The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear

In Part1 and Part 2 I covered when to use shorefasts, the risks of doing so, and shorefast setups, as well as sharing some tips and tricks to make putting them in easier.

Now let’s take a look at the gear Phyllis and I carry on Morgan’s Cloud:

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Eric Klem

Hi John,

If you can really pin a boat in place effectively and have no significant dynamics, then I think that high modulus line can make sense.  You mention that you need to be confident of no wave action and that is very true.  Also, longer shorefasts that are going to water-level attachment points will help a lot.  By doing this, any vertical distance change by the boat, whether it be from tide or waves, has very little effect on the shorefast length so you don’t need to constantly adjust them.  For example, a 200′ shorefast that is horizontal and then the tide falls 10′ will only stretch to 200.25′, only a 0.1% strain.  However, if you make that a 50′ shorefast, it now stretches to 51′ which is a 2% strain, a lot in the high modulus world where 1% corresponds to 30% of breaking strength.  While high modulus fibers have very low stretch, it is not zero and the longer the shorefast, the more absolute stretch there is.  Have you found that the shorefasts need to be adjusted based on tide in order to stay tight in the real world?

As Drew mentioned in the comments to another article, the angle of the wind makes a big difference in what happens if there is a lot of spring (nylon) in the system.  If the boat is only moving laterally, the hull form and keel are pretty good dampers so motions will be damped and loads will be low.  If the boat can move fore and aft, then there isn’t much damping and having springs in there can be a real problem.

The truly ideal system from simply a loads standpoint is going to depend on the circumstances.  If you have good protection and long, horizontal shorefasts, then a dyneema system could well be the best.  However, if we go to a system with shorter shorefasts and especially if we go to a significant vertical angle, more give would be required unless we want to go to active line management which is not exactly the point of all of this.  To deal with variability in how it is set up, I could see an argument that something along the lines of polyester is best.  And the minute there is wave action, polyester-ish characteristics would be necessary and potentially nylon’s characteristics if the shorefasts are short or vertical.  With any of these systems, I would expect that putting some preload in the system is the best.  Of course, dyneema will be much better from a usability and longevity standpoint so if you cruise in a place where the conditions of no waves and long horizontal shorefasts are possible, then dyneema is likely the best overall.


Eric Klem

Hi John,

That is good to hear that you haven’t had to adjust shorefasts due to tides.  I remember being amazed the first time that I tied to pilings in a place with large tides and not having to adjust lines because I had been real careful about lengths and angles until I actually did the math and saw how it is possible to do it, especially as we were using nylon.  In the PNW, I have seen a lot of shorefasts that are <100' and some much shorter than that and then I think you need something that will stretch more than dyneema somewhere in the system or you need to be constantly tending.

Thinking about it a bit more, I realized that if I understand your post correctly, you are never only on dyneema, you always have at least 1 leg that is an anchor with a snubber or a nylon shorefast so there is still some give in the system.  It isn't until you get to boats with many deck reels of dyneema that are using many shorefasts that you really take all of the give out.


Rob Gill

Hi John,
Nice series of articles and comments, for something we will probably never need but feel ready to tackle if I needed to, so many thanks. Using bagged Dyneema lines makes a lot of sense for occasional use, but if we cruised an area where shore-fasts were a daily thing, we would invest in reels like this:
In my youth the family yacht was a 7.5 metre lifting keel race boat and lightweight flyer. We had only a boat length of chain for the anchor and kedge, no windlass and no chain locker. We raced and cruised the Bristol Channel with extreme tides requiring lots of rope scope. The tricky part wasn’t anchoring, but retrieving all that rope safely.
One person would pull up the anchor, whilst the other would man the helm / engine and wind on the reel in the security of the cockpit. This avoided a bird’s nest of up to 50+ metres of rope on the bow, with the danger of it being blown overboard and around the prop or keel, especially if we were sailing off the anchor. Worked really well, and then stowed nicely in an aft locker.
One time we needed to rescue four adults in a small rubber dinghy, being swept and blown out to sea from an estuary and over a shallow reef, that was acting as a lee shore for us. We only had a small 5hp outboard, which would cavitate in waves, so we went in as close as we dared, anchored, spun round and reversed towards the reef paying out the first reel, couldn’t get close enough (the other crew were rowing frantically towards us), bent on the second reel (for the kedge), and as we got to the last few metres of rope, managed to reach them with a heaving line. The tide was falling, we suddenly had four extra people on board a small yacht, plus a dinghy to tow and a lee shore close under the stern. But we soon had the whole thing retrieved and motored off smartly and safely. I have always felt gratitude to those two hose reels – couldn’t have done that with bags – you just can’t stow rope fast enough.
Br. Rob

