Hosting A Rendezvous: Raft-Up DO's & DON'TS

Last year I think I used my own anchor twice all season. Having a smaller boat and rafting up with others usually means someone else is dropping the hook. Needless to say, with a rendezvous scheduled at least once a month, the PSA does its share of rafting up. Most times its successful, other times it would make us some good money on America's Funniest Home Videos... that is if someone would remember to bring the video camera.

For those of you who are uninitiated, the following is a short list of items to remember when rafting up with 2 or 15 boats. Any more than that and you might want to get fancy and do a star or stern-to raft-up which is way beyond the scope here (pun intended).

First, what to bring:

  1. Plenty of fenders for both sides of your boat. Fenders can never be too big or too many.
  2. Plenty of dock line. At least as much as you would need to tie up at a dock. Don't forget your spring lines.
  3. A good anchor. If the raft has to break-up unexpectedly, make sure you are ready to deploy your anchor.


  1. The biggest boat is generally the anchor boat. Usually, only one big anchor is set (any more and they can get tangled unless the end boats want to set one or you are gonna get fancy. A stern anchor can also be set to prevent excessive swinging although this should be used sparingly since its usually good to get the raft swinging). The captain of the anchor boat should have enough experience with his anchor and should also remember to let out plenty of rode. 7:1 is the least amount you want to set since the displacement of your boat has just multiplied by a factor of 5. Big anchors with a chain rhode are a plus here, but can be a pain for those of us without a windlass-- especially hauling up all that good greasy Chesapeake Mud.
  2. Communicate (by radio or otherwise) with the raft-up boat and ask which side the captain wants you. Generally the anchor boat captain will want to balance out the raft-up and will have a preference on what side you come up on. Usually you want the bigger boats in the middle and the smaller boats on the sides, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.
  3. Have your fenders deployed on the proper side at the beamiest part of your boat and lines ready to hand to the boat you will be coming up along side. PSA member Ken Thorn recommends a good rule of thumb: the boat already tied up should deploy its fenders for the next the boat. Of course you may want to work this out before hand to make sure the other boat has heard of this one.
  4. Set your stern and bow lines so that the boat is straight and even alongside the boat next to you. You want to balance the distance of your stern and bow with the boat next to you, allowing the beamiest part of your boat (usually amidships) to touch with the boat next to you (this is where the fenders come in handy). Make sure these lines are tied as tight as you possibly can get them.
  5. Set a spring line to allow some offset of the boat next to you such that your boat does not tangle spreaders with the boat next to you. This is especially problematic with raft-ups of the same boats. In this case it is sometimes advisable to alternate stem to stern.
  6. The goal is to try and make your boat one with the raft. This means you need to tie your boat as tightly as possible to the others. Any slack will allow excessive movement in a wake.
  7. Excessive movement, especially in a wake situation, is many times unavoidable. This is one reason some folks don't like to raft up and is cause for a raft-up to break up before dark. It depends on how protected the anchorage is, how many fenders you have and how tight your lines are.
  8. Repeat these steps if someone is rafting up on the other side of you.

Raft-up etiquette:

  1. Be respectful of the privacy of the boats next to you.
  2. If you are in a large raft-up, getting from boat to boat can be cumbersome. Take your time. No one appreciates those who party all night only to trip over someone elses lifelines or falling into the drink or both trying to get back to their boat!
  3. Also, be mindful of those curmugeons who insist on varnishing their brightwork. They don't appreciate you walking all over their newly varnished toe rail-- even with your boat shoes!
  4. Remember to board amidships, or where it is easiest, but cross each boat over the bow, not through the cockpit area.
  5. Be respectful of those still sleeping in the morning. if you are going to make an early get-away, make sure you are on the outside.
  6. Make sure you have plenty of lines and fenders! :) Everyone appreciates a captain who comes prepared.