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    Anchoring and Mooring

    Are there ways that boaters can minimise the impact of anchoring and mooring on sensitive seabed plants and animals?

    Whether you choose to anchor or moor your boat, some seabed habitats may be sensitive to these activities. There are many simple things you can do to both prevent damage to your boat and reduce your impact on the environment too.

    The work on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England has generated all sorts of points for debate and of particular interest to the RYA are the discussions around anchoring pressure and the provision of moorings.

    Anchoring is an essential part of boating, whether you are stopping for lunch or sheltering from stormy conditions. There is evidence that anchoring can cause damage to sensitive seafloor plants and animals, particularly seagrass. The RYA has been working with nature conservation bodies and other boating groups to develop some top tips for anchoring in areas where seagrass exists to help boaters preserve the marine environment they love.

    How do I anchor with care?

    Make sure that anchoring causes as little damage as possible to the seabed by following four simple steps:

    1. Choose an anchorage away from the most sensitive areas wherever possible (e.g. away from seagrass, reefs, shellfish beds, etc.).
    2. Deploy your anchor correctly to avoid drag:
      • Use the appropriate length of chain and warp. The correct length can help to reduce scouring of the seabed.
      • If your anchor is dragging, raise it and re-anchor.
      • If it continues to drag, choose a different anchorage.
    3. Even if you think the anchor is holding well, check it periodically to make sure it is not dragging
    4. Raise your anchor correctly when leaving:
      • Check to see how the boat is lying.
      • If the boat is pulling back away from the anchor, you may need to slowly motor towards the anchor as the crew pulls in the slack and raises the anchor.
      • Good crew communication is essential to avoid overrunning and fouling the prop.
      • Bring the anchor and line on-board, and stow it away ready for immediate redeployment.


    What else can boaters do to help?

    It is also important to plan your approach with care to avoid damaging your boat, your pride and the seabed!

    1. Know your depth and draft - smaller craft can reach shallower areas.
    2. Check the tides - if in doubt slow down and use extra caution when boating on a low tide.
    3. If you run into a seagrass flat, you will leave a sediment trail behind your boat, making the water murky and probably cutting seagrass fronds or roots. Stop immediately and lift your engine. Paddle away until clear. Never use your engine to force your way through, it will damage the seagrass and your engine!
    4. If you run aground on seagrass, wait for the tide to lift you off again. Excessive use of the throttle in an effort to shift the boat will cause significant damage to the seagrass.

    The work on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in England has generated all sorts of points for debate and of particular interest to the RYA are the discussions around anchoring pressure and the provision of moorings. Conservation groups are increasingly recommending the use of eco-friendly moorings to reduce the pressure of anchoring on sensitive seafloor habitats however their limited deployment to date in UK waters means that knowledge of their suitability and practicality is minimal.

    What are eco-moorings?

    Essentially mooring systems that can be described as ‘eco-friendly’ are those that minimise the level of detrimental interaction with the seafloor and therefore the potential for damage to sensitive habitats.

    The technology has been around for some time however very few systematic trials have been conducted in order to compare them to more traditional systems. The trials that have been undertaken to date have been located in Australia, the USA and Indonesia and some results demonstrate clear benefits from an ecological perspective.

    What appears to be less well understood is how these mooring systems compare in terms of operational effectiveness from the boaters perspective. For example, what size of boat can be safely moored using the different systems? How do the different systems behave across different tidal systems? What, if any, are the insurance implications of using the alternative systems over more traditional options?

    The installation of a few test systems in Milford Haven in Wales highlighted a number of these issues when it became apparent that the technology was not designed to cope with the large tidal range and strong currents. It is possible therefore that further work is needed to adapt some of the existing models to cope with British conditions.



    Finding out more

    The RYA has been getting involved with a range of projects around the UK to improve our understanding of the efficacy of eco-mooring systems to make sure we can have an educated view.

    As well as the study being run by The Crown Estate in Studland Bay, Dorset, we are also contributing our knowledge and experience to similar projects being explored in Porth Dinllaen in North Wales and the Fal Estuary in Cornwall. An important element of all these projects is the involvement of the local boating community and we are doing all we can to facilitate good communication and supporting good stakeholder involvement. We are also maintaining dialogue with bodies such as Natural England to keep abreast of their research in this area.

    Hopefully through these and other similar studies we can learn more about how alternative mooring systems behave from the boating perspective and thus will be able to have a more educated view on their suitability as a potential substitute for more traditional approaches in ecologically sensitive areas.

    The RYA is always keen to learn more about developing technologies that could help to minimise the impact boating could have on the marine environment. Whilst the safety of recreational boaters remains our primary concern, the protection of the marine environment is important to many of our members and it is essential that we can provide information to allow boaters to make educated choices.

    We will keep you posted as this topic develops.

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