Tom and Deb Jarecki

Hey John, I’m interested in your ‘bags use much less space than reels’ message. I guess that’s right for the big ones visible on Skip Novak’s boat’s deck, but I’ve found some low volume reels from Easy Roll that are relatively inexpensive and narrow. They’re meant to be clamped to a stanchion or similar. Easy Roll does flat webbing reels and rope reels.

I can’t do pictures, but 90m each of 10mm Dyneema, with a SS tube thimble at one end and a chafe covered open eye at the other end take up 2/3 of the volume when mounted on their Anchoring Spool for Ropes 16mm size. Each reel is 100 mm wide (plus 90mm for the handle), 450mm overall diameter and 2.7kg without rope. We have room at our sterns for these stanchion reels so they work for us.

I acknowledge that it would be awkward to move these reels into a dingy, but given the single handed experience recounted here in the comments working from the boat out is OK too.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

I recall in Turkey you are subject to heavy fines if you are using trees for shorefasts.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Ernest,
It may be now forbidden to use trees, but it was not years ago. Few in Turkey, Greece, etc. did anything to protect trees when I was there 10-15 years ago.
I believe it is quite challenging to use a tree for a shorefast and do no damage short of carrying a saddle of some sort that becomes immobilized on the tree and spreads the load over a wide area. This is especially hard in a blow with the boat moving around a bit. In Turkey, (and many/most places where shorefasts are common) it is especially hard to keep the boats from sashaying back and forth and sawing into the bark as it is common to only have one line to shore.
Our SOP when using a tree, which was a bit of a last resort, was to, after settled a bit, to return to the tree and use an old sweatshirt as chafe material and to do multiple wraps of ½ inch nylon to spread the load and to tie this all in a way to preclude the “saddle” sawing back and forth. I never got around to it, but considered having a canvas worker make a true padded saddle which would be fairly inexpensive and not take much storage area.
This is a good example of how the cruising community could choose to police itself. Turkey may have felt the need to prohibit tying to trees and fining those who do, but they did not do this without good evidence that it was necessary. Promoting good ecological/seamanship habits is not rocket science and the danger of not doing so is that bureaucracy will step in and take steps in a heavy-footed manner that restricts those who follow good habits in addition to those who abuse their freedom.
I wish there was more freedom in our community (and in all communities for that matter) to suggest better practices without ruffling feathers (or worse). It is coming up for me nowadays when suggesting to those not keeping social distance to do so. I consider actions like this a community responsibility, but must admit, I hold my breath a bit awaiting the response after making my suggestion.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Dick,
you bet these rules and fines are necessary. I remember (having been sailing in Turkey 4 years ago) seeing trees that have grown for ages in honor being literally sawed to death by shorefasts that were applied by charter boats as well as turkish Gulet crews (in my opinion these are worse than charterers).
I am completely on the side of the authorities here (although I not always am 😉 )

Best wishes, Ernest

Dick Stevenson

Yes, Ernest, agree. The Gulets were (too often) the bullies and cowboys of the anchorage while the charter boats were (often) the children: often amusing, sometimes annoying and always underfoot.
My best, Dick

Juho Karhu

When using shorefasts you always tend to have a lot of line out, thus also Spectra will have some stretch to it. It’s true that elasticity of a line doesn’t magically make the energy disappear, but it does help in dividing the energy into a longer period of time and reducing snatch loads. It’s not only chop that can create snatching but also gusting winds. I somehow get the idea that in this article (and in part #2) you seem to be thinking of some kind of ideal situation where you can completely immobilize the boat in one certain place, but in practice this is often impossible.

