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Old 18-09-2012, 20:23   #1
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Negotiating moorings and marinas

At the moment I work as a dock master on a marina and before that I worked in a yacht charter business handling charter yachts. I learnt a lot about handling sail boats from 26ft to 57ft in tight berthing situations and onto moorings in very windy conditions. All done solo.

It is not so hard as you might think and just needs basic common sense as well as a basic understanding of physics. I could go on for pages but to be brief when mooring always aim to overshoot just a wee bit so that you have a little more time as the boat drifts backwards, to grab the mooring buoy or line before it goes tight. Never overshoot so far that you loose sight of the buoy or it might go aft near the propellor. If you do abort and try again.

Line up the buoy to be to one or other side of the bow preferably the favoured side where attaching it will be easier. If possible use the boat hook on the line from the buoy to the attachment loop rather than the buoy itself. Make sure your boat hook is long enough if you have a high bow otherwise you will be struggling and leaning dangerously over the side.

If it is windy place the favoured side of the bow upwind of the boat so that you are blown on to not away from the buoy. If you have foredeck crew work out some hand signals as you will most likely not be able to hear each other over the engine noise and distance. I get the anchorman to point the boat hook at the boy and use fingers for distance off!

Most of us avoid marinas but ultimately we need to use them some time or other, certainly to come alongside to refuel. Often this means slotting in between other boats and leaving that spot when the wind or tide is pushing you on can be quite daunting. Everyone should know how to use spring lines to assist the boat to point outwards before dropping the last line. But, which one to use. Think carefully about what your propellor does. Which way the prop wash affects your steering and what happens if you have the rudder one way or the other and the prop wash is hitting and deflecting the rudder and then of course the boat. Use it!

So often I see so called experienced sailors ignore my suggestions only to get pushed onto a nearby protruding pile after I warned them that would happen. Listen to the dock staff. They know about boats! Sometimes it might be good to spring from the aft in reverse so the bow goes outwards, then go forward until the stern is well clear, then go backwards to exit the marina. Sometimes it might be better to spring from the bow going forwards until the stern is well out then go backwards and exit the marina. Plan ahead the best strategy! Allow sufficient room for whatever your turning circle is and know how much that is in advance. It differs on one direction to the other due to prop wash effect.

Think about what the wind will do to YOUR boat! Don't assume that your will behave like another boat you just watched depart before you. In general with sailing boats the bow blows off down wind and with motor boats the stern blows off down wind. But, consider where the most windage is on your boat and where the keel is in relation to it!

Many yachtsmen and power boaters rely too much on the bow thrusters especially power boaters. They all fail at sometime or other and nearly always when you least want it to. I have seen so many boats with joystick controls and the skipper away from the helm relying entirely on his toy joystick to control the boat. Last week I saw a 100ft Super yacht loose all joystick control at a vital moment. The skipper knew how to manoeuvre his boat without it and had stayed near to his bridge doorway and was able to park the boat by engines alone.

Aim to manoeuvre your boat using just the engine/s. A single prop is different to twin engines that can be used opposingly to spin the boat around. Stern drive legs on a power boat should be used as if one engine like an outboard unless well spaced apart, Use the thrusters intermittently as they draw lots of power and can overheat quickly. Use them to correct rather than as part of the actual docking process. In most cases a bow thruster will not override a strong gust of wind. You need to consider rudder direction and prop wash as well.

Catamarans handle well opposing the engines i.e. one forward one in reverse to line the boat up but consider whether it is best to reverse in until the stern is near the dock then spin the bow inwards or the other way around. Usually it will be best to come stern into the wind with windy conditions. At the yacht charter business we used the rudders to steer until we were near the dock then changed to using engines only to steer.

Often with a monohull especially one with a long keel (they hate going backwards) it is better to come in bow on at a sharp angle then flick the stern in with a burst of reverse. Make sure you favour your prop wash to do this but if stern into the wind also means your prop wash turns the stern outwards, when you hit reverse to stop the boat, try to not use reverse much. Line up to arrive at the berth stationary steering the bow out at the last moment so the boat ends up square on right adjacent to the dock and get the stern line on first. Once that is done you can power slowly forwards on a tight stern line and it will bring the bow back inwards until you can pass a bow line to the dock.

Always have all lines ready and make sure they are long enough. Have a bow and stern line and spring lines ready. Don't forget to have the fenders all ready down, on the side that you intend to come alongside.

If you have tried everything and it all goes pear shape then either abort and go back out straight away to safe waters or take the boat out of gear and prepare to fend off. Less damage or no damage will occur if you hit something lightly rather than try to power out of your situation and hit harder. Be careful when you crew do fend off. The forces can be large and a broken arm, dislocated shoulder or worse can happen easily. Last Saturday in gusty conditions a power boater with a small boat got his hand caught between the mooring line and a cleat. In just a fraction of a second he ended up with a seriously broken finger.

