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Old 01-12-2021, 05:36 PM   #1
City: Vancouver
Vessel Name: Hyalina
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Stern tie questions

This will be our third year on the boat an we plan on doing some extended cruising. The last two years have just been mainly going to marinas, and using mooring balls, there has some anchoring, but not much. This year we plan to change that.
We are reasonably comfortable anchoring the boat, but we haven't yet overnighted with a stern tie.

Do you lay out the same amount of scope?
Do you set anchor, let the boat come to rest, then set up stern line to shore?
Any recommended minimum line length to purchase?
Are those rolls of flat stuff worth it?

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Old 01-12-2021, 07:34 PM   #2
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Stern tying is only done in certain places that fit well to stern tying. Like Desolation Sound and a few other places mostly nearby.
I’ve been boating in the PNW for over 60 years and never stern tied.


North Western Washington State USA
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Old 01-12-2021, 07:37 PM   #3
City: Vancouver
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I've been pouring over the Dreamspeaker Gulf Island book and a few of the interesting places recommend a stern tie. Just thought, the more info I have the better.
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Old 01-12-2021, 07:47 PM   #4
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Pirates Cove on Decourcy Island and the Wallace Island coves come to mind for stern tying in the Gulf Islands, plus there are many such anchorages in Desolation Sound. I'm with Eric, though. I haven't stern tied in many years. I'd rather be in deeper water swinging on the hook, with my nose into the wind. It's a personal preference if you like it or not.
Ken on Hatt Trick
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Old 01-12-2021, 08:20 PM   #5
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You are correct that there are some anchorages (especially in Desolation Sound in the summer) where stern tying will give a boater more options and in some "select" anchorages, stern tying is necessary if you want to be able to anchor there (rare though). I do not stern tie very often, prefer not to.
However, as to method.
It is easiest to have enough line to go to shore and back to the boat. When leaving that would mean that barring any unforeseen issue, you can "cast off" without having to go ashore to retrieve the stern tie line (no knot to undo). I recommend 400-600 feet of poly prop (floating) line for stern tying. More is better, especially if your boat has drifted off a bit before you get the stern line back to the boat.
Set your anchor where you think is the best location taking into account where on shore you will tie. Many locations have stern tie rings or chains "pinned" to the rocks for your use. Try to avoid a location where you will be subject to strong cross winds during your stay. I recommend a minimum of 3-1 scope (if anchoring on a steep slope bottom and backing into the shallows like the end or Pendrell Sound) or closer to normal scope is best for other locations. Set the anchor as usual, and the pilot/operator does their best to "hold" the boat in position (as close as possible). The other person goes ashore taking the end of the stern tie line, and the end of a "messenger" line (and if using a live tree as shore anchor also a "bridle"). On shore pass the stern tie line through the ring if available. If using a tree, put the bridle around the tree, then pass the stern tie line through the "rings" on the bridle. The bridle is about 6 -8 feet long made out of 5/8 inch poly prop with a large ring spliced in one end, and a smaller ring spiced in the other end. When passing the line through these rings, it passes first through the small ring. Once the line is through the rings, attach the "messenger" line to the stern line. Now the person back aboard the boat can use the messenger line to quickly pull the stern tie line back to the boat. If needed, the person on shore can pull slack in the stern line from the boat to help reduce any effort needed to retrieve the stern line end. The line then goes very quickly and easily back to the boat. Attach that end to a stern cleat and "pull in" any excess line to tighten the stern line to position the boat in it's final position and cleat again. If you have a sailboat winch or other mechanical device nearby it will make this process even easier. The bridle protects the tree bark because it will not move. Any motion will be with the stern line sliding through the 2 rings, not around the tree.
When leaving, undo the end of the stern line and tie a knot (large) in the end. Pull from the other leg of the stern line and retrieve the line. When the knot makes it ashore, the knot will pass through the large ring and "hang up" on the small ring pulling the entire assembly back to the boat without going ashore. Some care must be taken to ensure that nothing "snags" in the rocks ashore.

