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updated: 7/24/2010

What is a mooring and how does it work?

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(left column:) what is a mooring; types used in Newport Harbor: double-point or fore-and-aft, single-point or swing; shore mooring, -regulations, -specifications, -where found; offshore mooring described, -regulations, -specifications, -limitations, double-point where found, single-point where found; temporary single-point mooring, -renting, -location illustrated; temporary double-point mooring, -renting, -location illustrated; mooring sizing

(right column:) mooring: parts, rigging, seizing wire and chafing gear, regular inspection; how to pick up a double-point mooring; spreader line; how do moorings work; catenary, -illustrated; other mooring types, cement, screw, elastic; public piers and pumpout stations; where to land the dinghy; markets, laundry, cinema, and shopping

Q:        What is a mooring?

A:        Mooring used as a noun describes a place used to secure a craft. It is also used to describe the lines and attached gear which secure the craft. Used as a verb, to moor, it describes the action of making fast a craft to such place or equipment. A mooring is distinguished from an anchor by its relative permanence and its ability to secure a craft in wind or current from any direction without requiring resetting.
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Q:        What types of moorings are used to secure vessels in Newport Harbor? Are different types used in different places?

A:        Both single- and double-point moorings, with single or double sets of ballast and floats, are used in Newport Harbor. Single-point moorings are also called swing moorings while double-point moorings are also called fore- and aft- moorings. In this harbor, we see three different applications of these two mooring types.

First, double-point shore moorings, seen along harbor beaches on Balboa Peninsula, Lido Isle and Balboa Island, secure a vessel between a landward bulkhead or post and heavy underwater ballast. All shore moorings in Newport Harbor are of this double-point type. They are called shore moorings because a vessel so moored can be accessed from shore, where one end of the mooring system terminates. Shore mooring regulations are found here.

Second, both single- and double-point moorings are used offshore in the harbor. Single-point offshore moorings are found in parts of Newport Harbor which experience greater fetch across open water. Also called "swing" moorings, these are used for the mooring fields permitted to NHYC and BYC and the County-owned Carnation Cove moorings.

Carnation Cove moorings illustrated

Carnation Cove moorings
( click for bigger picture )

Vessels on a single-point mooring constantly weathervane with changes in wind and tide, ever seeking the position of lowest loading on their underwater ballast. The County rents the temporary single-point Carnation Cove moorings on a first-come, first-served basis.

Moorings are generally placed in these fields such that vessel swing diameters overlap. Due to variation in their under- and above-water configurations, different types of vessels respond differently to wind and tide. Thus, single-point mooring fields require active management to ensure that moored vessels do not collide. As boats come and go, managers of these fields reserve the right to change mooring assignments to ensure that boats which will swing in greatest harmony with their neighbors are placed adjacent.

Third, double-point, or "fore-and-aft" moorings are found not only onshore but also offshore in Newport Harbor. Double-point mooring fields are A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, and K (in other words, all but Carnation Cove, NHYC and BYC mooring fields; click to illustration). Because they provide two points of attachment to two separate ballasts, these are the safest, most secure type of mooring available. Their fore-and-aft attachment points prevent boats from swinging, which enables safe adjacent placement of any vessels.

Whether single-point or double-point, offshore moorings have no immediate access to shore, electrical power, or fresh water; furthermore, offshore moorings must be accessed by tender or shoreboat. Offshore mooring regulations are found here. Only the City, through the County Harbor Patrol, not mooring permit holders, may rent unused double-point moorings. Whether or not he uses the mooring, the permit holder is responsible for paying an annual permit fee and for biannual maintenance, as well as abiding the regulations and applicable ordinances (for instance, see Sea Lion ordinances). The City can and does revoke mooring permits when necessary.
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Q:        How are moorings sized?

A:        A mooring's size rating is determined by the weight of ballast and size of chain and by placement of ballast. Shore moorings use 25 feet of 3/8 inch chain with two to three hundred pounds of ballast as described in the specification according to size of boat. Offshore moorings within Newport Harbor typically use 20 feet of heavy bottom chain and 15 feet of lighter top chain.

Size of mooring pendants, size of chain, and weight of ballast are described in the offshore mooring specifications. The harbor's heaviest mooring, rated for a 95 foot boat, uses 6,700 pounds of ballast forward and the same amount aft. A 50 foot boat requires 2,000 pounds of ballast.
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Q:        What are the parts of a mooring ?

