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The Effect of “First Come, First Serve” on Cruising Plans?

Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
In my experience long cruises of, say, 10 to 20 days, where you are “relocating” every two or three days can demand much planning and preparation if using fixed moorings (i.e., slips or mooring cans). Namely, I refer to the common policy of “First Come, First Serve” in picking up moorings/slips. A recent cruise to Port San Luis and Morro Bay illustrates. Moorings were FC,FS. Morro Bay is a rather isolated spot with rugged coastline 20 n.mi. in either direction (N or S) w/o shelter. Dock space in Morro Bay had the same limitation—FC,FS. Suffice to say, if the policy is FC,FS then reservations are not accepted. IMHO, one should not naively expect to overnight at a remote harbor or marina where moorings are FC,FS unless there is a place to anchor within it. For more than one night you need anchoring that is not unreasonably restricted temporally. Boats on a FC,FS municipal mooring may remain several nights. There might be a limit, but that could be several days to even one month. Moreover, you should be prepared to anchor bow/stern in case that area is constricted or crowded.

The municipal marinas at Long Beach will accept reservations only if the first night is paid in advance, and it is not refundable if you do not show. The municipal marina at Santa Barbara Harbor is FC,FS, and the only place to anchor is outside the breakwater. Yacht clubs have similar variances. Some YC reciprocal dock space is FC,FS; whereas at others, reservations are accepted. Then there is the possibility that no reservations, even if accepted, are available the nights you wish to stay. So calling ahead while enroute may not get you mooring. Thus, the need to carefully plan your destinations and arrival times, etc., making advance reservations when possible.

Something that has worked well for us in Southern California is to travel during off season—late fall and winter. Go when others aren’t!
 
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Jan 11, 2014
4,159
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
We used to cruise in late July or the first week in August. Getting moorings or dock was always a chancy affair. We moved our vacation to the end of August and everything is empty. Lots of room, empty moorings, lots of docks available. The down side is the weather can be a bit iffy. Last year we were faced with 20+ knot head winds almost every time we moved. And then on the way home, a 30+ mile sail, no wind.
 
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Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
We used to cruise in late July or the first week in August. Getting moorings or dock was always a chancy affair. We moved our vacation to the end of August and everything is empty. Lots of room, empty moorings, lots of docks available. The down side is the weather can be a bit iffy. Last year we were faced with 20+ knot head winds almost every time we moved. And then on the way home, a 30+ mile sail, no wind.
Yeah, similar weather issues here in the off season. The “very concerning” Santa Ana (very high wind) season begins in October and lasts through March. We’ve “holed up” a couple of times at destinations awaiting passage of a Pacific winter storm before venturing on. I guess some of it depends on the amount of time one has on either end of the cruise. But, we’ve always gotten a slip on short notice in off season if needed.;)
 
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Jan 11, 2014
4,159
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
LOL I normally cruise the gulf coast-what are moorings?? Saw some in Florida, but no state west
They are these round balls that are tied to something really big and heavy (fingers crossed) sitting on the bottom that you tie your boat to for the night. :)
 
Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
LOL I normally cruise the gulf coast-what are moorings?? Saw some in Florida, but no state west
The term “mooring” sometimes refers to slips, but more usually to very heavy weight, such as a couple of train wheels, set on the bottom to which a buoy (“can”) supporting a heavy line w/shackle to the weight is attached. A boat’s rode attaches to that shackle at the can. There are many varieties. Mooring cans are used extensively to moor vessels in deep waters. They are also used to maximize use of harbors having restricted areas (Newport Beach, CA; Morro Bay), and to mitigate destruction of a bottom from extensive anchoring (BVI, or corals). (Yes. Florida has set moorings along the coral reef track offshore of the Keys.) Moorings are cheaper to install than docks, so some municipalities prefer them to service a local boating community. Very common in Port Jackson, Australia. Also, moorings can be removed much more easily than docks, so do not have to remain a “permanent” feature of a waterfront once installed. This can be preferable.

In well protected, shallow water areas with featureless bottoms that are not space limited you would not expect to see them extensively deployed for recreational use. But they are often deployed for commercial or government vessels to use in remote areas where there are no docks, even along the Gulf coast.
 
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Jun 14, 2010
925
Quorning Dragonfly 1200 home
FCFS is a “democratic” way of shirking management responsibilities for a high demand facility. Lower management overhead, higher utilization, and it all works fine for the owners or managers. Guaranteed reservations are more management overhead, but at least the revenue is assured when there is a high percentage of no-show guests. Fair to the owners if the cruisers can’t make it, but not so much for the cruiser who has a weather or mechanical delay. There are places where you can’t get a mooring or slip unless you commit months in advance.
What’s unfair is when the entire anchorage is planted with private moorings. I have a problem with that. I think people should be able anchor in every harbor without reservations.
 
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Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
FCFS is a “democratic” way of shirking management responsibilities for a high demand facility.
Yeah. I've figured that as well. At the same time, however, the converse is like "saving seats" for people who may not show up for an event. Irritating.

