and Mooring can be an unnerving and embarrassing for the
The first thing to remember is that none of those spectators have done
every time and there are probably quite a few who have never done it at
just ignore them.
Good Seamanship is all about being under control, thinking ahead,
safely and not endangering your or others, craft or crew.
It is not about showing off.
So, go slow, take your time, don’t be afraid to back off or go round
again, and ask for assistance if you think you need it.
minimum number of lines you ought to have for docking is four, a bow
stern line and two spring lines fore and aft
at least three
But that is the extreme
minimum, the more you have the
The bow and stern lines should
be at least half the
length of your boat.
And the two spring lines
should be as long or longer than
However if you intend mooring
to a fixed dock your lines
will need to be long enough to allow for the rise and fall of the
preferred material for lines is one which, like nylon has some
reduce the effect of shocks on your boat caused by movement
Nylon is also ideal because of
its resistance to
chaffing, its strength and its resistance to deterioration when stored
As a rough guide dock lines of
3/8inch / 9 mm are fine
for boats up to 20ft/ 7M.
For boat lengths of up to
30ft/9M, lines of ½inch
And up to 40ft/ 12M, lines of
However these are just
recommended sizes, there is
nothing wrong with using line of the next size up.
larger line diameter will be
easier on your hands and
will last longer, however you don’t want it so thick as to be difficult
All mooring lines should be
taken on board when leaving and not left tied to the
The number and the sizes of
our fenders/bumpers will
depend on the shape and size of you boat but they are there to protect
boat so the more you have the better.
Use good quality fenders which
are designed for the size
and weight of your vessel.
Fenders should be secured to
the boat and not the
Chafing gear will help protect
you lines and thus your
Where lines run through
fair-leads and around cleats they
can be protected with a short length of hose, a leather wrapping or the
addition of an extra layer of braiding.
The golden rule
when approaching a dock or anchorage is take your time.
There are a number of thing to
consider before beginning
What is the tide doing, is
it high or low, is there a
current flowing and will it help or hinder your docking?
Is the wind going to have
an effect? It is best to
work into the wind if possible as this will act as a natural brake,
with a strong wind can cause extra difficulties.
Which side will you be
tying up to?
Are enough fenders/bumpers
out and are they in the
correct position for the dock and spread out along the length of the
Have the mooring lines
secured on board and on
the correct side? They
should be attached to the bow and stern cleats and be
passed through the fairleads and underneath the guardrails. The crew
should be stood at the beamiest part of the boat with a few coils in
hands ready to step onto the dock
Do you know where the
mooring points are on the dock?
Does the crew understand
Will reverse gear work
you want it to? Try it to
Are there any other boats
maneuvering or about to, in
It seems like a lot to consider but
with practice much of
this will become second nature.
Just remember that it is much
more seaman-like to go
slow, back off if necessary and go around again until you are sure.
As with anything else practice
makes perfect, and by
practicing you will learn the handling characteristics of your boat.
Get to know how she will react
to differing circumstances
especially at low speed.
How well does she answer to
the helm and how large is her
How is she effected by the
wind, for instance, will a
cross wind push her bows off track?
And do you know which way the
propeller will kick at slow
The propeller while it is
primarily meant to propel the
boat either forward or in reverse also has a sideways thrust.
This is important to remember
when you change gear to
break your speed along side the dock.
Will it push the stern into or
away to the dockside and
might it cause the bow to swing?
In calm conditions if you
only intend mooring
for a very short time, such as when at the re-fuelling dock, a bow and
line should be sufficient.
However, only having a bow and
stern line will not
prevent your boat from moving back and forth along the dock with any
wind or wash.
Laying spring lines will
prevent this and should be used
whenever mooring up for any length of time.
The longer the
spring the more
snubbing it will be able to absorb.
The stern spring should run as
far as a cleat on the dock
near the bow and vice versa for the bow spring.
If possible moor your boat
with her bow into the
prevailing wind and don’t be shy about adding extra lines if you intend
leaving her for an length of time.
for the tide.
When in a tidal area and there is no
pontoon mooring you must allow for
your boat rising and falling in relation to the dockside.
If you tie her up tightly at
high water she will be left
swinging mid-air when the tide goes out, that is if the cleats don’t
out of the deck.
On the other hand, the correct
length of line for low
water could leave her far too slack at the top of the tide.
This is a situation where you
will need the longest
The only sure way to keep the
line tension correct is to
stay on board constantly monitoring and adjusting.
Line snubbers may
help take out the slack at higher
tides and relive tension at low water.
Whether you use snubbers or
not, the longer the line and
the more widely spaced the shore cleats are, the less will be the need
Whenever working out the
length of dock line, always bear
in mind that the tidal range can vary quite considerably, either way,
figures in the tables.
will be occasions when there is no room at the inn.
When all the mooring spaces
are full, you'll have to moor
alongside another vessel.
Look for a boat of a similar
size or preferably larger
than your own.
manners, ask permission before mooring against another
It is very rare that anyone
will refuse and they will
most likely help you to tie up.
And ask them when they intend
to leave, if they plan to
leave before you make sure you are there in time to let them out.
First you will need to set up
‘breast ropes between
the bows and sterns of each boat, then ‘springs‘ to prevent lateral
you want your own shore
lines bow and stern of your boat tied directly to the
This will ensure that you are
not relying on the inside
And if the inside boat wants
to move you can let her out
without letting go of the dockside.
If there is any danger of
swell or wash from passing
boats make sure that the masts are offset and you have plenty of
fenders/bumpers between you.
Whenever the inside wants to
leave first, it should if
possible plan to go with the wind or tide which ever is the
Both boats should have their
engines running and cast off
all lines except the bow and stern shore lines.
The outside boat should have a
line running from the end
the inside boat wishes to leave from, around the other end and back to
Then as the inner boat moves
out the outer boat can take
up the slack on the shore lines.
Many of the best places to stop in
are the tiny crowded harbours far from the maddening marinas.
Here you will still have to
moor up in the traditional
This will entail tying either
the bow or stern to the
dock side while the other end is
out in the
While the locals will tie up
stern-to, most cruising folk
prefer to moor bows-to, for the sake of privacy.
paint their anchors in bright colors so the are easier to see on the
anchor strewn seabed.
And many have an anchor
mounted on the taffrail, quite
often attached to a reel of webbing anchor line.
The technique involves
dropping the anchor well out from
but in line with the mooring spot.
Then while feeding out the
anchor line, motor in, tie off
to the dock side with two lines and take up the slack with the anchor
hold the boat away from the dock.
The most important thing is to
make sure the anchor is
with any mooring don’t just
zoom into the
harbor, check out the available spaces and look out for any hazards and
note of the wind direction.
And look over the side to see
how other boat’s
anchors are lying, you don’t want to snag them or have them snag your
If there is a wind bowing
through the harbor, you may
need to off set the anchor to compensate or use a spring on the anchor
And don’t forget
over both sides.
In some harbors you may find
that mooring buoys have been
set to save you having to use your anchor, so your first job is to get
onto the buoy, then pay it out as you approach the dock.
Other harbors might have a
mooring with a link line
running from the dock side. In this case you will only be able to pick
when close to the dock.
careful when handling
these lines as they my have sharp marine growths and grit on
just take your time and ignore the spectators.
For more detailed questions, tips, photos, etc. go to the in the top menu. Forums
MOORING LINES We live on an island where the only access is by private boat or water taxi.
I keep my boat "Coquette" on a mooring buoy in front of our home.