Yacht etiquette and raft up boat mooring systems raft protocol. Rafting up is rafting boats together.

Boat Rafting Up or Raft Mooring

Boat rafting up is known as [ berthing boats ] , one outside the other, beside a pontoon or quay, in between piles, or [ around a mooring buoy ] . This method makes the most of the limited space in a crowded harbour. Although not ideal, a boat rafting alongside may be the only option available. It is therefore wise, to learn how to raft up safely to prevent damage to the boat or others as well as how to leave safely from the inside or outside of the raft mooring. Boat rafting up can be a straightforward by having a basic strategy and observing certain etiquette and raft protocol.

Boat Rafting Up Protocol and Etiquette

  • Secure the boat to the shore, pontoon, or piles with bow and stern lines, and to the boat next with springs and breast warps.
  • Do not rely on the other raft member’s shore lines to hold your boat as this is bad practice and discourteous.
  • Observe raft protocol by avoiding a raft up where only the innermost boat has rigged shore lines. A raft such as this will swing fore and aft under wind and tide effects as well as an uncomfortable and insecure berth.
  • A stable raft is one where the largest boat is on the inside and the smallest on the outside.
  • Avoid rafting alongside a boat smaller than your boat.
  • When joining a raft up, position the boat so that the mast is not in line with the neighbour. This prevents the mast from clashing and causing damage when boats roll.
  • To preserve the privacy of other boats in the raft when going ashore, cross by the foredeck, never the cockpit.

Disadvantages of Boat Rafting

The main disadvantage of rafting up boats is that it restricts the freedom to leave the berth when you wish. When on the outside, there is the inconvenience if an inside boat leaving before you, on the inside, crews from boats outside you cross the boat’s deck to get aboard or ashore. Boats may rub and roll against each other in an exposed location, causing discomfort and sometimes damage.

How to Join a Raft Mooring

Joining a raft mooring involves coming alongside another boat employing the same method when coming alongside a quay or pontoon. Coming alongside another boat is harder for the crew than a pontoon or quay.

They need to climb over at least two sets of guardrails as well as along the other boat's side deck to find suitable cleats to secure the breast ropes. The procedure is much easier when the other boat's crew is on deck.

  • Ask for permission to raft up
  • Plan the approach, accounting for the effects of wind and tide.
  • Head towards the element that has the most effect on the boat. It unimportant which way the boat is facing in relation to the other boats.
  • Brief the crew and prepare fenders and warps or lines in the usual way.
  • Prepare three sets of warps or lines, the bow and stern lines to the shore and breasts and springs to attach to your neighbour.
  • If the other crew are willing to help then your crew hands them the ends of the breast lines.
  • Having been made fast on the other boat, the lines are adjusted from on board your boat.
  • After rigging theses lines your crew takes your bow and stern warps or lines ashore.
  • The bow and stern lines are lead outside all the boats between the boat and the shore or pontoon and adjusted so they have some slack and are clear of the water.

How to Leave a Raft Mooring

If your boat is outermost boat in the raft mooring, leaving is the same method as leaving from a pontoon but the shore lines are recovered first. Prior to this, decide which is the strongest element, the wind or tide and choose and exit strategy, and brief the crew.

Another nearby raft may prevent departing until the boats outside your raft have left. If not sure that all nearby obstructions can be cleared, either ask the outside boats to move or be prepared to wait until they leave.

When leaving the inside the raft mooring, leave with the strongest element as leaving against it. When leaving inside the raft it will create a danger that the boats outside will be at the mercy of wind or tide. To avoid any problems may mean that your crew take control of other boat's warps when leaving. This will entail picking up the crew outside of the raft once the boat is clear.

  • Leave in the direction of the strongest element either downtide or downwind, otherwise, the boats outside become uncontrollable when their warps are released for you to leave.
  • Check that there are no obstructions in your line of departure.
  • Recover the bow and stern shore lines, leaving the boat attached only to the boats to either side of it.
  • Recover your warps from the boat that is outside you.
  • Unfasten the outside boat's downwind or downtide shore line.
  • Lead it around the back of your boat and back to the shore.
  • Release your breast ropes and springs from the boat inside you
  • Allow your boat to move out slowly with the aid of the strongest element.
  • The boat is allowed to move downtide or downwind out of the raft.
  • The outside boat moves in to the inside boat by combined wind or tidal effect and anchoring by the upwind or uptide warp
  • The shore line of the boat outside is pulled in and secured
  • The outside boat is secured to the inshore boat with breasts and springs.

Rafting on a Buoy

When there is a rafting on a buoy, boats moor directly to the buoy then attach springs and breast warps to their neighbours.

Leaving is done stern-first by simply by casting off. Where necessary, a crew member stays on the raft refastening the other boats' springs and breast warps, and then picked up.


Practice good raft protocol.

raft mooring
buoy rafting