There's a practical aspect that I think generally better serves the boater. At some, perhaps many, harbors and marinas the administrative staff keep only regular hours (off work between 1630 & 1730). Boater "A" does not show up to claim his/her (reserved) mooring b/f quittin' time. Boater "B" also arrives after quittin' time but earlier than "A", and by opportunity (no reservation) takes the available mooring just as the sun is going down. Boater "B" may have no way of knowing that boater "A" is coming later expecting that same mooring. Boater "A" arrives at 2300---no moorings available. If it's FCFS, then just sailor's luck:(. If there is a reservation process, but not a mandatory one, that has been used, then what? Is the Harbor Patrol going to rouse sleeping boaters "B" and attempt to "kick them off" the mooring in the literal middle of the night? I doubt it. So, it effectively becomes FCFS. But then, with effectively mandatory reservations, you have what is mentioned above--months long lead time with very little wiggle room if you do not make destination.
 
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Mar 1, 2012
1,820
1961 Rhodes Meridian 25 Texas coast
Oh I KNOW what a moorinng is- picked one up in a few places in souhern Florida and in Bahamas. But in northwetern Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana , Texas waters, I've never seen one. I just anchor:)
 
Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
Oh I KNOW what a moorinng is- picked one up in a few places in souhern Florida and in Bahamas. But in northwetern Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana , Texas waters, I've never seen one. I just anchor:)
I think we figured that you did know; but's still a good question to answer for any who might not.;) You know, for the uninitiated, people offer lectures on them and how to pick one up:yeah:.
 
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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,847
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Moorings were FC,FS. Morro Bay is a rather isolated spot with rugged coastline 20 n.mi. in either direction (N or S) w/o shelter.
Wow, that is a dicey situation. I can't think of many similar situations we experience so it's hard to say what I would do.

This past season we called a few hours ahead to reserve a mooring at Northeast Harbor on MDI, downeast. Turns out, they don't - and never have taken mooring reservations, and are on a FC, FS basis. Your post got me thinking, most moorings I deal with are FC,FS basis by default. There are few places that have anyone around after biz hours. There really is no way to reserve moorings unless someone is on the water policing arrivals and departures.

The Harbormaster at NEH will give you an opinion as to availability but no guarantee. Then it works this way: HM will tell you the color of the buoys. You find one and if concerned call to confirm it's suitable for your size boat, and take it. Then when convenient, drop a check or card at the office or wait for a daily HM run.

Further, if you decide to stay another day, there's no rush, call or visit the office the next day. Even if you're late - no matter, the mooring is taken. An incoming boat can't know your situation.

That's sort of what we did last season. Paid for a couple days but then decided to stay another. Then another,...for five days in fact. We could still be there.

It's a streamlined system that requires little attention. Self tending, only requiring one pas a day through the moorings noting who's on which mooring. Checking that against who has paid - or hasn't, and you've completed the entire task of running a high use mooring field in season.

But there are other nearby options to anchor or rent a mooring in this area. If you removed it an isolated spot where the only option was those moorings, I'd think twice about going.
 
Jul 27, 2011
3,363
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
Thanks TomY. The transient mooring situation at Morro Bay is dicey, IMHO. At least, “officially.” It is officially FCFS, but I think the harbor department would seek a way to help if you arrived to stay a while and there were no transient moorings available from the harbor. There is a small anchorage near the harbor entrance as you approach the mooring fields from sea. But you are “required” to use 7:1 scope and you must stay aboard. Tidal flow through there can be very swift. Fine enough for an overnight rest stop but not so good for “vacation.” However, there is a 3-hr (limit) public dock for use during daytime if you did need/wish to go ashore to resupply or to have lunch or early “dinner.” For example, tie up there, go to Albertsons, then go anchor for a couple of nights, etc. Maybe wait for a mooring to open up.

Before I went up there to Morro Bay, 20 n.mi. from Port San Luis, I chatted with the harbor department about options. They had ONE transient mooring actually available, and one where they thought the boater might leave that day :doh:. Turns out that Morro Bay Yacht Club has dock space and mooring cans for transients, also FCFS; but open to all boaters transiting the coast. That is, not strictly yacht club reciprocal. But, there is a daily fee which is a bit higher than for the harbor moorings. I went to the YC dock because being alone it’s much easier to side-tie to a floating dock than to pick up a mooring pennant in a swift tidal current. Besides, now I would not have to launch the dink! Stayed 7 nights :).

I was “lucky” for the availabilities at Morro Bay but there was planning involvedone point of this thread. I noted transients arriving a day to a few days after I did had fewer options. For one thing, I was there occupying dock space at MBYC not available to them, etc. There was room for only two 36-40 ft transient yachts. (Although there is, in addition, some “hot space” available of which MBYC members have priority use.) I’m 40 ft LOA so the next arriving yacht could not be longer than that to stay at that dock.:)
 
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Aug 28, 2006
319
Bavaria 35E seattle
Around Puget Sound, it's mostly no refund reservations. I think I prefer that. FC/FS is at state park mooring balls and dock space. If you're not there by noon (particularly on weekends) you'll be SOL. Some marinas and bays have anchor space, some don't. Having a cruising guide with phone #s is a must.
 
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