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Mooring a boat: the 10 top tips


Correct mooring is an art without which nothing works with boats. We’ll tell you how to avoid embarrassment.

Anyone who berths like a professional probably has a long history as a skipper or boat operator, in which there are probably some inglorious episodes. Because, as I myself have to admit. Once, a long time ago, I backed over a mooring line in front of my boss and my colleagues. Another time I wanted to turn elegantly around a pit pole and forgot that the low water exposed the shellfish living on it, which I now harassed with my torso and which promptly reciprocated with deep scratches on the virgin gelcoat.

I remember a perfect approximation, but when I tried to put the brakes in reverse, the throttle cable broke and I crashed head-on into the pier of the boat gas station. Conclusion: No matter how good or unsure you are in handling a boat, environmental influences such as wind or electricity and unforeseeable incidents such as technical problems can mark you as a dilettante. To save you this shame, we have put together these 10 tips that should help everyone, from the absolute beginner to the old salt hump, to steer their noble plastic car into the box without sinking it or the infrastructure (or his ego ) to do too much damage.

1) Have you ever heard: Never drive faster than you would tolerate for a collision. You never know when a mishap or unforeseen impact will cause the floating base to do exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. So: Always drive so slowly that involuntary ramming doesn’t end tragically. The approach angle should be between 30 and 45 degrees, depending on the circumstances, space and type of boat.

2) Always give enough gas to get there. When it comes to docking disasters, too little gas is the second most common reason for unsuccessful maneuvers, just behind too much. You have to be able to take countermeasures and defy the forces of wind and currents. If you do not clearly order your boat what to do, the said forces take over.

3) Trust is good, neglect is better. Even if you have already driven backwards into the same box a hundred times, always first risk a sharp look to see whether everything is clear. The biggest problem is mooring or mooring lines that have been left behind and have become self-employed during the absence. One of these lines wrapped around the propeller will also ruin an optimally planned angling maneuver. Guaranteed.

4) With two machines, stay away from the wheel, even if you are tempted. With the steering wheel in the center position, you have more control. If you hit the ground and hit the transverse rudder with the propeller thrust, the boat can swerve quickly and unpredictably.

5) If it breaks up, reduce wind resistance. On small boats in particular, this can have a dramatic impact on how easy or difficult it is to dock. A bimini or splash cap act like a sail on a small motorboat and can throw you off course, just like a badly surfaced main or incompletely furled foresail on a dinghy.

6) Never turn off the engine until the last line is tight. Laymen when mooring often turn off the engine as soon as the boat is in the box, although you do not know whether one of the crew will not drop a line or one of the mooring lines will not be thrown over the pole or properly occupied. So the engine stays on so that you can be maneuvered in the worst-case scenario.

7) Don’t be afraid of breaking off. This is especially true for sailboats with auxiliary engines and sports boats with an inboard engine and yachts with limited maneuverability. If for some reason the approach isn’t right, don’t head through the wall – and bow to the beach. Instead, drive a circle and start the maneuver again.

8) Fender precision: You should get into the habit of not just hanging fenders over the side before putting them on, but placing them exactly where they are needed. The skipper must assess where the boat is touching piles or jetties and must ensure that the fenders are not only in the right place but also at the right height. With correctly deployed fenders, even the best in the world can moor even better because the neuralgic points are protected.

9) On single-engine boats, always operate the steering wheel before accelerating – not during or after. This means that the throttle not only goes forwards or backwards, but also to the side.

10) Always give short bursts of gas. So you can maneuver without building up a lot of speed, which can quickly get a boat out of control in a tight space.

Bonus tip: practice, practice, practice. Whenever possible. And preferably with a boat that doesn’t belong to you 😉

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