How To Build a Sunflower Raft

Suggestions for building a sailboat sunflower raft

A sunflower raft made of sailboats takes careful planning and execution. But, wow, the results are spectacular and lots of fun, a circular platform on which many Chesapeake Bay cruisers have enjoyed great comararderie aboard carefully constructed creations. 

sunflower raft
A Chesapakeake Bay Nunsuch Association sunflower raft in 2016. Photo by Maria Charest

Such a raft is established by first anchoring windward and downwind control boats. The security of the sunflower raft depends on distribution of boats and anchor size around the sunflower circle. The windward control boat is the “Raftmaster.”

As boats commence joining the raft, the first two come on each side of the windward control boat and drop their anchors at an angle off her bow so that the sterns come together on tightly rigged stern lines while the bows fan out on longer bow lines starting the spread. From that point on, every third boat, or every boat, puts out an anchor and each boat puts her lines and fenders to port or starboard as appropriate. Boats must be rafted with their sterns together and bows spread in order to form the sunflower circle. When all boats are connected, the downward control boat eases her anchor line and the circle locks in place.

As the raft size increases the approach of joining yachts stern to or broadside to the wind can be aided by the tossing of a long line between the host boat and the newcomer to aid in pulling the stern into the raft without incident. Because the security of a sunflower raft depends on distribution of boats and anchor size evenly around the sunflower circle, it is important that the raftmaster’s directions are followed.

The above sunflower raft recommendations are an abbreviated version of the sunflower rafting procedures established by the Chesapeake Bay Bristol Club

More inspiring cruising articles.