John de Frayssinet (Yachting Life Editor)
TIDE IS EBBING, and there is little water left over the
sill into the marina. In comes your average fibreglass bilge-keeler,
doused sails aflogging at a speed that would put C class cats to shame.
Father shouts something inaudible over the engine, and waves his arms
around, while wife and child stumble around deck, searching for fenders
and mooring warps. Progress towards the pontoon is executed in a series of
Olympic slaloms as our skipper thrusts his gearbox
from ahead to astern at full throttle.
The fateful moment is soon to
arrive — white faces appear from companionways on all sides,
the more bold and, of course, immediate neighbours, rush to the finger
like Ramsgate Home Guards waiting for the German invasion. Wife has now
retrieved the boat-hook, and is poised upon the speeding bow, pointing the
gaff end towards the crowd like an aquatic medieval jouster.
There is little opportunity to
propound at the bar when, only a few minutes ago, you treated your
audience to such a fine saga. Mooring is an art form in its own right but,
with a little care and practice, reliably boring uneventful results can be
More and more boats find their way
into marinas and, in such places, one can rest assured of a large audience
— - so let’s get it right first time.
Long before you arrive — think. Is the wind going to blow you onto or off your
pontoon, or will you be pushed up your chuff, hard into the jetty? Some
marinas, such as Port Hamble and Wallasea in the UK, can have a goodly
tide running through them, so allow for that too.
You will know which side of your
boat will come alongside the pontoon, so drape your fenders out and make
sure that they are at the right height. Have at least one fender out the
other side, just in case.
Mooring warps should be made
ready: cleated at one end, led through the fairleads and back onto deck
over the lifelines. Make sure that they are well coiled and, if necessary,
can be thrown. Clear decks of sails, if possible, before you reach the
harbour mouth and call the crew to the cockpit, and explain, clearly, what
you intend to do, and how they are to help you. Now you have the odds in
Entry into the marina should be
made at very slow speed, just enough to give you accurate steerage-way. If
necessary, disengage gears to slow further. Approach your berth and lose
further way by a touch astern. Have one of your crew standing on the
toerail outside the life- lines, holding a coiled mooring line so, once
you have reached the berth, he will be able to step ashore at ease and
All boats handle differently under
power. A twin engined motor cruiser can turn on her axis and stop on a
dime. Many single engined craft are unable to manoeuvre properly astern,
due to propeller bias. Keel shape will also affect handling, a long keel
giving a greater turning circle than a fin. To turn some boats hard
around, it is necessary to give a burst of throttle when hard ahelm, while
many designs will slew their stern to one side under sudden power. It is
absolutely necessary to know the capabilities of your own boat under
power, so before you come back home, PRACTICE in a quiet backwater where
no one will be looking. Discover how much way she makes and how quickly
you can stop her by going astern.
When mooring alongside a pontoon
or another boat, always use a spring line as well as bow and stern, to
prevent fore and aft movement, If you moor in a marina, do not be tempted
to leave your lines tied to your berth. It might be easy to throw them off
when you leave, but it is much harder to get them on board again. Anyway,
someone else is bound to trip over them.
Leaving your moorings is generally
easier but, again, before throwing off think. Let the wind help you by
letting off bow or stern lines first. If conditions are difficult,
manoeuvre by using warps
—— almost a lost art these days.
Coming in under sail can be rather
difficult and tends to give harbour-masters apoplexy, so do not do it
unless you have to. Again, sail in under either main or jib — not both. I would favour jib, as while it flogs
around much more, it is easy to drop and is not going to clout anything
else. Have a plastic bucket tied to a lanyard, ready to drop over the
side, For small boats it is the ultimate brake.
If you have a mizzen or a
bowsprit, do not leave them hanging over the pontoon to brain other
Buoys will be buoys
If you are going to pick up a mooring, life is very
much simpler. An accurate assessment of wind and tide is necessary and, if
other boats are moored nearby, notice the direction in which they are
lying Some mooring buoys have a line attached that can be brought up on
board and made fast. This makes life easy. but never trust someone else’s
line so. once you are moored, use one of your own in addition. If no line is attached to the buoy
then, in good time, cleat a bow line and run it through the stem head
fitting or fairlead. Once the buoy loop is caught by the boat-hook, it is
necessary to get that line through and back on board as soon as possible.