The "messenger line" is basically a strong cord (300 feet) that I store on one of those garden outdoor electrical cord reels (easy for deployment and retrieval) and I have put a "hook" on the end of the line to make attachment to the stern line easy (just tie a bowline in the end of the stern line (when on shore) and hook to that loop).
This system sounds complicated, but is actually very easy and makes the job of stern tying much easier. I have seen many, many people struggle greatly trying to get the line to shore and back to the boat again. With this method, the struggle is almost gone. PM me if you want more info and include an email address.
Good luck.
Nanaimo, BC
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Old 01-12-2021, 08:59 PM   #6
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We stern tie about 50% of the time when north of the gulf islands.

advantages: we can snug the boat into much tighter places - as already noted it is sometimes mandatory when an anchorage is popular or crowded.
since the boat is almost stationary when stern tied, I usually sleep pretty well as the anchor alarm will not sound with a tide shift.

disadvantage: if the wind comes up and a large obviously uninsured wooden derelict becomes dislodged and is heading toward you, you are pretty stuck. (another story for another time).

I use a reel to hold 300' of flat nylon webbing as shown in the pic.

Our procedure to deploy: (assumes little wind or current to fight)

anchor as usual 3:1 or better, predicting where the stern of the boat will lay is a bit of an artform, but comes with practice.

the dingy is ready, so tie the webbing to the dingy and back toward shore, when just about there, turn the dingy and land it. take the webbing and loop the end around a tree, rock or driftwood that is above the tideline.

here is where I depart from the previous method - I will tie a bowline to create a loop that is up to 50' from the tree - the idea is the knot will be in the water when it is time to depart.

The admirial will now take up the slack at the boat. - i will return to the boat, check depth and see if the anchor chain is about the right tension (note anchor chain angle in pics). any adjustment for tension is made at the stern tie.

When it is time to go, start the boat, hop in the dinghy, pull myself along the stern line with no need to start the motor, to the knot on the loop - this is hopefully in the water so no need to land the dingy.
signal the admiral to release slack, untie the knot, pull the loop into the dinghy as the admiral reels us back to the boat.

pull the anchor as usual.

sounds complex, but using this method, we can secure the boat in less than 5 min.
releasing is 3 min. plus pulling the anchor.

incidentally, we use hand signals, so no shouting.

since we use flat webbing, no bridle is necessary when using a live tree - unlike using regular line which will grind its way thru the bark.
Attached Thumbnails
stern3.jpg   stern.jpg   stern2.jpg   stern1.jpg  
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Old 01-12-2021, 10:33 PM   #7
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We too are among the group who avoids situations where a stern tie is needed.
However, as mentioned there are some nice places that are very busy in the busy season. To not stern tie may mean you cannot visit at all.

I'll leave the rings out although they are becoming more common for good reason, the anchorages are small, and they are busy so to allow for more boats the rings are better and are evenly spaced.

There are places that you must stern tie if you expect to stay put. Rocky bottoms, steep bottoms leading up to shore. The stern tie is needed to ensure the anchor does not let go as any swinging will release the anchor.

For stern ties we carry 600' of YELLOW 3/8" polypro line in three x 200' pieces, each with an eye spliced on both ends and in one eye a snap shackle. They are laid out for ready use on the back deck.

I use yellow because it can be seen. I have seen people use dark colours and they become almost invisible. Other wise be prepared to hang some warning flags, fenders or some other marker or some one may get fouled in your shore line, maybe hurt. Yes I know, people should not run between a boat and shore where shore lines are in use but they do.

When we do stern anchor my wife and I worked out our method over several years. We drop the hook with appropriate line length out. The dinghy is then set up ready to go.

I stay aboard, my wife is not comfortable operating the boat. I leave the boat in gear, reverse, idle which substantially reduces the inevitable wandering, not eliminates it though. I feed the line out to my wife as she rows ashore and secures the line around , usually a tree, using the snap shackle and I secure the boat end. Then I shut the boat down.

She returns.

Once tied I then go out with another line that my wife feeds to me from the opposite side. I can undo the existing shackle and snap it to the newly drawn line. Then I play with setting up my tree bridle only I use an old 1" wide x 6 ft lifting strap that I have rigged with snap shackles so it all snaps together. The strap has a very large shackle on one end , a small one on the other so as the stern line is retrieved the strap comes too.

