The ability to go fast and roam far are points that intrigue most any skipper. Yet it’s when they slow down to a full stop that many boating families actually enjoy their vessels most. Indeed, if you have a nautical skew, there’s no better way to spend a day than simply relaxing with others who don’t mind getting wet.
That’s where rafting-up – tying several anchored boats tightly together in sheltered waters - comes into play. It’s a great way to gather in a beautiful setting and experience all the possibilities of your favorite maritime playgrounds. Think of it as a big picnic and tailor your trips to match the participants.
Some people, for example, like to gather shellfish, swim or hit the beach while others prefer kicking back with wine, cheese and crackers. The beauty of raft-ups is there can be something to do for everyone with the boats serving as home base – and you can make any outing as exciting or easygoing as you choose. Bring along a PWC or inflatable kayak for adventurous friends who like to roam. Go clamming, hit the beach or spend time in float tubes for a more leisurely pace. Take a dinghy dockside to a waterfront lunch before heading back out for snacks and a sunset. It’s all good.
There are practical benefits to rafting-up, too. For one thing, adults can converse while the kids tucker themselves out in the water. And everyone chipping in for food and beverages reduces the cost of a full-day outing.
As with all boating endeavors safety comes first. Set the scene with a few basic ground rules. Keep an eye on kids and less experienced boaters to ensure they don’t get sunburned, stay within range and use flotation devices when appropriate. If people are going to the beach, dropping the hook over clean bottom near the shore promotes smooth transitions. It’s also smart to bring along extra clothes as someone always gets a chill when the wind picks up.
In terms of setting up, the biggest boat should anchor first before additional vessels tie up along either side. Be sure to position several fenders between each boat to prevent banging. Approach slowly without making a wake as you get in line and have experienced boaters help secure new vessels to the grouping. Aligning the stern of each boat so swim platforms can be used to move from boat to boat is safer than climbing over gunwales. Use spring lines amidships to fine-tune positioning.
Ideal raft-up spots are generally buffered from the wind and near a beach or sandy flat where the kids can get out and play. Being removed from heavy boating traffic is also important since serious wakes invariably bang boats together.
Other than that, it’s your call. Position yourself to watch a sunset or fireworks, or find a spot near a dining or a tourist attraction and head ashore for a spell. It’s all good when you are spending time with friends on the water.
Written by: Tom Schlichter