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Q&A - Bahamian moor

Q: What is a Bahamian moor, and is it only for use in the Bahamas?

Q: What is a Bahamian moor, and is it only for use in the Bahamas?

A: It’s a method of anchoring that involves deploying two anchors and is appropriate for certain situations, regardless of whether you’re in the Bahamas. Under most circumstances I use one anchor, for reasons I’ll mention below. But sometimes two is better, and the Bahamian moor is a method for deploying them.

Usually people use the Bahamian moor when they need to anchor in tight quarters, with wind and/or tide reversing, and they want the boat to stay in one spot, rather than swing around at the end of its rode on the tide or sail around on tide and wind. Some examples include anchoring in narrow passages between shoals or reefs, in narrow creeks and in crowded harbors if the other boats nearby also are using the Bahamian moor. Techniques vary with skippers and circumstances, so this is a very general description.

Typically the skipper will first choose where he wants to position the boat, then motor up-current from that spot a distance roughly equivalent to where he must drop his first anchor in order to deploy the amount of scope for the depth, plus a little extra. This should be at least 5-to-1, when 1 is the distance from the anchor roller on the bow to the bottom. More is often better, within reason. If wind is the prevailing force on the boat, the skipper will motor upwind rather than up-current. If wind and current are conflicting or otherwise working against one another it will be much more difficult to do this without twin engines.

The skipper then allows the boat to drop back to a second spot. To do this, he may be able to simply ride back on the current, deploying rode. Depending on current and wind, he may need to use the engine. During or before this, he must properly set the first anchor, backing down under power as necessary. Usually he won’t try to set the anchor until he has paid out the necessary scope or reached the second spot.

The second spot is where he will drop the second anchor, also from the bow, and it will be a little more than twice the scope to be deployed between each anchor and the boat. For example, if the scope needed is 50 feet, the location of the second anchor drop will be a little more than 100 feet down-current from the first anchor. (How much more depends on various factors.) He then pulls or powers forward so the boat is approximately halfway between the two anchors. He sets the second anchor as circumstances dictate, usually by motoring forward. This must be done very carefully to avoid fouling the rode in the prop, keel, rudder or stabilizers.

If the Bahamian moor is done well, the boat will swing as current and wind change, keeping its bow pointing into the forces, but it will also remain in a small area. However, if other boats nearby have one anchor out, there will be problems. They will swing around on a much wider arc, and there likely will be a collision. So don’t use this method if nearby boats are not using it.

I prefer chain rode. It’s more likely to stay close to the sea bottom and away from the bottom of the boat. This is important in setting the anchor, and as the boat swings about on the two rodes. The rodes should be well below the boat as it passes over them to avoid snagging. The rodes shouldn’t be pulled too tightly against one another. Leave slack for them to drop down as the boat swings, and leave slack for the downwind or down-current rode to be well away from the boat’s bottom. This is why the skipper drops back from the first anchor more than twice the distance needed for the required scope.

Some think that deploying the second anchor from the stern is preferable, but it is not. This prevents the boat from pointing its bow to the current and wind, and is likely to result in dragging and extreme stresses on boat and gear.

We never use two anchors unless it’s absolutely necessary. One reason is that as the boat pivots about, the rodes usually become twisted, and it often takes a lot of work to untwist them. If you’re staying for many days, you should untwist them as needed every day or so. If the rodes are twisted and you suddenly need to pull anchor, as you might if one or both of them drag or if another boat is dragging down on you, you will probably have to untwist the rodes before you can pull your anchors and get under way. This is difficult and can be dangerous in current and wind. And it usually takes time that you don’t have.

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