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The Mooring

The (boring) background information

Our mooring is a large piece of concrete sitting on the bottom of the bay, attached to a massive 3/4" galvanized steel chain. The top end of the chain is held at the surface of the water by a styrofoam float. This allows easy access to the end of the chain. The boat is attached to the mooring chain with a piece of nylon rope called a bridle. The bridle's ends are held to the boat's two bows with screw shackles. Another screw shackle attaches the middle of the bridle rope to the mooring chain, about 2 feet under water. (The water here is very murky, a combination of river silt and algae, so the barnacles and other such critters only grow near the surface where there is sunlight. By attaching the bridle 2 feet underwater, we minimize the amount of growth on the shackle.)

I originally made the bridle about 60 feet long, divided into two 30 foot sides. This provides a fairly straight pull on the bridle, minimizing the strain on the bridle rope and fittings. Over time we have had a problem with this arrangement. When the winds die down and the boat drifts with the currents, the float will sometimes end up next to the hull side and the bridle rope will get caught on the aft end of the keel. Then the wind picks up again, and the boat is held sideways to the wind until I can release it from the keel. I can usually do this with our 8' long boathook, but have once had to dive into the water.

Now that we have entered the transition from the NE monsoon to the SW monsoon, we are experiencing frequent calms, and the bridle is getting caught on the keel quite often. So, I had to make a new, shorter bridle that will not be long enough to reach the aft end of the keel. This results in a sharper angle at the bow, and greater stress on the bridle rope, but it is still better than having the boat held beam on to the rising wind. (The bows present a relatively small surface to the wind. The side, or beam, of the boat is a much larger surface and a strong beam wind can create truly enormous forces.)

I spent an hour or more installing thimbled eye splices at each end of the new, shorter bridle rope and a seizing in the middle. I then attached a temporary mooring rope to hold the boat in place while I removed the old bridle and attached the new. I got into the dinghy to remove the shackles that attached the existing bridle to fittings near the waterline at each hull. This was fairly easy. I used a wrench to loosen the shackle pin, then unscrewed the pin (being careful not to drop the wrench, the pin, the shackle, or the end of the bridle), then repeated the process at the second bow. It was when I came to remove the bridle from the mooring chain that I ran into difficulty.

The story

I had to dive into the water to remove the shackle holding the old bridle and attach the new one. I used a mask and snorkle. Jamie stood on the bow to offer encouragement and assistance. On my first dive I found the shackle and wiped away the scum that had grown on it during the last 5 months. For my second dive, I took out my pocket knife to cut away the plastic electrical tie I had used to seize the shackle pin. Jamie called to me "Don't drop the knife!" I held my breath, dove under the water, and found that I could not get the tip of the knife into the space between the plastic tie and the shackle. I was holding my breath, and anxious to get things done quickly. After some pushing and prying, I finally got the blade into place. I then had to pull hard on the knife to cut the plastic tie, while avoiding cutting myself with the knife or the sharp barnacles and shells that grew on everything. And, of course, without dropping the knife.

By this time, I had been holding my breath for quite awhile and was getting very low on air. As soon as I cut the plastic tie, I shot back to the surface to breath. In the process, I hit my head on the bottom of the styrofoam float. This would not have been a problem when the float was new, but it had acquired a thick growth of sharp edged barnacles, clams, etc. over the last 5 months. I received two small cuts on my head. I did not drop the knife.

On subsequent dives, I used a wrench to loosen the shackle pin, unscrewed it, and removed the shackle and the old bridle. I then reversed the process with the new bridle, finishing with a new plastic tie. Each time, I held myself underwater as long as I could, then shot to the surface to breath, avoiding the knife-edged growth on the bottom of the float. Each time, I was forced to rest on the surface of the water, panting for air until I recovered enough to return underwater. I find that I am no longer the man I used to be — perhaps I never was.

After finishing in the water, I returned to the dinghy to attach the ends of the new bridle to the bows. Again, I was very concerned about dropping parts or tools in the water. But, again, everything worked out just fine. We are now firmly attached to the mooring chain with a new, shorter, bridle. Time will tell if this solves the problem. I certainly hope it does.

(Salt water wounds can become seriously infected, so Jamie cleaned off my scalp and applied an antibiotic ointment to the cuts. My head healed nicely with no complications. I did get an ear infection, though.)

— Jim

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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
Website designed and created by Lois Richter, expanded by Jim.
Created 5/2003.