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Harbor maneuvers: mooring – 15 tips for beginners and professionals


Mooring in front of spectators usually means stress for the crew. With these tips for port maneuvers, nothing can go wrong.

  1. Get to know the characteristics of the yacht
    Even if the processes are known and have already been practiced dozens of times, even experienced skippers feel a touch of excitement before mooring. Because: No berthing maneuver is like the other – and no yacht is like the other. Charterers in particular find it difficult to handle the unfamiliar boat safely right away. And yet you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the many gawking spectators in the midsummer harbor cinema. Nobody will buy from you afterwards that your entire crew consisted only of sailing laymen.

So take the time to get to know the characteristics of the yacht. The more precisely you know about stopping distances, reversing and turning circles, the easier it is for you to estimate lengths and distances in the port. This saves stress and risky experiments in the harbor basin.

It is important to note that even small differences in wind strength and direction can significantly influence the behavior of the yacht. This is all the more noticeable in modern yachts. The reason: Nowadays, the tall structures, which offer a lot of attack surface for the wind, only have narrow appendages and little area under water. This makes them more manoeuvrable and agile overall and results in better sailing properties. But while a classic long keeler is still bobbing in place in a light breeze, a sleek performance cruiser is already drifting towards the pier at some speed.

  1. Use middle spring
    The middle spring is the mooring line for most yachts that is easiest to maneuver. The pivot point is in the middle of the ship, and with the rudder angle and thrust ahead it is also very good to avoid drifting. In addition, this anchor point extends the braking distance in short boxes by half the length of the boat. A crew member brings the middle jump out at shroud height, it is led to the helmsman, who can brake with the jump. By regulating the thrust and rudder angle, the helmsman can keep the bow in windward direction and at the same time guide the yacht to the jetty in a controlled manner.
  2. Attach sufficient mooring lines
    Place the cleats on slip on both sides at the front and back, even if you have already chosen a side to walk alongside. With an eight knot pulled through the cleat, you can easily regulate the length of the mooring line from on board. The double occupancy saves the hustle and bustle of a short-term change of plan, later the mooring lines will be needed as spring anyway.
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  1. Focus on the windward lines
    Trying to pull all four mooring lines with a small crew when entering the pits despite a cross wind is risky – the risk of drifting sideways into the neighbors if you miss the windward piles is too great. If you concentrate on the two windward lines, the yacht is initially stable despite the cross wind. You can spread the leash lines later, using the dinghy, for example. The “windward line principle” also applies to backward mooring with an anchor or mooring and two stern lines.
  2. Show instead of yelling
    Loud shouting between the skipper and the crew seems unprofessional and causes stress on board. It communicates with hand signals in a more relaxed manner and on top of that without acoustic misunderstandings. The distance to the pier can be indicated with the fingers, previously agreed signs indicate to the skipper what is happening outside of his field of vision (e.g. whether mooring lines are already occupied).
  3. Use of a maneuver line
    Did you miss the box? Never mind, not all maneuvers work right away. A maneuvering line can be used to gain time and to prevent the yacht from drifting away. As you can see in this picture, it is tied as a fore line to one of the piles near the mooring. The yacht can now be brought into position using the throttle and rudder. At the same time the line is lowered in a controlled manner until the height of the box is reached. The yacht now runs about halfway into the box until the stern lines can be attached. The maneuvering line is released and the yacht slides completely into the box until the fore line can be fixed to the jetty.

This is how a messed up maneuver becomes a professional-looking investor.

