January 14, 2016


We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post. (below)

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Link to original forum post [8-Dec-2015]

Re: Short handed 'line ashore' anchoring

Originally Posted by Nick Boxer View Post
Hi, this is my first post as a 'new forum member'.
I have been sailing for 20+ years as a share owner in the Ionian and have just purchased a 'whole boat' to spend more time in the area.
We intend to spend more time away from the 'town quays', as lovely as they are, at anchore with a line ashore, not a problem when we have a competent crew to assist, but I would like to master the art of carrying out this manoeuvre for all intent and purpose, single handed.
My wife is not particularly confident so I need to develop a system where I can do it singlehanded.
Does anyone have any practical advice? That is apart from the obvious, don't try it in the first place!
Our new boat is a Bavaria 38 Cruiser and I am experienced in the normal handling of similar vessels.
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
Thanks in anticipation.

Welcome to the forum! It sounds like you have some wonderful cruising ahead of you.

It has been many years since I had to run a shore-line by myself, but your question reminds me we should practice doing it alone in case of injury, etc.

I should also mention it is our preference not to use shorelines if at all possible because they add additional complication- especially in extenuating circumstances.

I apologize for this being somewhat lengthy, but as I thought through it there are 3 fairly different scenarios I have encountered over the years which require shorelines, and I have consequently developed multiple approaches for each scenario depending upon circumstances. There are likely other, better methods as well. But so far this has worked for me.

First- I would never attempt a solo shoreline if the conditions were anything but calm.

The method I choose depends upon the reason for needing the shore line. The three scenarios I have encountered are: [and there are doubtless other scenarios I have yet to experience...]
  1. a deep bottom sloping steeply up toward the shore
  2. limited swing [not due to other vessels...] in an otherwise acceptable anchorage
  3. a crowded anchorage that has a comparatively level bottom
In the higher latitudes we favor, it is typically the first 2 scenarios we encounter, and in the order listed.

Situation #1; Steep-to bottom: [Depending upon circumstances, the following procedures could also work for the other 2 situations as well.]

My typical method of anchoring in this situation is to back toward shore and anchor on the uphill slope of a steep bottom. This means I have to prevent the boat from drifting over and past the anchor, dragging it downhill and eventually [quickly] dislodging it from the bottom.

Once the anchor is set we keep backing the boat toward shore as close as we can [remember the bottom is coming up fast...] and toss a stern anchor [e.g., a Fortress FX27 or 37 depending...] as far as I can from the vessel, and drift away from shore paying out enough rode until I can soft set that anchor. Then I shorten the primary anchor rode on the bow until the boat is held in slight tension between the two anchors.

Sometimes I incorrectly estimate the middle location between the two anchors when I set the bow anchor [i.e., one anchor is left with inadequate rode or angle, etc.] and have to start over. This can be a simple as leaving the stern anchor fixed and paying out stern rode while motoring away from shore, going past the bow anchor until it dislodges. Keep progressing toward deeper water leaving the bow anchor dangling [remember we are on a steep slope in deep water...] ultimately letting out more bow rode and re-setting the primary anchor. Then I can again back toward shore letting out bow rode and taking in stern anchor rode until I re-set the bow anchor and find that ideal position between the two that will hold the boat while I run a shore line...

Once the shoreline is set, I will slack the stern rode but keep the anchor set if I need to go ashore again to retrieve the shoreline. This keeps the load on the shoreline with the stern anchor as back-up. [I prefer to run the shoreline around a tree or similar object and back to the boat so I can retrieve it from the boat... but that is not always possible...]

Scenarios #2 and 3 can sometimes be dealt with using a modified, somewhat simpler approach. If I can temporarily anchor out on shorter than usual scope [remember I mentioned I would only attempt these solo maneuvers in benign conditions...] and row a long line to shore, then I can either back toward shore retrieving shoreline as I let out bow anchor rode, or pull the bow anchor and reset it as I get closer to shore. If the shoreline can't reach the boat [e.g., I can't temporarily anchor close enough...] then I might buoy the bitter end of the secured shoreline [and anchor it if needed using the dinghy grappling hook anchor] That way I can retrieve it as I bring the boat within range backing toward shore.

Next I'll share some basics about our strategy regarding shorelines:
  • Shorelines need to be long [Our shortest line is 600ft (183m); Soft eyes in both ends of the shorelines allow us to couple them together if extra length is needed.]
  • They need to float
  • They need to be strong enough for the task [Dyneema meets all these criteria. Get a bright color so everyone has a better chance of seeing it.]
  • Flake and store shorelines in vented anchor rode bags or on reels/spools. [Don't try to coil them.]
  • Attach bright floats along the deployed shoreline(s) for visibility- especially if others may be in the area.
  • Shore attachment methods we use include:
  • We keep a couple of lengths of galvanized cables with eyes at each end for use as a necklace around rocks and boulders for attaching the shoreline [Chain can also be used, and stows more readily on the boat, but is much more difficult to handle on a rocky shore...]
  • We also keep some strong 2" nylon webbing vehicle towing straps (eyes on both ends...] for wrapping around sturdy tree trunks [so we don't damage the trees...] We also keep some 2" tubular webbing for the same purpose when we run a single shoreline around a tree and back to the boat so it can be retrieved without another trip to shore...
  • An assortment of Rock climber wedges can be handy as well
  • If there is a sandy beach, set a Danforth style anchor well up the beach and attach the shoreline to that
  • The boat attachment method is typically fair leading the shoreline(s) to primary winch(es) so it is easy to keep adequate tension on the primary anchor, and to adjust for tidal fluctuations
  • If it is a single line going around a tree and back to the boat, one end would be cleated with the other led to a winch

Method of shoreline deployment:

Attach the bitter end(s) to the boat and drop the bag(s) of shoreline(s) in the dinghy. It is much easier to pay out line stowed in the dink [and deal with tangles...] that drag the line from the boat. Row to shore and affix the line(s) as needed.

As you can see, there are lots of variables with these methods, and it is never quite the same twice... And it is very time consuming- especially by yourself...

I hope some of this may be as helpful as I find the descriptions of techniques provided by others.



Short on opinions; focused on research, facts & experience [yours and ours...]

Additional Resources:
  • Attainable Adventure Cruising on Shorefasts [A subscription site, and well worth US$1.66/month...]
  • How do we create stretchier, stronger lines in inclement conditions? [Especially useful for shorter shore lines to a quay or dock in surge or high wind conditions...]
    • To increase stretch [and strength] in times past I have had success tightly twisting two lengths of 3-strand nylon for each tie. That improves strength and give you a quick way to add some stretch if you have no alternatives at the moment... [One method is to secure the middle of a long enough length of 3-strand to the quay, then lead the 2 bitter ends to the boat. Twist the two secured lines together from the boat as tight as you can and cleat it off as a single line. Repeat for the other shore ties.]

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