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The Art and Craft of the Raft-Up

Getting together with other boaters is one of the true pleasures of the boating life. 
  • Boats rafted up

Raft-ups are a great way to get together, relax while the kids play in and on the water and enjoy shared food and beverages. Though fun to raft-up, it should be done the right way to avoid damaging boats and injuring participants. 

Have a Plan. Know who is going to be joining the raft-up and how big and more importantly, how heavy their boats are. The heaviest boat should set the anchor and be the host boat. They should also be the one with the most effective anchor. The remaining boats should arrive in the order of the next heaviest down to the least heavy.

Scout the Site. The location for the raft-up should be well known or well scouted before the raft-up is scheduled to arrive. Sound the location for depth and plan to anchor in an area that will allow the raft-up to swing 360 degrees. Know the draft of all the boats in the raft-up and allow for three to four feet additional margin.

Set the Anchor. The host boat (the heaviest) should position the anchor at the center of the raft-up location, allowing for swing. Scope (length of rode in relation to the depth of the water) is important as well. Allow for a minimum of 7:1 ratio for the scope, i.e. in 8 feet of water the length of the rode should be 56 feet (7x8). Lightly backing down on the rode will help set the anchor.

Ready Each Boat. As the boats arrive at the site they should have their fenders and lines in place. The lines should be rated for the biggest boat in the group. Use plenty of fenders to protect the freeboard. It is best if boats of similar freeboard are tied next to each other.

Easy Does It. With the host boat in position, ease the next boat alongside it, and heave the bow and stern lines to the host boat’s crew to bring the boat into position. If an operator cannot ease in, they can approach bow first tossing the bow line to the host boat and allow the boat to settle alongside. With more than two boats in a raftup, the third boat would approach the lead boat from the opposite side, leaving the lead boat in the center. As more boats approach they should take positions on every other side. Again, leaving the lead boat in the center.

Align the Boats. When possible, align each boat's stern to the host boat’s stern so people can move from boat to boat via the swim platforms. This is safer and easier than climbing from boat to boat over gunwales and handrails. Use spring lines to adjust the boat's positions in relation to the host boat’s stern.

Breaking Up. Breaking up the raft-up is the opposite of forming the raft-up. The last boat in will be the first boat off and the rest of the boats, one at a time, release and ease off the raft-up. It is best to back down from the raft-up to avoid crossing the host boat’s rode.

Contact your local MarineMax for information and to RSVP for their next raft-up.