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Malletts Bay Boat Club
Lake Champlain Founded 1936




 

Background History on MBBC Mooring Field

by Jonathon Haas/Harbor Chairman 1996-2005

When I joined the club in 1991, each member owned their own ground tackle (mushroom, line and buoy/hazelett). The member was responsible for maintaining the ground tackle. Mushrooms of various sizes were the general rule with a line secured to either a swivel at the bottom of a hazelett or a float ball at the waters surface. Moorings were placed randomly which wasted much space.

In 1994, the previous Harbor Committee chairman commenced a project to reconfigure the mooring field into a grid format to maximize the space. This was a daunting task and many nights were spent laboring over drawings of the mooring field. Three grid spacings were selected to be used:
   1. A small area with 60' spacing between moorings to moor smaller sailboats and power boats.
   2. An area with 100' spacing to moor the larger length and displacement sailboats.
   3. The remaining area in the mooring field was 80' spacing between the moorings.

The decision was made to screw augers into the bottom of Malletts Bay in lieu of using members' mushrooms. Chain was chosen as the medium to secure the auger to the swivel on the bottom of the hazelett. A float ball was secured to the chain 6' below the waters surface to help support the weight of the chain. At that time the member was responsible for maintaining the swivel and the hazelett, while the club maintained everything beneath the swivel.

In 1996, the duties of Harbor Chairman were passed to me after having been on the Harbor Committee for the prior two years. The Harbor Committee established two goals:
1. To make the MBBC harbor the safest on the lake.
2. To minimize the amount of yearly effort put forth by the Harbor Committee.

Inspection of the mooring field that summer revealed premature wear of the chain due in part to the almost constant movement of the chain and the oxygen in the water. Initially, the Harbor Committee attempted to repair or replace sections of the worn chain. After two months of underwater labor, the decision was made to find a better solution to the problem of the worn chain on roughly 160 moorings. Research was done and local experts were consulted. The resolution involved replacing all of the chain with ' ' diameter three-strand synthetic line. To add some shock absorption to the setup, an elastomer was added to the line beneath the hazelett on the moorings in the 60' and 80' grid sections. The moorings in the 100' grid section got a more robust shock absorption treatment whereby a 4' elastic rode, designed by MBBC member, Bill Hazelett, was used at the bottom of the line to provide increased shock absorption.

The project began the following year, in 1997 with plans to have the mooring field finished in three years. During the first season of the retrofit, the Harbor Committee observed several moorings with severely deteriorated and unsafe chain. Unsure of how many other unsafe moorings there were in our mooring field, the Afterguard was presented some examples of the chain and swivels that had been removed to date. At the July meeting of the Afterguard, funds were requested to complete the project as soon as possible. The Afterguard approved the funding and directed the Harbor Committee to hire commercial divers to assist in completing the process. Commercial divers were brought in during the weekdays because the volunteer club divers were only able to change 7-10 moorings every weekend. Between the commercial divers and the club divers, the project was completed just 10 days before Hurricane Floyd roared through Malletts Bay in September. Not a single MBBC boat was lost from a club mooring! Any club member who visited Malletts Bay after Hurricane Floyd, will remember the boats sunk, washed up on shore, or aground further down the beach.

As the divers were changing the chain over to synthetic line, another issue was coming to light. The condition of the swivel at the bottom of the hazelett (the member' s responsibility) was usually found to be in dismal condition. In an effort to elevate the level of the safety of the mooring field, it was proposed to the Afterguard for the club to purchase the hazeletts from members and assign to the Harbor Committee the responsibility for the maintenance of all ground tackle holding our boats in place EXCEPT the mooring lines from the top of the hazelett to the boat. This was discussed extensively by the Afterguard. Purchase of the hazeletts from the members soon followed. While this purchase of the member's hazelett increased the club' s liability and the work load for the Harbor Committee, it also greatly increased the safety factor of our mooring field.

For ease of inspection, the swivel function was moved to the top of the hazelett in the form of a stainless steel swivel. If you attended the MBBC Annual meeting in October of 2003, you would have been able to see first hand some examples of the some of the swivels that were removed from the hazeletts that were member "maintained", and why we want to easily inspect them! Some of this old hardware is still kept if any member is interested in viewing them for a good laugh.

