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Boatmoorings.com in Soundings TradeSimple technology in a high-tech world

There is nothing fragile or complex about the small gray mooring barge, its hydraulic torque motor hanging from a 15-foot steel mast. It works day after day, year after year, screwing what are typically 10- to 15-foot steel shafts with two or three helixes at the base into mud, sand, clay and gravel bottoms. Think of them as big mooring screws, which essentially is what they are. Dave Merrillís 24-foot barge is anything but high-tech. Itís all about utility and practicality, about getting a job done with just the right amount of efficiency, economy and reliability, which is how you stay in business these days...

To read this entire article visit "Simple technology in a high-tech world"

Where It All Began

The following are two news articles from the early days of our company. While helical anchoring techniques have been used in land-based construction for nearly 100 years, it wasn't until David Merrill recognized their broader potential in 1992 that they became popular for marine-based mooring applications.

The Standard Times

Boat Owners’ Spirits Buoyed by New Development
By G.S. Sleeman – New Bedford Standard Times - October, 1992

An ordinary looking mooring buoy off the Mattapoisett Boatyard pier may be riding the wave of the future.

That innocuous buoy is moored at the sea floor by a helical pier anchor.

A helical pier anchor is an earth anchor, a galvanized steel shaft with helical-shaped circular galvanized plates welded to it at given spacing. These anchors are turned into the ground using standard truck or trailer mounted auguring equipment.

helix anchor products

Helical anchors have been used in construction in such applications as transmission tower foundations, pipeline anchors, excavation bracing, and tunnel support systems.

It’s the application as a boat mooring that is new. This may be the boat mooring system that saves the harbors in the next hurricane.

The benefits are many, says David Kaiser, spokesman for the yard which installed the first one in Mattapoisett in late September.

Helical pier moorings are “virtually hurricane proof”; have a measureable and predictable holding power; bury the shaft so there is nothing to tangle the chain; have a life expectancy of a minimum of 25 years; costs the same or less then a conventional mooring system; and, most important for our crowded harbors, requires less scope, providing as good or better holding power than a conventional system.

If the anchors function as advertised, they would forestall the kind of devastation we saw in Marion and Padanaram during hurricane Bob. Boats with properly quipped deck and rode gear could not drag their moorings and ideally would not break free, as some 3000 boats did between Narragansett Bay and Hyannis during Bob.

Helical earth anchors have been used in land and construction since early history. For 80 years the company manufacturing the Mattapoisett example, A.R. Chance of Centralia, MO, has been building them for land applications.

But not until July, when David Merrill 43, of Jager Corp. of Amherst, NH headed out to the Cape and islands to sell the A.B. Chance product for light commercial and residential applications, did anyone consider using the anchors to moor boats.

“I was made aware of the fact that in Barnstable they were looking for a solution to their mooring problems,” said Merrill, describing how the idea occurred to him.

“I contacted them and learned that FEMA (the federal Emergency Management Agency) was doing a study workshop on the mooring issue. I also contacted a number of harbormasters, (described the helical pier anchor), and found they believed that this could possibly be a good solution to the mooring problem.”

Since then, Merrill has installed four of the anchors; two in Mattapoisett, through the Mattapoisett Boatyard, one in Hyannis, at the Hyannis Marina, installed by Bradbury Mooring Service, and one in Hull, at the Waveland Marina, installed by Kehoe’s Ships Chandlery of Hingham.

He has also presented the product to Massachusetts and Rhode Island harbormasters.

“Everyone I talk to says, `Yes, of course. It’s so simple. I thought of doing something like that but never got around to it,’” said Merrill.

The helical pier mooring or anchor has been used in virtually every type of soil, he said. The only type of bottom where it could not be installed is solid ledge.

“But we’re working on that,” he said.

Cost of the hardware and installation is similar to that of conventional mooring devices – unless you’re using the bathtub your mother-in-law threw out last year, filled with cement. The basic helical hardware – shaft with helical and mooring adapter retails for about $530 [1992 prices].

As with other mooring gear, the helical anchor can be re-turned out of the harbor soil for inspection at whatever interval that harbor regulations require, said Merrill.

The biggest problem he anticipates is converting the older mooring service companies. Perception among harbormasters so far has been universally favorable he said.


A Mooring That Mimics a Corkscrew
By Bob Stepno - Soundings Trade Only - February, 1993

A New Hampshire construction company and a Massachusetts boatyard have begun introducing New England harbors to a different kind of mooring technology called a helical pier or helical anchor mooring.

Unlike conventional mushroom or concrete block anchors, the helical pier is a long squared steel shaft piercing one or more 10-inch to 14-inch split disks, or helixes.

Installation equipment twists the shaft into the harbor bottom, with the welded-on helixes acting like screw threads.

“It’s the same principal as the corkscrew; you don’t really disturb the cork. You don’t kick any of the bottom up, unlike driving in a piling,” says David Kaiser, general manager of Mattapoisett Boatyard, Mattapoisett, Mass., the first company on Buzzards Bay to begin offering the moorings.

First used in the 1800s for lighthouse foundations in England, multi-helix screw anchors and installation equipment have been manufactured for decades by the A.B. Chance Co. of Centralia, Mo. On land, they are used by construction and utility companies to anchor retaining walls, streetlights and house foundations.

David Merrill, a sales representative handling the Chance equipment for Jager Construction Corp. of Amherst, NH, became interested in the moorings while making sales calls to Cape Cod contractors repairing storm-damaged waterfront property. Merrill made the rounds of harbormaster associations and boatyards this fall, and enlisted the Mattapoisett Boatyard as an installer.

In an early test of the system, a barge that normally lifts 6,000-pound block moorings was unable to move a single seven-foot shaft planted in the bottom, he says.

Merrill hoped to be able to give more specific data on the holding power of the moorings after a later demonstration in Marion, Mass. He had invited mooring experts, including a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, to bring instruments to measure the force exerted on the mooring.

To install the helical piers, Mattapoisett Boatyard adapted a 34-foot workboat at a cost of about $5,000.

The boat was already equipped with a hydraulic crane, which was modified to add the hydraulic torque drive head capable of putting out 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of torque. Removable spuds, long pipes that reach to the harbor floor, were added to the sides of the boat to hold it in place when it is driving a pier.

Mattapoisett prices its service at $777 to install a single helix mooring and adapter [1993 prices]. The price includes removal of an existing mooring and transfer of its chain and tackle to the helical pier mooring.

The helical piers can be driven through sand or mud to anchor in hard clay, rocky soil, or other bottom types. Kaiser says the system should be able to install as many as 15 to 20 moorings in a day.

Inspection of such systems normally would be confined to a diver’s underwater check of the mooring chain and tackle without pulling the mooring anchor itself.

If necessary, the anchor can be unscrewed from the bottom, but a diver’s assistance is necessary to align the drive equipment.

The buried pier has only a shackle above the harbor floor, working like a U-joint to keep chain from wrapping.

The system is priced to be competitive with conventional moorings, but should prove most economical for large boats, since increasing the holding capacity is just a matter of adding helixes or driving the shaft deeper, Merrill says.

His company plans to sell the systems to dealers who will become certified installers and will establish a system of marking holding capacity.


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