Attaching boat with shorefasts is a lot like building a belay anchor when mountaineering.. and based on my experience with that (and taking several meter long falls into fairly “elastic” climbing rope), I always keep these things in my mind:
– angles matter a lot
– shock loads are bad

One thing that you mentioned but didn’t highlight is buoyancy. When working with long lines and uneven bottom, it becomes pretty much impossible to handle even moderately thick lines if they are not buoyant. (We have experience with 16 mm nylon). For me this is a top priority, ruling out using dyneema that has sheath. (and also polyester etc).

We now carry 2x 110 meters of 16 mm polypropylene (around 5000-6000 kg breaking strength), flaked in two bags, for our 7t boat… this is not based on any scientific calculation but pure approximation..

Despite that I myself don’t really like using spectra/dyneema in this application, I would probably still have to resort to that stuff if my boat was much heavier. So even though our thinking is different, the conclusion regarding the gear is the same for bigger boats.

Good thing about polypropylene is that it is very abrasion resistant, doesn’t absorb water, and is cheap as chips. Probably a very good choice for smaller boats. All of the local fishing boats here (Norway) use polypropylene as their mooring lines.

Drew Frye

I have only done this a few times, but both times the winds were epic. Both times it worked out fine.

If one of the ties is the anchor (it was for me), then the anchor will move as it sets deeper and there will be some slack. You have to be able to take that out of the system regularly (leeward side). Thus, if I could be relatively sure that the wind would stay in one 180 degree sector, I might want some some stretch (polyester or over-sized nylon), but I would want it on the leeward side. This stretch keeps the slack out of the lines without allowing bounce. I do the same thing in my slip; the high stretch line goes on the leeward side, not the windward side. Try it, you’ll see that it works. Just like standing rigging, what you must avoid is slack.

(I’m assuming no significant chop–if there are waves and you are using shore ties, I believe it is going to get ugly and there is probably nothing that will help that. Anchor out.)

I’m not a fan of single braid Dyneema (Amsteel and similar) for side-to-side chafe, which is what we are talking about. It is fantastic end-to-end motion (over pulleys and low friction rings) but repeated testing has shown it is worse than polyester and little better than nylon in side-to-side abrasion on rocks. The single strands are too easily cut by a rock crystals under high load and the weave is all wrong (the best weave for side-to-side chafe is tight and similar to webbing, and 3-strand or a TIGHT cover is OK). Thus, I would do as climbers and industrial riggers do, and have separate polyester webbing or covered Dyneema slings for the contact points. Also, loose webbing over the rope where it rides along shore boulders is smart.

As for the act of rigging, I leave that to the experts! My experiences were in light winds, before the storm and were easy.

Drew Frye

Yes, probably polyester in most cases. I should not have said high stretch. It is all relative.

Tom and Deb Jarecki

I buy my UHMWPE (AKA ‘Spectra’, ‘Dyneema’) from Green Line Fishing in Denmark They sell Acera Amundsen in diameters suitable for sailing boats. It is yellow, which you may or may not like. Considerably less expensive than other sources I’ve found, and including with shipping to New Zealand it is 40% of the cost of locally sourced line.

