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The Race to Find a Space

Catamaran Good Vibrations

Skipper’s Tips: The Space Race

Words and photography by Captain Steven Leitch – CharterPort BVI

Seeking FREE Space


Do you ever find yourself looking over your shoulder for other boats as you approach a busy BVI day spot such as The Indians or The Baths?

We have all done it, worrying that there may be only one mooring buoy left. So, what do you do? You speed up just in case it gets snaked by someone else at the last minute. It all reminds me of trying to find a parking space at the mall two days before Christmas – a nightmare.

Relax. Breathe. If all the buoys are taken, here are some simple indicators to grab the next one:

1) Look for a boat with the engines running. Often, this is something you can see from a distance and indicates that the vessel is about to leave.

2) If a boat has their swim ladder up, the guests may have already had their snorkel and are ready to depart.

3) People using towels are another key sign that they have finished and are ready to push off.


4) Finally, if none of these signs are present, look for the boat that has a professional skipper on board. If you let them see you, they are most likely to give up their spot sooner rather than later if their guests have completed their snorkel.

When you finally get that buoy, don’t forget to keep an eye out for other hired skippers so that you can pay it forward.


The FOLLIES and FUNDAMNETALS of Mooring Technique


We had just dropped our guests off at the famous BVI locale The Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke and were enjoying some quiet time on the boat. The tranquility didn’t last long. The wind began to pick up and it was then that I saw it. A 52 foot catamaran broke loose from the mooring.

It was a busy weekend with a dozen large power boats on bow and stern anchors with their sterns to the beach. Within seconds the catamaran had been blown towards the beach and was wrestling with the first power boat.

I instinctively jumped into the dinghy to see if I could lend some assistance. By the time I got to the boat, the skipper had already fired up his engines and had snagged an anchor line in his port propeller with his bow towards the beach.

With only one engine now, the situation had gone from bad to potentially disastrous in seconds. I swung my dinghy around to the port side and pushed the nose onto the port bow. With my throttle wide open, I yelled at the skipper to put his starboard engine in forward. With just a little boat speed, the catamaran wanted to turn to port. I was able to use this and the pressure of the dinghy on the port bow to steer the boat into clear waters.

Once clear, the skipper dropped his anchor and was able to free his prop of the anchor line. Upon examination, the loop on the mooring line had failed.

Embarrassed and shaken, the skipper blamed the incident on a poorly maintained mooring line; however, he had only used a single line form, bow to bow through the loop. The wind had caused the boat to sail back and forth on the line, causing the bow line to saw through the mooring line. The incriminating line was still cleated to his two bows.

The proper technique is to use two bow lines. Run a line from the port bow cleat through the eye splice or loop from the mooring buoy and back to the port bow cleat, then another line from the starboard bow cleat back to the same cleat.

Many professional skippers running day boats only use one line for convenience. If you are not going to use two mooring lines on a day buoy, make sure that you cleat the line off on the same cleat: i.e. as advised before, run the line from the starboard bow cleat, through the loop and back to the starboard bow cleat. This will reduce the chafing effect that the mooring’s eye splice will have on your bow line. One point to note – never do this overnight…

Herein lies a tale. One couple did this at BVI’s Marina Cay. The single line got chafed on the edge of the anchor and cut straight through the line overnight. They drifted down wind until they woke up, shocked and unaware. To their surprise, their boat was bashing up against the rocks around the end of the airport runway.

Captain Steven Leitch and First Mate Debbie Torres

Erin Paviour-Smith

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