Hope these few hints are of some help to some of you. Feel free to PM me if you want the best advice for a specific situation. I am not an instructor but I have owned a lot of boats and and everyday I witness new methods for handling boats. Some work and some don't. Above all never panic. It is just a boat and boats can be fixed!

HAPPY BERTHING!
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Old 19-09-2012, 02:41   #2
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Thanks Eco...

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Old 19-09-2012, 03:10   #3
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

a usefull technique for getting attached to a mooring bouy or when coming alongside is to "lasso" the bouy or bollard.

with some nylon,sinking line, attach one end to a deck cleat,gather a few coils of the line in each hand with the bight in the middle,keep hold of the other end and throw the bight over the bouy or bollard,pull in or secure the end in your hand!

with practise this method works great especially on boats with a high bow/high topsides.
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Old 18-06-2013, 16:47   #4
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Good suggestion Atoll with the lasso technique but if I might add:

Be wary of purpose built lasso tools on boat hooks. If you have lassoed the buoy and then find the wind has blown you too far away you may not be able to hold the boat in position with the boat hook alone. The handle might slide off ( I have seen this happen many times) or the head might break or worse still the boat hooks gets ripped out of your hand and then no more boat hook! Always have a spare onboard.

Same applies to using fishing line. make sure it is not too tough that it will rip open the hoop on the mooring buoy if the boat tensions the fishing line before the buoy is retrieved.
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:21   #5
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eco Voyager View Post
I learnt a lot about handling sail boats from 26ft to 57ft in tight berthing situations and onto moorings in very windy conditions. All done solo.
Thank you very much for taking the time to write up all that advice! I single-hand a 40,000 lb. 42' cruising boat with a substantial keel, high freeboard, and wind vane protruding from the stern, and most of what is written in books and magazines about docking and picking up moorings was written for much smaller, lighter boats, apparently with fin keels and crew/dock hands available. I have a few more months of work to do to my deck and then (finally ) I'll be able to start spending time practicing docking and picking up mooring balls. I've bookmarked your post and greatly appreciate your generous offer for personalized advice.

One thing to add about picking up a mooring single-handed, especially when the current is unknown or different than the wind, I make a pretend approach to see what the boat does, and if I wouldn't have been able to get the mooring line I make a corrected pretend approach. The only time I've had consistent trouble is getting a ball at the reefs near the Florida Keys, not only is the Gulf Stream very fast there, the reefs are always crowded with boats, many of them inexperienced, and the water is full of swimmers and divers - yikes!!
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:24   #6
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoll View Post
a usefull technique for getting attached to a mooring bouy or when coming alongside is to "lasso" the bouy or bollard.
Easy peasy, I was on a rodeo team in high school. I lassoed a ball in Key West ... and the ball came off!!!
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Old 18-06-2013, 20:33   #7
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Spot on, Colin... you have done a real service laying out picking up a mooring and docking under both power and sail. I've been around long enough to see major cockups in just about every situation but particularly when the wind pipes up a bit. Your explaination is far clearer and concise than mine would have been. Thank you for that... cheers back at ya', Phil
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:14   #8
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Thanks for posting (and reviving) these great points. I especially like it when the marina staff know what they are talking about. This unfortunately isn't always the case, but I've been helped out of some tight spots before.

When I first started sailing, I pulled off a fuel dock with a nice sportfisher just ahead. The current was running parallel to the dock at 3 knots, and I never considered that I would not have steerageway until I was going 4 knots or so. I bailed out quick when I realized I could not steer off the dock, backed down hard, and the dockmaster grabbed my lines. There was a random guy walking by who was trying to offer his advice when the dockmaster quickly cut him off and said, "OK captain, you're listening to me and me only. We're going to spring your stern out and you can back into the current"

I was all about him running the program and I learned a valuable lesson that day without hitting a nice boat.

My boat is on a mooring year round and I rarely use marinas, and I will say that being on a mooring has greatly simplified the coming and going part. It does complicate things a little, having to have a boat to get to your boat in all kinds of weather but the boat is much happier swinging to the breeze. I get great ventilation.
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Old 18-06-2013, 21:33   #9
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Every monohull (sailboats) that i've seen being berthed in Croatia, choose to reverse in at 3 to 4 knots relying on that single clutch/gearbox to select ahead when called on.

They select ahead to stop the considerable momentum at the very last moment hitting 2500rpm to whoa her up.... Knowing the reliabilty of gear selection these boats must smack the Marina hard at times, you'll see them manoeuvring all over the place astern.

No one in Croatia takes it easy docking, they all drive like Italians....

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Old 18-06-2013, 23:35   #10
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Hi Cheoah, Wow I feel humble beside you. Well done. Not sure if I actually mentioned trial runs but I always do one to see what the tide and wind effect might be especially with marinas where the wind may come from a different angle inside the marina to the prevailing wind outside. I check flags and bunting on nearby boats to see what local winds are doing and look at the mooring buoy, fixed piles and other moored boats to get an idea of what the current is doing.