Terence Thatcher

Cruising in British Columbia, folks regularly use shore lines simply to park our boats, stern to the shore, so more can fit in small anchorages We typically take the line ashore to an eye placed by authorities, or a rock, then back to the boat, so one can leave without going ashore. Trees should not used, unless they are already dead. The lines are not expected to hold in big blows, so most folks use polypro line, which isn’t all that strong, but it is light and floats. I carry about 400′ if I remember correctly. I could not see how to mount a reel on my stern, like many power boats do. So I took an old plastic reel used to ship and store line, put a vertical handle on it, and mounted it on an old winch handle. When I want to attach a stern line, I just put the winch handle into one of my primary cockpit winches. Then I can pull the line out as I row ashore and reel it in as I leave. It was always tangling going in and out before I mounted it on a reel.

Donald Kurylko
Right in your backyard, John. I dealt with the folks in Spaniard’s Bay, NL. Excellent prices and great service. They primarily supply commercial industries, but are perfectly happy to supply small orders as well. Check out the mother site in Iceland for more detailed information on their products.

Donald Kurylko

Sorry, forgot to add:

Grant Calverley

For calm summer weather overnight and picnic stern tie shore fast anchoring in BC provincial parks, (sometimes the only way to visit these amazing island parks) I find this electric fence reel works well and fits about 300′ of 5000 lb 1/4 spectra line. It’s sturdy, galvanized, and very quick and easy to reel in or out.
Good enough for many boats if tended, obviously not for storms. With this method, there is no need to return to shore when its time to leave, perhaps in a hurry if a side wind picks up. The reel has a shoulder strap so you can wear on your chest in the dingy as it spools out and as you walk up on shore leaving your hands “relatively” free for scrambling. We use a large 10′ loop of 2″ 5000# seatbelt webbing to go a single turn around the park set anchor rings (or to protect trees). Then the whole reel assembly is passed through one end of the webbing loop, then the spectra is shackled to the other end of the loop on the other side of the shore fast or park ring. Then take the whole reel all the way back to the boat where it is secured with many raps to a cleat. When it is time to leave, undo the non-reel end of the spectra line at the boat and start winding it back in. A small monkey fist knot or float on the tail end of the spectra is pulled to shore where it passes easily through the first side of the large seat belt loop and gets caught by the shackle on the other side of the loop, releasing the webbing from the shore fast. with some tugs, the belt comes off of the ring and you finish reeling it in as you pull anchor and motor away. In crowded park anchorages leaving with a bad wind change is a bit dicey if you have a dingy and crew member onshore untieing the shore fast while your sailboat is drifting sideways into the other tightly packed boats. Awkward.