A note about the dinghy. We have a small grapnel anchor which is set up and ready to go on a 30' line. My wife as she approaches the shore can throw this ashore.

It usually hooks on something, rocks, a log. She can then pull herself right up to shore and then either tie it, simply step on the anchor to drive it in or drop it behind a large rock so the dinghy does not go walkabout.

And yes, it does take some attention because it is possible the anchor can unhook with the boat still in reverse. It has happened twice but even so it is our preferred method.

We used to drift all over the place if there was even a slight breeze almost hitting other boats or being so far afield that we needed the last 200 ' line just to haul us back into position where all was needed was about 250 to 300 all told once snugged up. Thus the in gear, reverse.

I don't let gobs of stern line slack out either. I set the shore tie line so there is some light tension on it and the anchor line. Keeps location much better and auto corrects for tide changes as long as you have calculated the allowance for depth changes properly. It does still bear monitoring for a few hours before taking off in the dinghy.

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Old 01-12-2021, 11:01 PM   #8
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With few exceptions I stern tie everywhere because my bow catches breeze and the boat sails back and forth otherwise, very annoying. It's the only core attribute of the boat I would change if it was possible.

Anyhow, I did the loopback once or twice, it twisted or hung up and I had to go get it anyhow. Having the skiff in tow I don't bother with that but I do use a loop around the tree, long enough so I can reach it from the skiff at low tide. Then leaving is pretty quick and easy. It is all a lot easier with a skiff handy. The line I like best is commercial fishing longline. You can get it sinking or floating, I think it's a toss which to use. It's stiff and doesn't tangle easily, is much easier to pay out than soft line, and also easier to coil back up. And it's very strong, I'm using 5/16", same for towing the skiff. Pacific Net & Twine is a place to get it around here.

I'm small draft and tuck in tight, and seldom need more than 200 ft to initially setup but I have used 300 sometimes. Not infrequently I want to be situated contrary to the breeze or tide at the time, that can require extra length to get tied off as the boat drifts off position.

It's a PITB compared to simply anchoring but for small boats in this region definitely something to have in the tool box.
Experience develops good judgement, bad judgement develops experience
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Old 01-13-2021, 02:21 AM   #9
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We stern tie where it is required. As others have mentioned places like Wallace island you almost have to. I'm sure there are various techniques, we set our anchor then use the 300' reel on our stern to hook to the shore hook. Someone has to run to shore with the line so this is where having kids is helpful. If you are lucky there are shore ties, if not you have to find something solid to tie to (tree).

Obviously it is a less than ideal way to anchor. If you get a cross wind the loads on the anchor and rode are enormous since the full windage of the boat gets exposed. Ditto on the stern line. We had a blow at Wallace island a couple of years ago, luckily our Bruce held tight - in fact its what gave me confidence in the anchor - but the loads were very high. It isn't a bad idea to drop fenders just in case something moves in the night since you're only 20 feet or so from the next boat.

There's also some etiquette not to over crowd other boats. Some places like Wallace have hooks on shore to tie to. It properly spaces out the boats so that they can move around a bit but not hit each other.
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Old 01-13-2021, 08:31 AM   #10
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In 60,000 miles of cruising, I have stern tied only in marinas in the Mediterranean that required Med moors and once, at the end of the Darwin-Ambon race, when the Indonesian authorities required it on a shore with a cross wind. The whole fleet had trouble with dragging sideways.

Stern tying has all of the advantages noted above and the big disadvantage that if the wind picks up on either beam, as at Ambon, you may well drag sideways, rotating around the point the stern is tied to. It's best to have lots of scope out on the anchor, particularly in areas with significant tides. Also remember that if you set up at low tide, you must leave enough slack to avoid problems at high tide.

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Old 01-13-2021, 11:33 AM   #11
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As said above-have only stern tied in crowded anchorages in and around Desolation Sound. Other places could always find a place where it wasn't necessary.
Some of those places have rings placed in rock.