Lagoon4us,

yeah all those charter and Med type sail boats are monohull fin keelers and they can be steered easily in reverse in the right hands. But, if you have a long keel with a keel hung rudder don't even think about doing that or else total mayhem will ensue!!
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Old 19-06-2013, 01:13   #11
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

My ole daddy taught me as a younger, "son, learn to love your spring lines, they will get in and out of most anywhere ya want to tye up " Always worked for me
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Old 19-06-2013, 04:46   #12
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

This is an excellent article and covers a lot.. most of which does not apply to me as I only deal with my boat...and have been for 28 yrs. I still see challenging conditions since the come infrequently and in so much variety. And I single hand as well.

It's important, as Colin writes to know how YOUR boat behaves. Mine has high freeboard, a deep fin, a fractional rig and a fixed prop which walks the stern to starboard.

Mooring in higher winds and current is challenging because the bow move off rather quickly often leaving not enough time to go forward and snag the tackle. A trial run is a good way to know how to do it and alter technique a bit as required. I'm right handed and so prefer approaching the mooring from starboard. I rarely pick up moorings other than my own which I have designed specially for my boat and includes a snap hook to a bow eye (no chafe!) and a second security line with a loop to a deck cleat... which is long and slack unless the main snap hook line fails. This HAS happened in Sandy (bow eye parted) and the security line held! I retrieve the security line and then do the snap hook line. The are connected to each other by a 3/8" line (slack) which can be removed if I want.

For docking I use a midship line of there is a dock cleat and sufficient length along side to get the mid ship line to the cleat.. or around a pile if the dock has no cleats. With piles I'll need fender boards or have to position the fenders precisely to do their thing. Not a good idea to do a piling docking with strong winds pushing on to the dock... or even remain at the dock for much time as the boat is being driven into the pilings. I always prepare lines and fenders and have the lines dangling at midship shere they can be reach by someone on the dock and me if I do the tie after jumping /stepping to the dock. Floating docks are much less challenging than fixed docks and bulkheads. Tie the midship line short as possible... any way will cause the bow to move in or out depending on the angle of approach and the wind direction. Plan in advance... but one the boat is secured at midship the bow and stern lines are right there and can be set to hold the boat precisely as you want in relation to the dock. I approach starboard side to... at an angle and use a blast of reverse to slow and kick the stern in to the dock. Getting off with wind blowing me on will requiring using springs to get the bow out.. and some on the dock to release the lines.
I rarely do slips but again use a bow in starboard side to which is the easiest and most controllable approach for my boat.
I know how to turn my boat almost in her own length with there is too much wind and current. This is required in tight spaces.

Despite doing this for 28 years and feeling confident and know the boat... anytime new or difficult conditions occur I have to plan carefully. So far so good and of course... we learn from out mistakes... and I've made plenty of them but none bad enough to cause any damage.

I've no experience with a med moor... as they are so rare in the states. In the Caribbean I always anchored out and prefer to be on a hook.

Thanks Colin!
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Old 19-06-2013, 06:16   #13
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

Generally good stuff.

Have to disagree vehemently on the marina staff knowing boats. There is the occasional one that knows it all but the vast majority haven't got a clue and they certainly don't know how our boat handles. Problem is you don't get to find out until it's too late.

We no longer hand off a line to someone on the dock as they usually want to snub it off or pull with all thier might as quickly as possible rather than following directions. We've had enough smooth dockings go cluster when they try to help.
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Old 19-06-2013, 06:31   #14
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Re: Negotiating moorings and marinas

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Generally good stuff.

Have to disagree vehemently on the marina staff knowing boats. There is the occasional one that knows it all but the vast majority haven't got a clue and they certainly don't know how our boat handles. Problem is you don't get to find out until it's too late.

We no longer hand off a line to someone on the dock as they usually want to snub it off or pull with all thier might as quickly as possible rather than following directions. We've had enough smooth dockings go cluster when they try to help.
Clearing customs at Dubrovnik there were 30 to 40 knot squalls blowing through, we timed our approach to come along side in a lull.
Viv flicked the line to the guy on the wharf for him to wrap around the large bollard and through back but instead he held it limply with another squall exploding on the water about to have huge effect, i could just hear him say "what i prefer to do when mooring is"....

I said to Viv in Auspeak, 'please ask him to secure the @$##!%^$#@ line' and he didn't he just watched!!!! Viv yanked the line back hit him with some 'Aussie woman speak' (far worse than i could come up with'! and we backed off under the Cruise Liners warps behind us whilst copping 40 across the deck, NOT EASY!!!!!!!!!!

So yes i agree totally but it is a mix of very unskilled to very skilled on both sides. I also agree with doing a mock run but at times you have no choice but to commit, we have a thruster armed and call on it IF required but that's not often.

Cheers Frank
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