Raft Off FAQs
Procedures, Guidelines Policies, and Just Plain “What’s It All About?”
The Cruising Club holds Raft Offs frequently during the boating season. The purpose of the Raft Off is to give club members the opportunity to get together and enjoy the lake. We’ve tried to outline below some of the frequently asked questions to help you feel more comfortable with the Raft Off process.
What is a raft off and what goes on there?
Well, the raft off is an opportunity to get together with fellow TCC members and have some fun with our boats on the lake. We tie our boats together (generally in a line) such that we can walk from boat to boat. We swim, talk, eat, drink and generally have a lot of fun.
Do I need any special equipment on my boat to join a raft off?
Any equipment needed for a raft off should already be on your boat. Most importantly, a VHF radio is required. In addition, you will need fenders, lines, a boat hook and potentially an anchor. You should have at least 4 fenders of the size appropriate for you boat. However, more fenders and larger ones allow you to better buffer your vessel. You’ll need at least 3 lines, a bow line, a stern line at least 15′ long and at least one spring line at least 25’ in length. Lines should be of the size recommended for your vessel. Additional lines can be helpful to better secure your vessel. An extendable boat hook is handy for transferring lines and pulling boats together. You could be asked to set an anchor when joining the raft off, so you should have an anchor appropriate for your boat. The anchor should be properly rigged and have sufficient line (generally 100’ or more). Finally, don’t forget your TCC burgee!
Do I need to sign up for the raft offs?
Unless specifically noted, the raft offs do not require that you sign up prior to the event. Those that do require sign up, such as the moonlight and fall circle raft off (when held) will have sign up tables at the monthly TCC meetings and will be discussed at the meeting.
Where are the raft offs held?
Each raft off captain decides where to hold the raft off. The location is published in the newsletter and on the schedule of events handed out at the monthly TCC meeting. Unless otherwise noted, the Saturday raft offs are held in Power Line Cove (PLC). If you have any doubt about the location, call the raft off captain.
What are these “Themes” for the raft offs?
Although a theme is not mandatory, some raft off captains pick a “theme” for their event. The theme is just a guideline for you to use should you care to decorate your boat and/or dress for the event. Some event captains may ask you to do something special to support the theme. For those events the captain will notify you of any special instructions either in the newsletter, via email or at the monthly TCC meeting.
What time are the raft offs?
Raft offs run from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm unless specifically noted otherwise.
What if I can’t make it on time?
Come anyway, but it is best if you notify the raft off captain in advance that you’ll be late. We’re always willing to accept someone after the initial raft off starts so long as we can maintain the highest level of safety. Call the raft off captain via VHF radio (on channel 72) as you enter PLC, approach the raft off line slowly and announce that you want to join the festivities. Keep in mind that swimming begins promptly at 1:00 pm and any boat arriving after that time may be asked to anchor nearby and swim over to the group. This is for safety purposes since water currents and wind may impact both boats and swimmers already in the water. If it is safe for you to join the group,you will be directed where to tie up (typically at one of the ends of the raft off) and someone will help secure you to the line. Plan to have fenders and lines ready. Please take special care when approaching after the raft off starts. There will most likely be swimmers in the water and you must avoid creating any situation which might endanger them.
What do I need to bring to the raft off?
The focus of the raft off is to enjoy the lake and the company of fellow TCC members. Bring what you would normally take to enjoy a day on the water (i.e. swim suits, suntan lotion, towels, floats, noodles, etc). You should also bring your own liquid refreshments and (if you choose) snacks for those aboard your boat.
Is there food at the raft offs?
Eating generally takes place throughout the entire raft off period for those that bring a lunch or snacks (your boat – your decision).
Can I bring non TCC members?
Sure. While the raft offs are limited to TCC member’s boats, there is no restriction on the attendees that can be on your boat. Feel free to bring your out of town guests, neighbors, etc.
How do I approach the raft off and tie up?
The safety of persons and boats is paramount! There will most likely be other boats approaching the raft off at the same time. Make sure you maintain a safe distance from all other boats while you wait your turn. As you enter PLC, reduce your speed to no wake and approach slowly. Contact the raft off captain via channel 72 on your VHF radio using proper radio communications procedures. Call the raft off captain, announce the name of your boat and type of boat (24 foot bowrider, pontoon, etc.). State that you want join the raft off and await instructions regarding where to tie up. The raft off captain will be busy directing all boat traffic arriving for the raft off, so be patient. If you don’t receive a reply within 5 minutes, call the raft off captain again. While you wait, prepare your boat to tie up. Clear your boat of obstacles that would prevent you and/or your crew from moving safely about your vessel. Place fenders on both port and starboard (at least 2 on each side). Once you receive instructions where to tie up (your “host boat”), prepare bow and stern lines on your boat on the side on which you will tie up to the host boat. Approach your assigned host boat slowly from parallel to a 20 degree bow in angle. You only need to get close enough under power to pass lines to the host boat. Within 6 feet is generally sufficient. After you pass your lines to the host boat, crew members on that boat will help you pull the boats together and help you tie off. Shut your engine off as soon as you’ve passed the lines to the host boat unless instructed otherwise. However, do not turn off your radio until the raft off captain has given the “all clear” indicating it is safe to get into the water. Boats should be tied off such that the swim platforms align to facilitate easy access from boat to boat. It may be necessary to rig spring lines to keep the boats positioned relative to one another. Pontoon boats with the swim platforms on the front usually will be asked to tie up facing the opposite direction from the other boats so their swim platforms will align with the remainder of the raft off. You should occasionally check your lines and fenders during the raft off and make adjustments as necessary.
