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Skipper's Corner - A Rafting Primer

From the bridge of my vessel I can see that things are getting a little crazy out on the water. This has been a record year for boat sales as people figure it’s a great way to be out in the open, away from large gatherings in the age of Corona Virus and social distancing. With all this escapism we must keep a few things in mind when it comes to rafting. Rafting is a fun way to get together with other boaters. Here are tips to consider when rafting. The first consideration is “where to raft?” which requires more than one answer. Not in a channel. Not near a bridge. (If the anchoring fails it’s a disaster.) Not in an Inlet. Not right in front of some ones beach or bay house. Not near a rock jetty. Not right on top of another raft. Not near fishermen. Pick a nice, calm, open area, free of all encumbrances. It is preferable the largest vessel take center position first. Anchor with a full 7x ratio of anchor line and chain to depth. Often it is wise to deploy two anchors, one off starboard bow and one off port bow to act as safety. This boat will be a stable point for other boats to join on. NO SHORT ANCHORING ON THE MAIN VESSEL! The master of the first vessel is the Senior Captain above all the other rafters. What this captain says goes and this captain should also keep a wary eye on weather, anchor hold, the behavior of connected boating parties and general safety. Now that the main vessel is stable, one at a time, the other vessels slowly approach; preferably bow into the wind, with bumpers deployed and lines in ready. Gliding alongside the main vessel they can proceed with their bow going slightly beyond the main vessels bow and deploy their lines to the waiting crew of the main vessel who pull the boat to their side Then one by one on both starboard and port sides boats are added. Smaller boats are added to the outer edges of the raft, the smallest boats going to the farthest edges. Other vessels can set their anchors with short scope to stabilize the raft further but this may work against you as the raft can’t swing with the wind or turn with the tidal flow. This puts extra strain on anchor lines. Every case is different therefore common sense must prevail. There are some dangers involved in rafting. Guests can forget the space between each boat and damage ankles and legs. There are cases of guests falling over board BETWEEN THE BOATS, resulting in anywhere from a few bumps and scrapes to death. Be cautious! Be a pain in the butt by instructing everyone on ”do’s and don’ts” before the party starts. How many boats do you raft together is always the question. The answer is; how many is safe. The more boats added the less safety if a fire breaks out which can jump from boat to boat. A storm can suddenly rage up from nowhere. You have to be able to disengage quickly. The larger the raft, the more confusion and danger if you have to leave fast. The main boat is the last to leave, the others leave in sequence, smaller outside boats first, one at a time. Although I have seen rafts as large as 15 boats, I feel the largest raft should be no larger than 7 with 5 being preferable. You may think the old Skipper is being too conservative but I call it “Seamanship Wise”! Be sure to carefully watch all children. Boat props can cut, lines give rope burns and most likely there are no lifeguards where you are rafting so deploy those life jackets! Be sure to use your sunscreen and hydrate. On the positive side, if you do rafting right, you will have some of the most wonderful boating experiences with friends and family while enjoying nature. Wish I could join you! One more thing - sorry but the captain of each vessel should enjoy the day without alcohol. See you on the waters, Captain Eddy

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