‘Don't let a £6 shortcut cost you thousands of pounds in damage'

Yachtsmen are being warned to use ‘proper pick-up strops’ rather than the mooring shortcut of carabiner clips after two near-crashes in three weeks in Cornwall.

The carabiner, a D-shaped ring with a spring catch on one side – commonly used as a climbing aid – is proving popular with sailors as a cheap and easy means of attaching yachts to mooring buoys.

But after two cruisers came adrift in the space of three weeks, Fowey Harbour Commissioners staff are warning yachtsmen to think twice about what appears a growing trend.

The deputy harbour master for Fowey, Jonathan Pritchard, said: ‘We tend to have six boats a year come away because they’re connected with a carabiner.’

In the latest incident, a 7.3m (24ft) yacht broke free from its moorings over the weekend of June 22-23 and was found on rocks near Pontpill.

Mr Pritchard said: ‘The yacht wasn’t damaged but came to rest on a rocked area in low sea conditions and plenty of wind. We managed to refloat it on the tide.’

In the early hours of 13 June, Fowey RNLI inshore lifeboat was called when a 6.7m (22ft) cruising yacht called Demelza was spotted drifting unlit upriver with no one on board.

Mr Pritchard said it had broken free from its moorings but was rescued as it touched the shore.

The boat was battened down and it was obvious no one was aboard so a search was not instigated, but had the owner left the hatches open for any reason there would have been a major search of the harbour.

False economy

Mr Pritchard said carabiners were particularly risky for boats left unattended periods of time.

He added: ‘It’ amazing how people wil spend 15 to 20 grand on a boat, then moor using toilet chain or the cheapest bit of rope they can get.’

Scrimping on moorings was false economy, he said. ‘In the harbour, we manufacture and maintain strops. It costs £141 for a single mooring strop, which includes a shackle, swivel rope and pick-up bits, plus storage for the winter when we take it in, clean and resurface it.

‘Sailors who use carabiners risk damaging or losing their boats for something that cost them £6 at a chandlery.’

Fowey harbour master Paul Thomas reiterated the warning,saying that a mooring’s hard eye puts too much stress on a carabiner’s retainer catch with the rubbing action of the sea.

‘I understand why it’s attractive in terms of ease of slipping on,’ he said, ‘but it’s not good seamanship.’

Pictures: An RNLI lifeboat crew retrieving a yacht that had broken from its mooring. Credit: RNLI and a carabiner clip.