Approach the buoy in the same
direction as the other moored boats are laying, at very slow speed, bring
her to a stop and hold her nose in position until your crew has safely
made fast. If you come in under sail, approach the buoy from leeward and
head her hard into the wind to lose way. If wind conditions are light and
the current strong, it might be necessary to drift down with the tide, and
you might very well only have one chance.
Remember, do not expect your crew
to catch and hold the buoy unless you really have lost all way. If your
boat is equipped with a bowsprit, ensure that the mooring line will not
foul the bobstay. In some crowded tidal moorings, helms are lashed to
port, starboard or amidships. When sailing by other craft, find out which
is correct so that your boat will swing in a similar fashion. Finally,
make sure that the buoy you pick up is suitable for a craft of your size
and, unless you are prepared for a grounding, that you have sufficient
water under you. Do not moor alongside a much larger or smaller boat, or
there might be a collision when the tide turns, and make sure that you
have not stolen
someone else’s buoy!
Anchoring is becoming rather a
lost art. Many boat owners do not bring out their anchor from one year to
the next and, last year, I must confess mine was one of them! However,
this is no excuse for carrying bad ground tackle, thrown into an
inaccessible corner of a locker. Cruising boats should have their ground
tackle ready for use at any time.
Choice of anchor can be confusing,
but several good modern digger anchors are easily available such as the
COR, Danforth or Meon. Under no circumstances would I ever buy a fisherman
anchor, as they are heavy, awkward in shape and very inefficient. The CQR
anchor can be more difficult to stow than a flat anchor.
Get stuck in
Yachts should carry at least two
anchors, the bower and kedge. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast
rules on anchor size, as windage varies from boat to boat. Expert advice
for your type of craft should always be taken.
While more traditional yachtsmen
still favour only anchor chain, in my opinion, it is noisy, too heavy and
places unnecessary strains on the yacht. However, modern anchors maintain
their hold on the bottom, only so long as the shank is lying parallel to
the bottom, Chain is therefore absolutely necessary at the anchor to
weight down the shank.
The remaining length of warp
should be synthetic.
Choice of chain and rope size is
also difficult. As an example, for a 30ff sailing yacht, I would use 6
fathoms of 5/1 6in chain and 1ins or 2ins circum. nylon warp (about 30
fathoms) for coastal cruising.
All shackles should be adequate
in size, and well fastened and seized with thin wire. For Heaven’s sake,
make sure that the bitter end is well fastened to the boat!
Before anchoring, it is important
to have some idea of the type of bottom. Mud and hard sand are good
holding ground, whilst shingle and soft sand are not. Care must be taken
to drop anchor where there is no chance of fouling other tackle. This is
not always so easy in a crowded anchorage, but never drop anchor in among
After selecting the spot to drop anchor, approach it in
much the same way as you would approach a mooring buoy. When all way is
lost, drop anchor and let the yacht gradually drop back, and pay out warp.
The length of warp payed out will vary with conditions. As a general rule,
the ‘scope’ should be about three times the maximum depth of water.
Additional holding power can be obtained by increasing the scope.
Once the correct scope is laid, it
can help holding power, by putting the yacht gently in reverse and
tensioning the tackle until the anchor is well buried and the yacht makes
no more way.
Remember, when the tide turns, the
yacht will swing around, so make sure that you are clear of obstructions.
Once anchoring is completed, check that you are not dragging, by taking
two fixes on the shore and watching for the next hour.
In severe conditions it might be
necessary to reinforce your anchor with another. A second anchor placed at
an angle of about 15 degrees to the first will greatly increase holding
Breaking Out anchor can be hard
work without a winch. Slowly drive your yacht forward and let the crew
pull in the scope. Once the yacht is over the anchor, the shank will be
pulled vertically and will withdraw fairly easily.
Finally, it is absolutely no use
mooring your boat to anything, unless your deck fittings are of adequate
size and are well fastened. All fittings should be through-bolted, and the
load spread over a large area by pads under the deck.
Recently a brand new, rather expensive sailing yacht
was wrecked one day after launching, when the stem head fixing fell off.
It’s a pity we can’t trust all pricey boat builders.