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Marina Boat Berthing Techniques and Procedures for Pile and Pontoon Mooring

Sections: Marina Boat Berthing Arriving Leaving Pile and Pontoon Mooring Arriving Leaving

Berthing spaces marina as two boats approach . How to moor a boat in a marina and yacht mooring as well as pontoon boat mooring and springing off a pontoon.

How to Berth a Boat

Turning a Yacht in a Narrow Channel

When learning how to berth a boat, the skill of turning in a narrow channel is essential. When marina berthing a yacht, sometimes you may need to turn in a very narrow channel between pontoons, without enough space to execute a normal turn under power. On many occasions, you can use [ prop walk ] to turn the yacht in nearly its own length but a strong wind or poor boat performance under power may render this impossible.

Using the Anchor

When negotiating a marina to find a boat berth, the yacht heads down a narrow channel which may turn out to be a dead end. In these circumstances being able to turn the yacht or to reverse out may be required. Many yachts have poor characteristics when reversing under power. Also a following wind makes it difficult to turn safely in the space available. If a [ prop walk assisted turn ] is not feasible, consider using the anchor to help turn the yacht.

  • When reaching the point at which the turn is to be executed, drop the anchor.
  • Continue moving slowly ahead.
  • Allow the anchor chain to run freely until paid out about twice the depth of water.
  • Put the engine into neutral.
  • Start the turning the boat in the desired direction.
  • Secure the anchor chain by taking a turn around a foredeck cleat or bollard.
  • The anchor chain draws taut and pulls the bow around until the boat has turned through 180°. Motor slowly forwards, recover the anchor, and exit safely.

Using Warps

When berthing a yacht and you are concerned about having enough room to manoeuvre in a boat marina, or wind or tide may cause loss of control, use warps to help arrive or leave safely. The method of using warps depends on the berthing position therefore only guidelines can be given.

Assess the effects of prop walk, wind, and tide on the yacht while moving into or out of berth. Plan to use the appropriate boat mooring warp to prevent or promote the required turn. A warp used this way is rigged as a slip line enabling it to be released quickly and easily from on board.

Arriving at a Boat Marina Berth

Choosing a Boat Berth

Before you arrive at a boat marina, contact the marina berthing master by VHF radio to obtain directions to a suitable boat berth. Remember to ask which side of the yacht you will be berthing on, so that you can prepare warps and fenders on the correct side.

Before approaching a boat marina berthing, it is vital that you know your yacht's characteristics at slow speed and are able to turn in tight spaces using the effects of prop walk. If the yacht has poor handling in reverse, avoid particularly tight or difficult berths.

Wind direction and the angle of the berth to the wind determines how to arrive at the berth. The boat's ability to perform at very low speeds and 'prop walk' have a bearing on the choice of berth.

If you are uncertain of the boat marina layout, or if your yacht is difficult to handle, choose an outside berth if possible, perhaps manoeuvring into an inside one later using warps. Most marinas have reserved berths for permanent berth holders, with others for use by visitors.

Make sure that you select a visitor's berth when visiting a boat marina for the first time. It is not usually wise to attempt to sail into a boat marina because of the confined space, although you may be able to pick up an outside berth under sail.

Preparing to Berth at a Marina

When mooring a yacht and having found a berth, plan the entry with care. Brief the crew on on how to prepare the warps, boat hooks and fenders. Brief on the mooring techniques to be followed such as which warps are secured first, along with checking that no warps trail in the water that might foul the propeller.

When preparing to berth, assess the best approach method and position the yacht in the chosen position alongside the berth so that the crew can step - not jump - safely ashore and secure the lines.

Have enough fenders that can be deployed on both sides of the boat when entering a marina to protect the yacht from unforseen damage. This also gives you a choice of berthing on either side if the situation changes at the last moment or you find the planned berth too difficult to enter.

Marinas are often located out of the main tidal stream, so tide effects may not be significant in your final approach. Study the situation carefully, because if a pontoon mooring sticks out into the tide, the tidal effect may have a significant impact on what you will have to allow for. When preparing to berth, you should assess the situation and pick the best approach method.

Most boat marina berths enable two boats to occupy each section giving little space to manoeuvre so use the neighbouring boat to fend off, if wind or tide are controlling your entrance into the finger berth. It is often easier to go alongside the neighbouring vessel in the berth than the smaller finger pontoon mooring, so be ready to fend off on that side

When returning to a berth, check that the yacht is entering the section of the boat marina that contains the berth allotted and that no vessel is currently moored there.

How to Berth a Boat

This [ diagram ] shows the following procedures for marina berthing.

