One boat nook

IMG_5096We left Lucky Creek for Jarvis Island – relatively close by in the Broken Group. We poked into a tiny anchorage where we needed to stern tie.

For the non-boaters, this is a good time to explain anchoring. You are aware that we drop a big metal hook off the front of the boat with chain/rope attached to it and it keeps us from moving far. We still move of course, in a circle around the anchor whose radius is approximately the length of the chain/rope we let out.  The idea is that you let out more than three times as much rope as you have depth. This keeps your angle to the ground low enough that the anchor has a chance to bite into the ground. If you imagine only dangling enough rope that the anchor barely touches the ground, you can see how that isn’t going to work. Also, by putting out a bunch of chain, in addition to keeping the anchor low, you add a bunch of weight on the ground. In light to medium winds we will often only be pulling on our pile of chain, not even on our anchor yet.

Sometimes, you want to put out a certain amount of rope, but you can’t swing in a full circle because there is crunchy stuff or because there are other boats and so you decide to stern tie or stern anchor. Stern tying is taking a line to shore and tying it to the back of the boat to limit where you’ll move to one quadrant of the anchoring circle. In the chart below, the M’s in circles are about where the boat was (our anchor was ahead of there) and the brown bit with the line to it on the right was the rock where we tied the stern. By the way, the chart is slightly offset from our GPS. We were definitely closer to the shore on the bottom of this picture than the markers indicate – another reason to trust your eyes.

This all sounds simple enough, right? Except, as anyone who has tried to stern tie knows, done inexpertly, it can be a gong show.  Our good friends Ryan & Christine experienced (and participated in) one of our early attempts at stern tying in which we kept almost drifting into another boat.

The issue is that there is a period of time after you drop your anchor and before you tie the butt up where you have to avoid drifting into the very crunchies which are in your “drifting circle” and that you are stern tying to avoid. Meanwhile, one of you is hurrying out in the dinghy with the rope to secure to the rock, or tree or special ring installed by the park.

But you can only hurry in the dinghy so much. Just to make it even more interesting, it is a good idea to enter a small rock strewn anchorage at low tide when you can see the rocks…but that means that the place you are going to tie to is now high up in the air. For example, watch me climbing 5.3, in rubber boots, on kelp and barnacles to our stern tie location. In this case I’m removing the line. One way to avoid having to remove the line is to use a long enough line to loop it around and all of the way back to the boat. This way you can cast off (remove the line) without leaving the boat although you still have to climb up to get it around the first time.

The first task is to get out of the inflatable dinghy without rubbing it on the sharp barnacles while holding onto the rope for the dinghy and the rope for the stern tie.
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Next I navigate the barnacle encrusted rocks which have a nice slippery layer of kelp over the sharp bits.
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Finally we have some “normal rock climbing” on damp rock to the tree we tied to:
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Now I just have to get back to the dinghy :)

Here we are successfully anchored and stern tied.

We spent a rainy lazy two nights here. Lovely spot. Nothing too exciting to report.


  1. We were warned the first time we went to Canada about this practice, which is apparently very common there. We were advised to get some floating line long enough to make the round trip from the stern to shore, and to be prepared to use it.

    It's a very rare practice down here. In fact, I'd venture to say that the only boats we've seen doing it in Puget Sound or the San Juans are flying the Maple Leaf...


  2. Sounds like the Stern tie was enough excitement & the 2days spent was to recover & make it worth the trip up the rock! At least you are improving skills along the way :)

  3. @Mike - Thanks! We had another 100 day party...on day 99 (close enough).
    @Bob - You are correct. I don't think I've stern tied in the San Juans.
    @Ramona - Not too far off!



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