Once I get tied up can I start having fun?
Not quite yet. Once you get your boat secured you now become a host boat for another raft off member who will approach your open side. You should have crew stationed at the bow and stern of your vessel prepared to receive the approaching boat. As described above, the approaching boat will hand your crew their lines. Your crew will help pull them in and tie them to your boat, aligning swim platforms, placing fenders, installing spring lines, etc. Please remember, keep your radio on until the raft off captain has given the “all clear” signal.
Are folks going to be crossing my boat?
Yes. One of the enjoyable aspects of the raft off is the ability to move about the boats and socialize with other club members and guests. You should keep your swim platform free of obstacles and anything that might cause someone to trip when crossing your boat. When crossing over someone’s boat, please be courteous, don’t rock any boat unnecessarily, don’t overcrowd any boat, and assist folks when they have any difficulty making the transition from one boat to another.
What are the responsibilities of the raft off Captain?
Raft off captains are the coordinators of the event. They select the location on the lake for the raft off, decide on the theme and communicate the details of the event through the Second Officer. The raft off captain should make arrangements to insure they have an “anchor boat” at the event. The anchor boat is generally one of the larger boats belonging to one of the club members who will show up early to drop the first anchor and serve as the initial raft off point. The captain should show up at the raft off early and work with the anchor boat captain to “call in” the other boats to the raft off as they arrive. Once the raft off is complete the raft off captain will announce the raft off is ending and coordinate boats leaving the raft off.
What do I do when the raft off is over?
At 4:00 the raft off is officially over. At that time all swimmers must be out of the water. When breaking up it’s important to leave in the order you joined the raft off. The boats that arrived last and are on the outside of the line leave first, then the next in line, etc. You must coordinate with any boats you are tied to prior to leaving. Do not untie your lines or those of boats tied to you without first communicating clearly with the captain of the other vessel. Do not disconnect from the raft off until those boats that have already disconnected have cleared the area. Proceed slowly away from the raft off, watch for anchor lines of other vessels and do not generate any wake that could disturb the remaining raft off.
What if I need to leave the raft off early?
Usually, this is not a problem if you announce your intentions to the raft off captain in advance. The raft off captain will most likely position your boat at one end of the raft off line. Just let the boats on either side of you know that you’ll be leaving early when you tie up. Then when you’re ready to leave, notify them again, giving them sufficient time to get back to their boats to assist in your departure. The neighboring boats and the more experienced members can assist to insure your departure creates minimal impact on the raft off. Similar to joining the raft off after it’s started, use caution. There will likely be swimmers in the water and you must avoid creating any situation which might endanger them.
What if I want to stay beyond the official end of the raft off?
Captains of boat wanting to stay beyond the official end of the raft off must develop a plan to break up and rejoin – forming a new raft off. Some boats may be required to raise and reset their anchors; others may be able to stay in place and become the anchor boats for the new raft off. You should talk to the raft off captain and the other more experience captains regarding what you should do if you choose to stay beyond the official end of the raft off.
Proper Radio Communications
The proper way to communicate via radio is simple and minimizes the possibility of confusion. When calling the raft off captain, announce the name of your boat and your intention to join the raft off. For example: “TCC raft off, this is FunBoat entering PLC to join the raft off. Over.” You have given the communication over to the raft off captain. Now, await the reply, “Roger, FunBoat, this is TimeOut, please stand by.” So, the raft off captain has now asked you to wait (standby) for further instructions. Now the raft off captain calls, “FunBoat this is TimeOut; are you spending the night? Over.” Notice the raft off captain has asked you a question and given the communication over to you. Your reply, “TimeOut, this is FunBoat, negative, just staying till 4PM. Over.” Again, from the raft off captain, “Roger, FunBoat. Please tie up on the port side of the raft off. Over.” You should then reply, “Time Out, this is FunBoat, will move to tie up on the port side of the raft off.” Now, please remember, do not turn off your radio until the “all clear” is announced by the raft off captain. It is imperative, for reasons of safety; the raft off captain is able to communicate with every boat until the “all clear” is announced.
Some of this sounds complicated?
Not really. Once you’ve participated in 1 or 2 raft offs you’ll find that it’s really pretty simple. There are always experienced captains and crew who are willing to help. If you have any questions, just ask and someone will gladly assist you. If you’re new and would like someone to accompany you on your boat, or would like to go on another member’s boat, just ask the event captain or one of the Exec Team and we’ll help you out.
Remember – Slow and easy! Safety First!