A:        Newport Harbor mooring specifications (onshore, offshore) call for metal ballast which may be comprised of old, clean engine blocks, train wheels, or other robust scrap metal. A length of heavy steel bottom chain is passed through and shackled to the ballast. Bottom chain attaches to a lighter weight length of steel top chain, and the top chain connects to a float where mooring pendants, or mooring lines, are made fast. Pendants must be made of nylon or dacron line, eye-spliced with thimbles, shackled and seized to the chain or float. These lines are finished with unthimbled eyes for making up to (cleats, bitts or Sampson posts on) the vessel. Between required biannual servicing visits, regular inspection for wear and chafe of mooring pendants, integrity of seizing wire (search for Monel wire), and maintaining pendant chafing gear, are the mooring permit holder's responsibilities. If a swivel is used, it is very smart to regularly inspect the cotter pin which secures the swivel's clevis pin. A new, stout stainless steel cotter pin should be substituted if yours looks rusty. So doing protects not only one's own boat, but the property and well-being of others.
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Q:        How to pick up a double-point mooring?

A:        It is easiest to pick up a double-point mooring if you first rig a spreader line. A float-marked spreader line connects pendants on the forward buoy to those on the aft buoy. Once the spreader line is fetched, both sets of pendants are at hand. Pull up one set of pendants with the spreader line, secure the boat at one end, then walk the spreader line to the other end of the vessel to retrieve and secure the vessel to the other set of pendants. The spreader line should be fashioned long enough to permit making fast the pendants without unrigging the spreader line.  If you use a spreader line, it must be rigged with floats to alert other boaters of its presence in your boat's absence. Exercise care to keep from fouling the boat on the spreader line or pendants.
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Q:        How do moorings work?

A:        The type of moorings used in Newport Harbor combine simple materials of great tensile strength with the power of gravity to hold a vessel in position.

Heavy pieces of metal ballast require no mechanical connection to the sea floor. They can be hauled up, weighed and inspected by a mooring service contractor with a sturdy crane-carrying barge. In Newport Harbor, such service must be performed at the permit holder's expense every other year. The mass of this type of mooring prevents it from being dragged no matter the direction of wind or tide. The specifications for shore and offshore moorings ensure that sufficiently sized ballast and chain are used.

Due to gravity, heavy bottom chain resists being lifted, and lighter top chain secures the mooring buoy to the bottom chain and ballast without pulling the mooring buoy under the surface. Attached to the buoy, or directly to chain passing through the buoy, pendants made of nylon or dacron permit modest shock absorption in the event a vessel surges on its mooring. As the load on mooring chain increases, more heavy bottom chain is picked up off the seabed. The length of chain takes the shape of an arc, which arc is called catenary wiki icon. See the chain shown in red in the illustration below. As pulling force to the right is applied, gravity's action on the chain keeps it from pulling to straightness, even under great load. As gravity uniformly and ever-gently pulls the chain downward, potentially destructive static loading is avoided.
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mooring catenary illustrated

Catenary applies steady resistance
( click for bigger picture )

Q:        Are there other types of moorings?

A:        There are other types of moorings but they are not currently permitted in Newport Harbor. Cement ballast, for example, is not covered in the mooring specifications. Another type of mooring utilizes a mechanical fastening to the seafloor. Helix screw anchors are one example of this type. These are more challenging to inspect, may be inappropriate in some parts of Newport Harbor due to bottom conditions, and they are not included in the harbor's mooring specifications.

Another type of mooring utilizes an elastic polymer connection between mooring float and ballast. The Hazelett Mooring System is an example of this type. Because it uses polymer elasticity instead of longer-length chain catenary to achieve dampening, this system can moor vessels closer together than systems using chain. This is a new innovation, inspection protocol is undocumented and this system is not currently included in the harbor's mooring specifications.
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Q:        Where to land or launch a dinghy?

A:        See also the Visiting Boats FAQ. With your dinghy, you can access public dinghy docks on Balboa Peninsula piers at M St., Washington, Fernando, 15th, and 19th Streets, and five piers on Balboa Island.  The 15th St. pier, adjacent to the American Legion Yacht Club, is the location of a new pumpout dock and the 19th St. pier provides easy access to restaurants and other services in the Newport Pier and McFadden Wharf area.  On the Balboa Peninsula, near the Pavilion, Hill's Boat Service also provides dinghy tie-up. You can find markets, laundry, cinema, and shopping within walking distance from the sand beach on the north side of the Lido Island bridge west end. Here is a drawing of public dock and pumpout locations.
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Contributors: Newport Mooring Association with thanks for resources from City of Newport Beach Harbor Resources and GIS Departments, and the County of Orange Sheriff's Harbor Patrol.

About us -
The Newport Mooring Association is responsible for promoting the business and personal interests of mooring permittees and persons holding property, real or personal, adjacent or attached to, residing on, or anchored to tidelands or public property in, upon, or adjacent to Newport Harbor, as those interests relate to the use of the bay area.
Newport Mooring Association
P.O. Box 1118
Newport Beach, CA 92659-0118

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