Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Reel
By Michael

Most of the reels use either floating polypropylene
(pictured) or flat webbing, few use nylon three-
strand. Seems to me that polypropylene would
comparitively little strength or chaffe resistance.
In 1995, I saw Alvah and Diana Simon give a presentation in Ventura, CA. Their riveting talk and slide show focused on their trip around Cape Horn in their steel-hulled Roger Henry. What stuck with me all the years since is their description of anchoring in the Beagle Channel. Alvah said he observed the trees on the cliffs around the anchorage, wickedly malformed by the fierce prevailing winds, the williwaws that can blow at hurricane strength. Understanding they faced the prospect of gale force (and higher) katabatic winds that would drive them from shore, Alvah and Diana tucked Roger Henry in close and tied off ashore. The long length of three-strand that they used to do this, they kept on a reel astern.
Since then, I’ve noticed time and again, in the pictures that accompany adventurous articles in the sailing magazines—articles sent from crews at the extreme latitudes—the reels. To me, these reels evidence serious sailors, extreme cruisers.

But now I’m floating in a sea of boats with reels. A twenty-two-foot day sailor behind me sports a reel. Every other boat I’ve seen in B.C. has a reel—even small powerboats. I’ve learned why.
British Columbia (and the Inside Passage north) is filled with more nooks and crannies to explore than could possibly be done in a lifetime (our knowledgeable friend, Warren, pointed out to us that some of it is still uncharted!). These anchorages are often narrow, deep, crowded in the summer, and subject to huge tides (up to 15 feet). All of these factors combine to limit the amount of area available for a boat to swing on the hook. Accordingly, many folks up here stern tie to immobilize their boats. Apparently  summer season wind is not such a factor.

So, we’re looking into our own stern tie reel solution for Del Viento. At first glance, I like the space efficiency of the narrow reels of polyester webbing. We’ll see. I want to make sure this is indeed a must-have, even for just our planned single season. Because if we return to Mexico with a reel I know there will be a lot of eye rolling, “Oh look, the Robertsons spent a year up north and now they think they’re Alvah Simon.”

Our friend Warren hosted us for dinner and gave us a
run-down on the Gulf Islands, the easternand western shores of
Vancouver Island, and the mainland inlets of the
Strait of Georgia. He is a captain with
years of experience and an intense affinity for
the area. We covered a lot, but according to
Warren, we barely scratched the surface. Here
Windy is notating our iPad Navionics chart
app for reference. We attached a "Don't Miss!"
label to far more places than one season will
allow us to explore.


  1. It's a must have. We used flat webbing--nicely multi purpose. here it's a stern line AND a zip line it also comes back out as a slackline in the park and emergency hurricane docklines.

  2. We noticed more than a couple of cruising boats in Lake Huron's North Channel with a spool of line for shore tying. In fact, it's very common to spiderweb your boat into the many little gunkholes of the North Channel. I wrote about the technique in an article for SAIL magazine about a year ago.

    1. Yes, I read this article online before I wrote this post, thank you. And such a good write up on your blog about cost a couple weeks back--and thank you for including us in your recent list. All the best, Michael

  3. We never had a reel on any of our cruises up to BC and Alaska. But it's always handy to have a nice long length of line available. We are not real fans of tying onto shore - I guess we just don't like our boat that close to rocks.

    Whoover told you anchorages are deep, narrow and crowded was lying! 'Tis true that the San Juans/Gulf Islands/Desolation anchorages are packed in July/August but north of Desolation you'll have countless anchorages to yourself that are 10-15 meters deep, plenty of swinging room and are stunning.

  4. Have to agree -- we had no need for stern tie north of Octopus Islands (Quadra Island N), certainly no need north of Cape Caution (3 different trips).

    Hmmm, sooo many "must visits up North. And it always depends on weather (sets your mood).

    We are big fans of:
    Roscoe Bay when not crowded


    Miles Inlet

    Fury Cove

    Pruth Bay (if sunny, the beach and mountain hikes are spectacular)

    Codville Lagoon and Sagar Lake (if sunny)

    Surf Inlet Penn Hbr

    Shibasha Cove

    and so many others such as Haida Gwaii

    1. oh, and dont forget west side of VI

      Bunsbys and Kyuquot areas

    2. Thank you very much for taking the time to provide these lists. Windy has been noting all of these recommendations. Muchas gracias! Michael

  5. We use our stern line almost every day north of the Gulf Islands. Many reasons: little space to swing, bottom steep-to, more privacy, can set the solar panels for optimal power, etc.. I bought a 600' spool of 3/8" Sampson MFP Floatline from Columbia Basin Knot Company and made a reel from 3/4" PVC pipe that hangs from the stern pulpit. I also use a webbing sling and carabiner to tie to trees as I don't like to saw through the bark with the line. s/v Aeolian - Seattle


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