In the process of changing the chain to synthetic line in the mooring field, we discovered another issue at the bottom. On 90 moorings the top of the auger was not above the bottom of the lake. If the top was accessible during the conversion, it was relatively easy for a diver to remove the chain and attach the new line to the auger top. The issue was when the auger top did not extend above the bottom of the lake. The diver would then have to wrap his hand around the chain and slide his hand down into the muck up to his armpit in an attempt to locate the top of the auger. If the top of the auger was felt, the divers would dig out the muck, and attach the new line to the top of the auger with a stainless steel shackle. If the top of the auger was not found, the divers would dig out the muck from around the chain a foot below the bottom. The new synthetic line would then be attached to the chain that was in the muck. The divers quickly found that once the muck was disturbed, visibility was zero. This added considerable time for the divers as everything had to be done strictly by feel. Those of you who attended the MBBC Annual meeting in October of 2003, were shown an underwater video clearly (pun intended) illustrating zero visibility.

The problem with attaching the new line to the chain in the muck is simple. As mentioned earlier, one of the Harbor Committee goals is to make this job a simpler one and reduce the amount of time Harbor Committee members have to spend making sure the mooring field is safe. If you can' t see it, you can' t inspect it, therefore you cannot identify the condition of the mooring tackle. No club member wants to have their boat on a mooring they are not confident is safe.

In an effort to make it easier for the divers, a solution was proposed which involved lowering a 4000 lb. concrete block next to any auger that was buried in the muck beyond the divers reach. Divers would then descend to the bottom and detach the synthetic line from the chain in the muck and reattach it to the concrete block. Arrangements were made with a local contractor to lower the concrete block at the 90 affected moorings. This project was started in 2003 and was completed by the middle of July in 2004.

In 2002, we experienced a few augers pulling out of the bottom. The Afterguard discussed this issue over the following winter and expressed a ' no confidence' vote in the augers. The belief was if a storm of sufficient size occurred, a concrete block at the very most, may drag a few feet. But if an auger failed and pulled out in the same storm, then the member's boat attached to the pulled out auger, could be expected to get washed up on the beach or against the rocks, perhaps colliding with a few other boats along the way. The Harbor Committee was directed by the Afterguard in the winter 2002-03 to develop a three year program to replace the remaining augers with concrete blocks. This project was initiated in June of 2003 and completed in August of 2004, one year ahead of schedule. All of the MBBC moorings now have a 4000 lb. concrete block on the bottom of the lake.

It would be unrealistic for any club member to think that there will be little or no additional costs associated with the mooring field for the coming years. Contrary to what most people want to believe, nothing lasts forever. The following are examples of additional costs:
1. Every Spring, we have to search on the bottom for, remove, repair and replace hazeletts that are
damaged by snowmobiles the previous winter months.
2. More often than you' d think, hazeletts get run over by inattentive boaters and damaged.
3. In the summer of 2003, the Harbor Committee had to disassemble part of the 80' grid and create a second 100' grid in the mooring field to accommodate larger boats purchased by members.
4. Over the years, one of the Harbor Committee' s largest cost has been to hire commercial divers to supplement club divers to perform routine maintenance or repairs on the mooring field.
5. We expect to get over 10 years of life out of the nylon mooring line. The elastic rodes, I'm told will outlast most of us.

Numerous improvements have occurred over the years on the Harbor Committee to increase the accuracy of our documentation and reduce the time Harbor Committee members spend on/in the water. The process has been streamlined with forms for divers/surface support to fill out to ensure the accuracy of documenting mooring work performed. Custom tools have been made and work processes established to provide consistency.

Over the years we have been adding to a growing data log that contains the inspection and maintenance data for all 163 moorings in our mooring field. Detailed information is kept regarding concrete block, line, shackles, swivels, sizes, materials, dates, diver surface support names, conditions, trends, observed anomalies, and more. In more than one instance we have been able to anticipate issues and correct them before they became major. All this occurs because of the behind-the-scenes (actually under-the-scenes) work we do. It means a lot of work above and below the water but it only makes sense to protect all of our investments in the MBBC harbor.

All the hard work, effort and time of the Harbor Committee members over the past several years, has yielded MBBC the safest harbor on Lake Champlain. If any member has any questions regarding the mooring field, please do not hesitate to contact the Harbor Chairman.



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