ball be vacated prior to this time.

Of course, if the owner is licensing his rights to the water from a regulating authority with a licensed mooring ball, then that's a different story. So my question to all of you much experienced cruisers: Are most of these mooring balls just dropped by owners who are "squatting" on the surrounding space, or are they usually leased from a regulating authority? I think that distinction makes a big difference.
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Last edited by TakeFive; 08-24-2012 at 05:41 PM.
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post #9 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

As has been noted, the local rules vary from harbor to harbor. There are places where moorings have been dropped for use primarily on weekends by the owner. One such place is Calf Island near Greenwich CT and local practice is to pick one up and just be prepared to move if the owner shows up. In other harbors the Harbormaster will give you a ticket if you pick up a private mooring. Lloyd Harbor is an example of that. In North Cove in Old Saybrook CT, you are permitted to pick up a mooring that has a streamer on it. It is consider a harbor of refuge and that was arranged so they could get the harbor dredged a number of years ago. So you need to know the local rules.
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post #10 of 37 Old 08-24-2012
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Re: picking up a vacant mooring

Intersting topic. I too am amazed at some harbors filled up with rental moorings so that you essentially can't anchor and are forced to pay rental fees and trust your boat to sometimes questionable equipment. I question the legality because essentially these rental mooring owners are claiming federal (public) waters for personal gain. I would love to hear from some legal folks for opinions.
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