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Really Useful Sailing Tips – Anchoring and Berthing

By Richard Pierpoint | November 16th, 2016

Really Useful Sailing Tips – Anchoring and Berthing

Once you have left your berth or mooring you will, at some point, have to get back into it or another one! This can sometimes be the most nerve-racking part of a trip, so we have put together our top tips for mooring, berthing and anchoring to ensure a smooth arrival.

Tip 1 – Picking up a mooring buoy under sail
The aim is to bring the boat to rest with the buoy nicely positioned closely under one side of the bow, so your crew can pick it up. If there is no tide, lower the headsail early and position the boat downwind of the buoy then head back up into the wind to ideally stop at the buoy. You can always bear away to pick up speed and come up into the wind and try again if you miss.

Adjust the speed of your approach to take into account tide, and wind direction with tide, ie. if there is a strong wind and tide together you will need to approach the buoy with more power to make reasonable progress over the ground. Have a boathook ready!

Alternatively prepare a mooring rope by attaching one end to a foredeck cleat, give the other end to your crew to hold, and with lots of slack lasso the mooring buoy. As soon as the rope has sunk below the buoy your crew can pull in the slack and secure the rope to another cleat. You are now safely secured to the buoy, whilst you make good your permanent mooring solution.

Tip 2 – Anchoring: What to carry

It is important to have the right gear and chain of the right length to enable you to anchor – the chain should be ideally four times the length of the maximum depth you are anchoring in. If using a warp this should be increased to 6 times the length. Always carry the heaviest anchor and the heaviest and longest chain that is practicable. The better grab and more chain that you have down the safer you will be and the better you will sleep!Tip 3 – Anchoring: Where to anchor
Always look at the chart to see what the bottom material consists of; the depth at high and low water; wind direction; tidal flows etc. Find a clear space away from other moorings to avoid getting tangled. See which direction other anchored boats are lying in to work out where you will end up once you have dropped your anchor.

Tip 4 – Anchoring: Dropping the anchor

Make sure the line or chain is coiled (or flaked) properly so the anchor can drop cleanly over the side, and is firmly attached to the boat! Always run the chain through a proper bow roller assembly to prevent damage to your boat. Come up head to wind or head to tide if this is stronger. The yacht will fall back several lengths once the anchor is engaged. The weight of the chain will also assist with holding power. Make a note of your final position (take three bearings, or use the GPS) to be sure that you are not dragging. Keep a watch on the anchor position, or use an alarm system.

Tip 5 – Berthing: Coming alongside a pontoon
Check that you are authorised to use the pontoon you are approaching, and that there is enough depth. Have a bow and stern line ready and put a loop in each with a bowline, if there are bollards on the pontoon. Approach slowly, but with sufficient steerage, from upwind or tide (whichever is stronger) if possible. Have two further lines ready as spring lines. Make up the lines on the shore first, then tighten them up on the boat (using secure cleats or winches). Springs need to be secured without delay if the tide or wind is strong. Spring lines are diagonal warps that run from the bow of the boat towards the stern on the pontoon, and from the stern of the boat towards the bow on the pontoon. These warps stop the boat from being able to move backwards or forwards in its berth.

Practice makes perfect – so don’t be disheartened if everything doesn’t go quite to plan on your first attempt, after a while it will be plain sailing – just like the chap in this clip! