The moorings are assigned on a first come, first serve basis. Once the Harbor is full, which holds 350 boats, boats can moor outside at Descanso Bay and Hamilton Cove. There is more motion there, occasionally uncomfortable, and a longer trip to the town by dinghy or shore boat. The water is too deep to anchor at Avalon, unless you own a small ship.
The mooring assignments are made just outside the harbor, roughly straight out from the green “Pleasure Pier”. Look for the red Harbor Patrol boats. They will need to know the length of your boat, how many nights, and your documentation number. The fee is usually paid by check, so have it ready.
Boats are moored bow & stern, so that they do not swing. The patrol boat will tell you which fairway to turn into. It will be tight, with lots of dinghies, sometimes swimmers, so go slow and careful. Have crew on the bow as lookout. Check your wind direction for drift when mooring.
When you are abeam your mooring, make your turn and aim for the floating pole. Stop with your bow right at the pole. The crew picks up the pole, which is attached to a short lead line. Quickly pull the line until a big yellow line hawser appears, and slip the loop onto the bow cleat. The bow is now secure! Now comes the tricky part, securing the stern.
The boat may start to drift, so keep an eye on your position relative to the boats on either side, which are 10 to 20 feet away. Back away slightly if needed, to make it easier to hook up the stern line.
To retrieve the stern mooring line, the crew should quickly pull along the weighted spreader line, walking aft as they pull. Gloves are handy, as the spreader line is slimy.
The skipper might use the engine(s) in moderation to hold the boat in position, taking great care that the engine is in neutral, if the spreader line is near the prop(s). It is safest to lay the slack spreader line on deck, so that it can’t foul the prop, but then you get slime on your boat.
If you cannot reach the yellow stern mooring hawser, simply get the spreader line onto the stern cleat as soon as possible, and tighten when you can. Give the boat time to settle into position, then adjust if necessary. As Captain Ron would say, “it’s time to kick back some cold ones” and watch the newcomers go through the same drill!
The tension on these lines can vary greatly during large tidal swings. You may need to adjust the stern line to avoid excessive strain at high tide, or drifting close to your neighbors at low tide. A dock line can be led through the stern hawser loop, if the spreader line appears unsafe.
Departure is normally easy. Simply release bow and stern lines, but wait for the spreader lines to sink clear of the props. Then pull forward and make your way out of the moorings and start your voyage home!