May 28, 2014
Rafting your boat is a great way to spend time on the water with family, friends and other boaters. Here are a few tips to keep you and your boat safe while rafting up this summer.
Make sure you have the right gear for rafting up. Fenders, dock lines, spring lines and anchors are important. A boat hook is also handy to maneuver boats at close quarters while keeping hands and feet clear for safety.
Make a Plan:
Having a good plan will make the process of rafting multiple boats together go smoothly and safely.
Designate the heaviest boat (not necessarily the biggest) to be the host or ‘anchor’ vessel. This will be the first boat in the raft, setting a good anchor for the boats that will then tie along either side.
The total load on the center boat will be more than normal and extra scope is necessary. Make sure the captain of the anchor boat is familiar with his anchor and sets it good at 7:1 minimum scope, 10:1 is always a good idea especially for larger rafts.
Size up the boats that plan to participate in the raft up. It is best to place similar sized boats next to one another to best protect the vessels when tied and make crossing between boats easier. Place larger vessels near the center of the raft, on either side of the host or anchor boat, and smaller boats towards the ends of the raft.
When planning a larger raft, it is a good idea to have multiple boats set an anchor to secure the raft, every third boat is a good rule of thumb. Be aware of current, tides and wind conditions. Plan to either anchor your raft in place (forward and aft) or to allow for swing (which can tangle lines and anchors if you are not careful).
Use your marine radio or cellphone to communicate between boats as they are added to the raft up.
Have your fenders deployed and lines ready. Take into consideration if you will be setting an anchor prior to easing alongside the raft. Be safe, look for swimmers and smaller watercraft as you join the raft up. Children and guests not involved with rafting up should be sitting out of the way.
When in position, tie off to the other boat. Adjust bow and stern lines so your stern aligns with the rafted boats. This allows for safer and easier travel between rafted vessels. Use spring lines to prevent forward and aft shifting between boats.
Movement, especially in wake situations is usually unavoidable. This is one reason some choose not to participate in raft ups, and is often a cause for the rafted boats dispersing before dark. How protected your anchorage is from wind and wake, how safe and secure your fenders keep your boat, and how securely lines were tied are all important factors that will contribute to a safe and damage free raft up experience.
HAVE A PLAN, HAVE THE RIGHT GEAR AND HAVE FUN THIS SUMMER BOATING SEASON!
Be Respectful: Respect the privacy and belongings of the boats next to you, especially when coming aboard another’s vessel to cross along the raft. Be mindful of where you step, avoid walking over hatches and through cockpits, etc..
Be Safe: Take your time when crossing between two boats, never jump! Climbing over bow rails, lines, gunwales or swim platforms pose trip hazards and safety concerns. Be careful of cleats and other sharp objects when barefoot. Keep arms and legs out from between boats, you never know when shifting may occur. Wear life jackets or PFD in case of a slip. Never swim between boats.
The Right Tools: Even if you only raft up with other vessels once in a while, it pays to have properly sized and shaped fenders, and the right kind of dock lines for the task. For rafting up with larger vessels, you might want to consider having a set of at least two slightly larger fenders. Having slightly heavier dock line is a good idea too, especially if some of the boats in the raft are larger. Make sure you are tying lines off securely. Checking and maintaining your boat’s cleats and other gear is a good practice to prevent damage while rafting up or dockside.