Possibly a slight exaggeration, but not by much. This is a bit of a rant, so I apologise in advance.
Mooring on a town quay involves dropping your anchor off the quay and going astern perpendicular to it, making your lines fast to the quay then pulling in your anchor until you are securely in position. The difficulties come when you are aiming for a gap between two boats with a cross wind or when other anchors are laid out at interesting angles when people haven’t laid their anchor chain at 90 degrees to the quay side, effectively taking up two or more spaces! Not an easy manoeuvre, misjudging it and hitting another boat is always a risk as well.
Other things to consider are how much chain to use and in Merikha the Pilot Book suggests a lot. We had 65 metres out and it held, others came in using 20, others started anchoring too far out and ran out of chain and still others had to be reminded by the Harbour Master to use their anchor at all!! When a boat started to manoeuvre over our anchor all we could do is stand at the bows and point along the line of our chain and hope they figure out what we were doing and not drop their anchor on ours. Crossed cables are a fact of life but with some basic planning and understanding you can reduce these problems when mooring.
Unfortunately a lack of planning combined with limited boat handling skills is a trait common to charterers which causes chaos when it comes time for them to leave. Even if they managed not to lay their chain over someone else’s, instead of controlling their boat and moving to their anchor they simply drag the boat to their anchor, or motor off dragging it behind them, and so dredge up their neighbour’s anchor. Apparently unaware of what is happening they then try to ‘tow’ their neighbour from the quay by their anchor cable.
Then of course, once you have snagged another anchor, how do you free yours? You simply pass a line around the fouling, lower your anchor clear and then slip your line to release the fouled anchor or chain, there is even a simple asymmetric trip-hook to make it even easier. If someone else has laid their chain over yours it is slightly more tiresome but the principal is te same. But, having cleared your anchor, where do you drop the anchor you’ve picked up? Where you found it? Oh no, no, no of course not! You drift 3 or 4 boats across from where you started and drop the anchor and chain across all their anchors! One boat now has to re-anchor and if it is a charter boat, the cycle starts again. Mercifully with a combination of pointing along our cable, and a little shouting, just a little ….. we only had to re-anchor once.
One large charter catamaran, a Lagoon, managed to put out so much chain he reached the rope tail, a 10m or so length of rope for emergencies. Their trouble was the splice holding the rope to the chain was so badly frayed that it was about to break, potentially leaving them with no anchor at all. Luckily for them they were alongside Scarlett and I was there helping our friends to fend them off, and I can splice, but they had literally three chairn links between them and ‘disaster’. I earned a beer though! When they left the following day they encountered problems recovering their anchor and I had visions of my splice choking their windlass, but it was nothing so complex! They had simply managed to break the electrical lead to their windlass control. What I couldn’t figure out was why they didn’t use the controller at the helm station; it was a Lagoon and their anchor gear was the same as ours!
And then there was the evening a very large charter yacht arrived, all uniforms, stewardess laying tables and rich Texan passengers. The quay was almost full except for a single small yacht sized gap alongside Scarlett.
This thing was 34 metres long, 7 metres wide and weighted a whole lot more than Scarlett. Rather than go onto the ferry berth and move in the morning the lazy &*$#@£*’s simply forced their way into said gap. They could only get their slightly narrower stern and fenders in, leaning on Scarlett while they did it, and then stayed uncomfortably close to, and angled diagonally across, Scarlett’s bows overnight and through the next morning with just a fender gap, or narrower in wind gusts, between their hulls. Quite normal in similar sized yachts but this thing was 3 times their length and maybe 20 times their weight! Graeme, Jayne and ourselves did watches all night just in case the Meltemi over came the ‘Captain’s’ RYA qualifed skills and 125 metres of anchor chain; but on the bright side, the passengers had a nice dinner on the stern and a pleasant nights sleep and a good run ashore in the morning. We tried to involve the Port Police, who did come along and were very nice, but had no power to do anything. (PADFA) Mercifully nothing went wrong but the crew hardly presented a very professional image in front of their paying customers!
After one particularly entertaining morning the Harbour Master passed me on his way to the Ostria (possibly for a well earned Ouzo) and simply raised his eyes to heaven and shook his head. I later suggested he had missed a business opportunity. I suggested he should buy or borrow a small boat and charge €20 a time to free foul anchors; he could rake in €100 per day easily. Perhaps in return for the suggestion he gave us a bottle of his home brew local wine; it was very strong and definately an aquired taste!
We had had plans to hire a car between the four of us to see the island but all these comings and goings around us put paid to that. Instead we were almost continuously watch keeping during the day as leaving the boats unattended for any length of time would have been inadvisable in case our anchor got dredged up or we got rammed while we were out.
All in all a rather stressful week, salvaged only by sharing the experience with good friends and a few glasses of wine!