Bow-in, Leeward Berth

  • Approach the berth with enough speed to ensure that the yacht will not stop before reaching the pontoon mooring. When the boat stops, it drifts downwind onto the neighbouring boat.
  • In stronger winds, it is important to have enough speed.
  • Be prepared to use reverse gear, or a stopping spring.

Reverse in, Leeward Berth

  • lf there is good control in reverse with little prop walk, reverse into a leeward berth.
  • Use enough speed to avoid being blown downwind away from the pontoon mooring.
  • A strong burst of forward gear stops the boat
  • The crew gets the warps ashore quickly.

Bow-in, Wind Astern Berth

  • If the yacht is a poor handler in reverse gear, enter a wind astern berth slowly, bow first.
  • To stop the boat, put the stern line and bow spring ashore.
  • Put the engine into reverse and be aware of prop walk pushing the stern away from the pontoon.
  • A stopping spring is used on its own if short-handed.

Bow-out, Head-to-Wind Berth

If head-to-wind and bow-out, simply start the engine, release the warps, and push the bow off, before motoring straight out

How to Moor a Yacht to a Pile and Pontoon Mooring

Arriving Pile or Pontoon Mooring

When arriving at a pile or pontoon mooring it is possible to berth stern-to if there is good control in reverse but most boats find it easier to berth bow-to in this situation.

Stern-in, Wind Ahead Berth

  • If there is good control when motoring astern, reverse into the berth
  • Use a burst of forward gear to stop.

Leaving a Boat Marina Berth

The yacht’s position in relation to the wind and tide, and whether bow-in or stern-in to the berth determines what procedure to use when leaving. Make a note of other boats on neighbouring pontoons, and those entering or leaving the boat marina.

Before leaving the marina berth, the start the engine to allow it to warm up. Take into consideration how wind and tide will affect the yacht when leaving the berth. Brief the crew and have them prepare any slip lines that are needed to control the yacht. Instruct the crew in what order the lines are to be released, and that no warps are left in the water to foul the propeller.

Bow-out, Leeward Berth

Lying bow-out in a leeward berth creates easy exit. The yacht blows clear of the pontoon while the crew recovers the warps, allowing the yacht to motor straight out. Be aware of boats moored to the leeward side on the opposite pontoon mooring

Bow-in, Windward Berth

With good control under power in reverse with sufficient space between the neighbouring boat, spring the stern out before motoring out backwards. lf there is no room to spring the stern out, or the yacht handles poorly astern, pull the boat back along the pontoon using the bow spring and stern line until the boat can motor Spring stern off

Bow-in, Stern-to-Wind Berth

Lying bow-in, the use of prop walk will pull the stern clear of the pontoon when motoring astern. If prop walk pushes the stern onto the pontoon, spring the stern out before reversing clear. The crew can help by walking the boat back to the end of the pontoon using a stern line and bow spring.

  • Brief the crew and have a boathook ready.
  • Prepare two bow warps and two stern warps.
  • The stern warps should be rigged like springs, with the port stern line running to the starboard pile and vice versa.
  • Make the approach slowly under power.
  • Be aware of any beam wind that would cause the bow to blow downwind spoiling the approach.
  • If there is a cross wind, approach the upwind pile first under power.
  • Lasso the pile with a loop of the stern line and leave slack.
  • Lasso the second pile with the other stern line.
  • Motor in, keeping the lines clear of the propeller.
  • Stop the boat just clear of the pontoon.
  • Make fast ashore using two bow warps.
  • Tension the stern lines to position the boat just clear of the pontoon.

Leaving Pile or Pontoon Mooring

When leaving a pile or pontoon mooring, there is good control in reverse and no strong cross wind:

  • Leave stern-first by releasing the bow warps.
  • Motor out backwards.
  • Release the pile lines as they come within reach.
  • Motor clear
If there is a strong cross wind present:

  • Release only the downwind bow and stern lines.
  • Rig the windward warps as slips.
  • Take the windward stern line forwards to the middle of the boat.
  • Motor slowly astern, or pull the boat back on the stern line
  • Gradually ease the bow warp while keeping tension on it preventing the bow blowing downwind.
  • When the middle of the boat is level with the piles, slip both remaining lines
  • Motor clear.

If the boat handles poorly in reverse:

  • Rig both stern pile lines as slips
  • Lead them forwards to the middle of the boat.
  • Release both bow lines
  • Pull the boat back on the stern lines,
  • Slip both of them when the piles are abeam.
  • Motor clear.

berthing a boat or yacht berthing involving pontoon mooring and boat berthing

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