Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Back-friendly Boat Manoeuvres?

We’re still not sure what the future holds for our 2018 cruising, but we have made a few decisions. We will head down to Corsica as originally planned in early May to get Mareda ready for cruising, but will head back to Brittany for a few more doctor’s visits afterwards. Between ourselves, we’ve ruled out surgery (see how easy that was?) so we think we can head back to Mareda in early June to start our 2018 season.

In any case, we will have to modify some manoeuvres on the boat to make them more back-friendly. He will wear his “girdle” when we know that lifting or force will be involved, like hauling or dousing sails. The other big back-breaker is handling the mooring line in ports. 

In the Med, we typically back in to a berth. To tie up, you pass two lines from the back of the boat to the dock, but to keep the boat from banging into the dock, you need something that pulls the nose forward. Mooring lines (or slime lines, as they are affectionately known), are thick ropes with one end attached to a heavy weight on the channel floor and the other end tied to the dock. When they are not in use, they lie along the slimy muddy bottom of the port and host an ecosystem of their own, including algae, worms, and sharp barnacles and shells. (Wear nasty gloves).  Curiously, I don't seem to have any photos of the slime line. 

When you arrive in the berth, you pick up the slime line attached to the dock using your boat hook (usually, there’s a friendly port assistant to hand it to you) and you walk the line forward, lifting it out of the water until you get to the front of the boat, where you then pull the line forward towards the sunken weight with all your might to get the line tight.

Note to self: try not to look so worried as Pat backs in...
I walk the line forward and then hand it to Patrick for the heavy pulling. He usually does this sitting down with his feet braced against the foot railings and using a rowing motion, “putting his whole back into it” as they say. Our Mediterranean sailing guru Leo tells us that this is a good way to ruin your back (yes, well, um...) and that there is a better way.

Once the boat is settled (stopped and lightly tied up), you release the aft lines to the dock, and pull the slime line forward with no tension from behind. Once you’ve pulled the boat forward a good distance and tied off the mooring line to the cleat, you use the motor in reverse to back up to the dock to tie off the aft lines. You shouldn’t have to jump to get onto the dock but you don’t want the fenders on the transom rubbing against the dock either. The last job is to rinse off the slime that the slime line has slathered all over the side of the boat (and crew) as it was walked forward and tied off.

Staying well off concrete docks.
It’s very important to get that mooring line tight. Last autumn in Porto Vecchio, we had a near gale that blew in with 25-30 knot winds full in the face for 24 hours, pushing all of the boats back towards the dock. We lifted up the fold-down transom in the back and put out additional fenders. All was well. Our neighbours, however, had not tightened their slime line enough, and their boat was getting pounded against the cement dock. Against strong head winds and even using the motor, they weren’t able to reset the mooring line far enough forward, so they had to stay up all night with the motor in gear to hold them off the dock. (And guess who were trying to sleep in the aft cabin with their ears right next to his motor?)

There will still be lots of work that will require strong backs, but we hope that if we take our time, it will be manageable. Welcome to slow living...

Here’s a list of the work we will do in early May (or rather, the work I will do as Patrick attempts to supervise using his now well-worn phrase, “I would help but I have a herniated disk”):

Wash deck and hull (with special spot treatments on bird poo areas)
Repairs to gel coat (2 or 3 dings to cover up)
Clean and polish stainless
Change sail drive zinc (and clean out the rest of the fishing line wrapped around the propeller)
Wax the hull
Paint the anchor chain depth markings
Make a new / better mosquito screen for the aft cabin (thanks Britican crew ! 
Service out-board motor
Have life raft serviced and re-certified for another 3 years
Check batteries, electronics, solar panels, radio. Is the girouette still there after the winter’s storms?
Put up the bimini and lazy bag.
Remove the spin-lock blocker for the mainsail halyard for repair or replacement (crapped out just at the end of last season).
Clean winches
Replace fold bike pedal assemblies (plastic chain guards both cracked)
Wash all clothes and linens on board
Fill up pantries with dry stores (bottled water, rice, pasta, canned food, etc.)

When we get back to the boat in June, the anti-fouling paint still has to be done, but we may break down and have the shipyard do that job for us so that we don’t lose time. (hey ! This slow living thing could grow on me!).  We will still have to put the sails on; fingers crossed for light / no winds for that job.  After a few more trips to the markets, we’ll be ready to head off. 

First leg: the east coast of Cap Corse and the Tuscany Islands (Capraia and Elba) !


The Cynical Sailor said...

I'm glad you were able to rule out surgery. The thought of a slime line doesn't sound very pleasant, but I guess it gets the job done :-)

Sailing Mareda said...

Thanks Ellen. We actually appreciate the slime lines because the alternative (which we see as we work our way East in the Med) is to use your own anchor to hold you off the dock. This involves judging the appropriate distance (3 times the boat length), backing up straight to not cross chains with the neighbor, and hoping that neighbors don't pull up your anchor as they are recuperating theirs !