Some years ago I was moored in the yacht basin in Calais during some particularly windy weather. The wind was blowing about force 7-8 across the yacht basin and we did not feel in much of a hurry to go out to sea.

When the lock gate was opened, a tug came in to the basin and took a large coaster in tow from the stern. The ship dropped its anchor so that is was just dragging along the bottom of the basin and cast off.

When the tug began to pull the ship, the drag of the anchor on the mud was sufficient to keep the ship straight. As the lock was only about 2m wider than the ship this was pretty essential to avoid striking the lock wall.

It was a very impressive piece of seamanship that was performed perfectly, I suspect that if the tug had pulled the ship out forwards, the stern would have blown round and been damaged on the quay side.

I was reminded of this technique this weekend when I was attending a Yachtmaster Instructor refresher course. Because of the handling characteristics of the yacht we were in and the conditions, it was fairly tricky to put the boat alongside a pontoon going down wind in reverse. Each time it was attempted, the bow blew off and the manoeuvre failed.

It was suggested that if we lowered the anchor over the bow so that it just dragged along the bottom, it would prevent the bow blowing away. This is the sort of seamanship technique that would have been commonly used in the past (before bow thrusters) and is still relevant today in tricky situations.

Next time you have to reverse out of a difficult berth, when the wind is going to blow the bow round, it may be worth drudging, or towing your anchor to keep the vessel straight, of course it probably a good idea to practice it first before you need to do this!

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