  1. Observe the clickers
    The wind indicator in the mast top, which has almost been forgotten in the age of electronic instruments, is particularly useful in the harbor basin. One look up is enough: the lines come out where the point points.
  2. Prepare plan B.
    Can you expect a lot of traffic in the already small port? If a port plan is available, it is advisable to make a sketch. Draw the wind direction and possible laying wall situations on a foil over the plan with colors. So the skipper knows at a glance where he can and cannot move in the harbor basin.
  3. Distribute tasks
    At least when laying down, a clear distribution of tasks is easy to implement even before the maneuver. Make sure you also involve inexperienced crew members and make sure that nobody is standing around unemployed. Unemployed people on board, especially children, tend to be more active and, in the worst case, cause unrest and chaos in the maneuver. And when all the tasks have already been assigned: give the little one a spherical fender – to hold in between when things get tight.
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  1. Lay down with windward stern lines
    A very elegant maneuver to cast off in a laying wall situation, whether on piles or a pier. However, it only works reliably with a wide tail and with a powerful machine. The advantage over the classic evaporation in the fore or aft jump is that the yacht remains under full control until the end of the maneuver. There is no need to switch from forward to reverse gear or vice versa, which can drive the yacht away in an uncontrolled manner. From the windward side of the yacht, put out a stern line on slip to leeward on another post (or bollard or ring). The longer the leash, the better. Put the rudder to the land side, here starboard. Full thrust ahead. First, the stern separates from the obstacle. Lay the rudder amidships, then away from the land side. At first slowly, then faster and faster, the bow swings around. When the desired angle is reached, apply the thrust and gradually release the stern line.
  2. Consider land lines at their widest point
    If it is to be placed on posts or alongside, the lines should be handed over at the level of the shrouds, if possible, and also crossed at this point on land. There the yacht is approximately the widest, so the distance to the pole or to the land is shortest. In addition, the person using the mooring line can hold on to the shroud to secure, bend over or climb over. This also enables the helmsman to maneuver the yacht on a direct course to the berth. If, on the other hand, the person who is to moor the mooring line is standing on the bow, the helmsman is forced to an approach angle in order to bring the person to the post or to climb over close to the pier. This means that several course corrections are necessary, which in addition to estimating the approach speed and the braking distance represents an unnecessary distraction. In addition, the helmsman would then have to take a bearing over the bow to estimate the distance to land or stake, which can be difficult with very sloping stems and deep jetties.
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  1. Use discarding aids
    In order to avoid driving the bow away when casting off in strong cross winds, use existing maintenance lines through a mooring line on slip as shown. Alternatively, a long lead line can be deployed as far as possible to windward. Or the nice neighbor can help by guiding the fore line aft by hand or using your own cleats.
  2. Position the fender correctly
    The fact that you accidentally touch your neighbors when “parking” is not a big problem, unlike when driving a car – as long as those points of contact are cushioned. It can often be observed, however, that crews attach the fenders before driving through the piles. If the fenders get caught there, there is a risk of damage to the railing and the yacht turning sideways. It is better to have the fenders ready on board already tied down and correctly positioned and then to kick them outboard.
  3. Put on provisionally
    Nobody needs hectic on board, especially in a delicate situation. If a strong breeze blows and a place in the harbor basin cannot be made out immediately, the helmsman in particular has to face many challenges: maneuvering the yacht safely while maintaining an overview of the harbor, the conditions and the tasks of the crew. So that there is no dangerous rush, the crew is well advised to take a break, i.e. to moor temporarily: simply look for a pole or other attachment point on the windward side and attach to it with a fore or stern line.
    The yacht is pushed leeward by the wind and is securely attached to its line. Now the crew can clear up in peace, let heated tempers cool down, get an overview and, if necessary, seek help by radio from the harbor master or from skippers who are nearby.
  1. Position it backwards on the broad side
  • The helmsman can assess the distance to the jetty better over the stern than over the bow, lines are often easier to moor over the bathing platform. The helmsman does not have to concentrate as much on other yachts in offshore winds as he does when berthing alongside, as the yacht hardly drives away. Good maneuverability astern is a prerequisite.
  • As soon as the jetty is reached, deploy a mooring line on the side to be moored. A normal stern line is suitable for a wide stern. In the case of a narrower stern, the anchorage point on the yacht is often too far inside to generate sufficient leverage and thus torque. Then use a middle spring instead of a stern line.
  • Place the rudder on the side on which you want to dock and give propeller thrust ahead. Due to the flow towards the rudder blade, the stern turns away from the dock, and the lever action causes the bow to turn towards the dock. Regulate the angle of rotation of the boat and the speed of rotation with thrust and rudder angle. As soon as possible, deploy a line.

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