Rafting Guidelines


In order to encourage our newer members to come out, sail and meet with us as a group, and to learn more about maneuvering their boat, the club offers the following guidelines for boat rafting.  These guide­lines are intended to help avoid accidents, confusion and damage while enjoying our overnight raftups and to have a safe and congenial cruising experience.


The following minimum items take into consideration Catalina Yacht’s varying boat lengths and wide beams (C27,30,34,36) and accommodates a friendly 40 footer also!

Two spring lines, with loops, 150% of boat length, i.e. 45+’.

Two breast lines, with loops, 100% of boat length, i.e. 30+’.

Two large bumpers, with dual end ties, 10+ inches in diameter.

Diameter of all lines should be equal to your regular docking lines.  Multiple bow cleats will make tying off several lines much easier than one large one.  Proper cleats, not stanchions, should be used for securing all lines.

The two large bumpers should be capable of completely protecting the side (hull and rail) of your boat.  Fender boards should be used if necessary.  Covering bumpers with color fast acrylic materials helps to eliminate those annoying rubbing sounds caused by boat movement.  Hang your bumpers from YOUR lifelines or rail, that way, they will remain with your boat.

                                                      ANCHOR BOAT

If you intend to be the anchor boat, your ground tackle should be capable of holding a raft of 5-10 boats in normal situations.  Lunch hooks are not acceptable.  An adequate anchor and long chain (9-12′) will make your rafting guests feel much more comfortable overnight.

A working anchor light, portable or masthead, is required on the anchor boat as well as the (2) end boats.  Note there are renewed Coast Guard requirements for the distance at which these anchor lights must be visible (2 miles).


The skipper of the anchoring boat (or his designee(s)) have overall responsibility for the location, size, formation and safety of the raft.  At his direction, another boat must be ready to set an additional anchor, set anchor lights, operate its motor for maneuvering the raft, or to break up the raft.  Be available to remove your boat in case of squalls or increasing winds.


Approach the raft from astern and toward the side with fewer boats.  Hail the raft captain for instructions, assistance and in regard to breaking the raft before nightfall.  Have your bumpers deployed toward the inside of the raft, slightly forward of your widest beam and have all lines and crew ready for tying up.  Come to a complete stop BESIDE the raft, do not push it around by bumping into it at speed or by suddenly snubbing your lines.

Always extend the loop end of each of your lines to the inside boat.  Your knots and the security of your boat are your responsibility.  You will be able to make all adjustments from your own boat.  Assume you are boat “C” in Figure I.  Run a forward breast line from the bow of the boat inside of yours to your bow and secure it immediately, it will be adjusted later.  Run the first (forward) spring line from the bow of the boat inside yours, to your stern.

                                                ADJUSTING POSITION

Adjust the spring so that your spreaders are 2‑3 feet aft of the inside boats spreaders or shrouds.  Then run the stern breast line from the stern of the inside boat to your stern.  Adjust breast lines (and bumpers) so that the centerlines of the two boats are parallel.  This keeps the masts from making contact as the boats roll in those “power boat” waves.

If these lines are adjusted properly and drawn tightly against one another, the boats will ride easily with minimal contact in waves and winds.  A second (after) spring line, run from the stern of the inside boat to your bow, and drawn against the first spring, will prevent the boats from seesawing forward and backward.  Two springs lines must be used for all raft maneuvering.

If you are next to the anchor boat in a large raft (11 boats or more), your lines and cleats will be subject to a much higher loading than the outer boats.  Doubled breast lines and forward springs on separate cleats may be prudent.


It is the responsibility of the departing boats to maintain the integrity and balance of the remaining raft even in emergency situations.  This means “paired drops” from both port and starboard.

If yours is the outside boat of the raft, leaving is easy, just release your lines in the reverse order from entering the raft and you are off.  Always leave the raft by drifting backward until you are clear to maneuver.

In emergency breakups, if you are on the port side of the raft, clear away in the port direction; starboard boats should clear away to starboard.  First boats away should go the farthest away before reanchoring.

Groups of boats may separate together if enough room is available.  This minimizes the hands on deck, the time to breakup and the number of maneuvers, especially at night.  Equally sized groups (3-5 boats) from port and starboard of the anchor boat may “cast off” (at the same time).  Once behind the old raft, new anchors can be set immediately by both castaways.  While “engines on” would be prudent, it is not necessary to “engage” for this maneuver.

                                                  INSIDE DEPARTURE

If you are an inside boat, you may leave the raft as follows ‑ assume you are boat “B” in Figure II.  This can be done unassisted in light conditions.  If there are several boats outside of you or there is significant wind/water forces, please get assistance before releasing lines.

This is where the extra line lengths come in.  Unfasten the secondary (after) spring lines if used.  Unfasten the forward breast and first (forward) spring lines of the outside boat “C”, extend them if necessary and run them forward (outside) of your bow/forestay and over to the bow of the inside boat “A” (leaving them fastened to boat “C”).  Here’s where those extra cleats are also put to use and loops are quickly re-attached.

Note that the raft is still tied together.  This is extremely important as the weather builds.  Unfasten your own forward breast and spring lines from boat “A”.  Your boat will still be “trapped” between “A” and “C”.  Release your stern breast line from “A”, and release “C’s” stern line (loop) from your stern.  You can now “walk” “C’s” stern line around your boat, to be passed over to “A”.  Your boat is now completely free.  Let your boat drift backward  until it is astern of “A” and “C” as in Figure III.  Never use the engine power to leave the raft!

If leaving unassisted: while holding position, as in Figure III, attach “C’s” stern line to boat “A’s” stern.  Go aboard “C” and readjust the lines, once again making the raft secure.  Make sure all your lines are out of the water before engaging your propeller.  Never leave the raft by going forward!


Realize that other sailors will be walking across your boat to visit with others.  To maximize privacy, cross only on the forward decks and not the cockpits, unless invited.  Wear clean deck shoes and do not step on sails or other articles.  Clear away your own sails, lines and articles so as to avoid accidents.

If a boat captain knows in advance, that he will be departing the raft early, or wishes to retire early, he should try to stay to the outside ends of the raft.  To ensure your own privacy and quiet sleeping, you should plan on leaving the raft (before nightfall).

The raft captain will decide how many boats to carry overnight.  Secure all halyards away from masts to prevent slapping noises.  Dinghies will need attention to avoid banging your neighbors hull.  Prepare your boat for any likelihood of bad weather during the night.