Kevin McNeill

Just joined this group/site and have been avidedly reading. This set of articles held my interest mainly because I have been a Search and Rescue guy for 22 years, land side. All our rescue ropes are in bags, 300′, of kern mantle. the best way to keep the ends straight is to have the bitter end out through a hole in the bottom of the bag, for us this has two benefits, one when rigging over a cliff you can ie one end to a tree and then just fling the bag over edge, two you never lose the bag. Another thought crossed my mind, have you considered tubular webbing for anchors on trees and rocks versus wire, we use it all the time. a big recuer and a 250 lb subject in a basket stretcher on the nd of a line going straight down puts a lot of strin on bothe anchor and the line.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and Kevin,
For shorefasts, I had a hank of chain for going around rocks and a loop of tubular webbing to go around trees. Webbing is just nicer to trees as the load is spread out. Using the webbing loop a bit like a cow hitch put 2 lengths of webbing around the tree for even more chafe protection and using the loop as a cow hitch precluded webbing movement around the tree as the boat moves about: a common way for trees used as shorefasts to get damaged.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Dick, just a short question – how do you make the loop out of the tubular webbing? Sewing the loop closed, or using some special knots?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Ernest,
As I wrote that comment, I was asking myself the same question as it had been years. Webbing (for this I was using nylon tubular) is tricky (read as lousy) stuff to secure, knots or otherwise: Cleats were a real challenge (mine are slippery stainless), and I remember playing with various knots and putting them under load with my winches and having many slip (I believe both you and I remember the days before internet and google searches).
I believe I ended up using a Water Knot. It worked when I loaded it up on the winches and had the added benefit of the ends laying perfectly (after loading up) for the increased security of sewing the tail ends to the loop. As a loop used a bit like a cow hitch, it never had to be undone and, as a loop, was able to be snugged up onto most any size tree in a way that precluded movement and therefore, minimized chafe.
Having a big loop/sling was handy in other ways: occasional lifting of heavy awkward objects with a halyard for ex. I also had, in the back of my mind, its use as a sling that could be quickly and easily wrapped around a COB.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Yes: I was just spinning off shorefasts and webbing to suggest a way to attach to a tree with a minimum likelihood to damage. The loop done a bit like a cow hitch (whether soft rope or webbing) will not move around the tree as will a rode brought directly and secured to a tree.
On my 40-foot boat, I found my reel of Dacron webbing very handy. It was mounted so there was a straight shot to the stern and I could get to shore (swim or dinghy) with it coming off the reel easily. Similar ease with retrieval.
Stuffed bags of rope are a wonder for storage as the rope comes out untangled: I use them for spare anchor rodes which tend to get used at zero-dark-30 in rain and wind. But bags of lines take up a lot of room on a 40-foot boat (perhaps the more modern HM ropes which are smaller diameter and do not take eons to dry solve some of this issue) and a reel on the stern is stowed and out of the way and allows quick and easy access.
One issue that surprised me, mentioned earlier, was how difficult this hard Dacron webbing was to secure to my slippery cleat. I finally resorted to a Lightermans’ or Tugboat Hitch, a good knot for any sailor to have under his belt in any case.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi Dick,
thanks a lot for clearing this up, I was wondering if a sewn-only loop would hold the load secure enough. Additionally I learned two simple knots 😉

How wide is your webbing strap? And how long? I’m thinking of a loop of 7m (approx. 23′) length when folded (14m, or 46′ webbing) so you could still cow-hitch a remarkable tree up to 2m (6.5′) diameter.

And true, I still remember those times, even if they seem like eons away…

BTW, in Turkey you’ll be heavily fined when using trees as a land-based stronghold, regardless how you tie up to them. Too many trees damaged beyond recovery by not-so-thoughtful skippers.

Dick Stevenson

Ahh Ernest,
My boat is but a distant memory as Canada has had its border closed to US visitors because of covid: it has been a lost season. And, at my age, I am beginning to think about how many I reasonably have left. (Unfortunately for me, this policy strikes me as good judgment on CA’s part.)
So, from memory, my sling was of nylon tubular webbing of about 25-30mm (1-1.25 inches) wide and probably about 5 meters/16 feet before knotting and sewing. The wider the better for tree protection. Its length is not important as long as it can get around the tree: a small tree will just have a longer “tail” for attaching to the shorefast line after snugging it up around the tree. Your figures sound fine. And, as I remember, the shoreline trees were usually pretty modest in size: probably the shore line was logged first back when.
And it was in Turkey (and Greece), back in the day, that I first built this loop. I do not think that there was any rules/fine in place then, but the damage to trees on the shore was clear. Some cruisers were heedless of doing damage, but the commercial ops/gulets were the worst offenders in my casual observation.
For a long time, I used a dedicated square cockpit flotation type cushion for padding around the trees.
I also suspect that there are sailors who could hand sew the webbing and have it be strong, but I am not one of them: so I use a knot, load it up, and sew the tails.
My best, Dick

Matt Marsh

I wouldn’t even consider trying to do my own sewn or knotted ends on heavy webbing. A 30′ recovery strap in 3″ webbing, with sewn chafe-protected eyes and tested to 27,000 pounds, is only about $50 from our local trucking supply house. They’ll sell you any size and configuration of strap up to 10″ and 100,000 pounds for less than the bare webbing would cost from a marine chandlery.