Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: New York
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Good topic. We raft relatively often, anywhere from 2 boats to 9 or 10. A few points to add:
1. I actually have never rafted with stern lines led to shore. We always are rafted in a harbor where we can swing, and have our bows into the wind. With this setup, we don't put out a second anchor unless we know the wind is going to remain steady from a particular direction and it will be enough to overcome the current. If the raft swings around and twists the rodes, it is a major hassle to undue the situation. We find that if the boat with the largest most substantial ground tackle (usually the largest boat, but not always) sets the anchor really well and puts out lots of scope, we don't have a problem. We raft with mutiple boats only in protected harbors with good holding and sufficient swing room, and with a benign forecast. If we don't have all of the above, we don't raft overnight.
2. We leave the bow lines a little slack so that the bows fall off. Hard to describe in words w/o a pic, but you want the wind to blow the bows apart. In this setup, there's a lot less pressure on the fenders (usually keeps the boats apart on their own accord), and it keeps the sterns closer together so that it's easier to cross.
3. Make sure you are rafting with people who are compatible. If you've got kids who wake up early and play loudly, don't raft with heavy partiers who are up until 3:00 hootin' and hollerin' and like to sleep in until 11:00. Everyone will be miserable.
4. As a matter of etiquette, when crossing boats on a raft, you should cross forward of the mast so that you are no intruding on the privacy of folks (either by crossing over them in their cockpits, or putting yourself in a position where you can look down the companionway into the cabin).
5. Another etiquette point, the boat rafting up should supply the lines, and if possible, take the tails to their own boat so as not to burden the "host" with the mess of dock lines.
6. When tying up, don't feel like you need to get your boat in perfect position inches off the host boat like you're docking or parallel parking. That just invites disaster and is entirely unnecessary. Pull up so that you are anywhere from 7 to 12 feet away or so, and throw a bow and stern line to the people on the host boat. From there, they pull you in. That way, everything happens nice and gentle, rather than you pulling up at 3 knots and risking a nice insurance claim. You can use the motor to kick the bow/stern in or out if necessary, but the whole procedure is happening sufficiently slow so that people can fend off without risk of losing appendages.
7. The anchor rules. That means the boat with the anchor down makes the rules. If that person becomes uncomfortable with the situation, then you have to agree to drop off the raft. Likewise, when deciding where the boats go on the raft, how to balance, etc., the anchor boat makes the rules.
Rafts are great, they're tons of fun, and if they are done with some foresight and prudence, they can be safe, relaxing and enjoyable.
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