Also--try to avoid damage to the Arbutus trees, thus the recommendation for straps or bands wider than the Polypro
Ken Diestler
Galveston, Tx
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:13 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ewandeane View Post
Are those rolls of flat stuff worth it?
I bought one of those reels. Really good quality and if you have a convenient rail to secure the reel to it takes up less room than a similar quantity of rope on a reel. It was installed on my Bayliner 4788 for 3 years including Two Desolation Sound visits. I never did use it, always was able to find a conventional anchorage solution in the places we did visit. Clearly its a good product for some locations as others have noted.

Unfortunately it's not a good solution on my current boat. So if you decide you want one PM me.

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Old 01-13-2021, 12:35 PM   #13
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The flat strap-stuff makes this horrible sound in the wind! Horrible sound in a quiet anchorage.

Bridles for trees are essential, all Provincial Parks ban tying to trees but nobody, except a few of us pay any attention. Ringing the tree with a rope will kill it, all because most boaters are too self-absorbed to realize you have no right to kill the tree, especially in a park.

If you stern tie a lot, get one of these:
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Don't believe everything that you think.
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Old 01-13-2021, 02:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Xsbank View Post
The flat strap-stuff makes this horrible sound in the wind! Horrible sound in a quiet anchorage.
We have stern tied in just a few places with our Ultraline Flat Rope Reel. But are looking forward to doing so in more places this summer! Pirates Cove and Melanie Cove for instance. The tying up part (specifically maneuvering the boat with any wind) is the tricky part. But untying from shore with the reel is super quick and easy. No need to deploy the dinghy. Plus, with the new Quick Release Mount the reel goes on/off the rail fast, too. But as it doesn't really take up any room on deck, we leave it on all season and only remove in the Winter.

As for the annoying hum flat line can make in the wind, we abate that by twisting the line. That dramatically cuts down on any vibration sound.

ewandeane, if you want a new Ultraline Reel we have a Trawler Forum discount in our online store. Just use the coupon code TFREEL100 and get $100 off any new Dyneema reel:

Of course, the Trawler Forum discount applies to all fellow TFers here...
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Old 01-13-2021, 06:24 PM   #15
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Hey everybody, TF comes through again!
I appreciate all the responses, and I got the info I was looking for.
Now to put that extra bit of knowledge to use.
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Old 01-13-2021, 08:01 PM   #16
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In our national parks, you can stern tie to/around a rock, but not a tree.
2005 Integrity 386 "Sojourn"
Sydney Australia
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Old 01-18-2021, 01:51 PM   #17
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I stern tie to a ring in Port Miou (near Cassis in the Med) quite often, the bow goes to a buoy. Early on I used some 14mm blue rope and it was just above the water. When the wind blew up it pushed the boat towards the rock wall while I was away. Being France there was a rib driver going full throttle who decided to get to the steps near my boat, despite all the boats having stern line he tried the inevitable of cutting across my stern. I now put a couple of fenders on the rope so if it does sink down then others will know the rope is there!.. He didn't cut through the rope but did damage it enough to need a short splice put in the rope.
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Old 01-18-2021, 04:40 PM   #18
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Stern tie questions

I’ve been in anchorages from the Gulf Islands to Prince Rupert and in Gwaii Haanas. Not once have I stern tied and not once have I regretted not having done so. I just avoided anchorages where it would have been necessary. I tried it once and it was a miserable fail and a “bright red boat” left the anchorage with its tail between its “legs”!

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Old 01-18-2021, 09:30 PM   #19
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JD! Tell me it ain't so! Are you from Alberta? 8^)
Don't believe everything that you think.
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Old 01-18-2021, 09:54 PM   #20
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It's been a few years since I've told my stern tie story.

Melanie Cove, Desolation Sound, BC. 6 boats were anchored and stern tied next to each other along the N side just off the rock wall. Most were stern tied to rocks, although it didn't make any difference at the time.

Afternoon fresh westerly coupled with high water caused the upwind boat to drag anchor, causing the next boat to drag anchor, etc.

The result, was that 6 boats were dominoed into each other and the rock wall. Just some scratches, and no one hurt.

Part of the problem here was that most boat skippers were ashore, or crabbing, or fishing, or otherwise enjoying the fine weather.

But the point is, that if the stern tie is stronger than the anchor set, this scenario is possible anywhere. Pick your anchor/stern tie location carefully, recognize the vulnerability, and always stay vigilant.

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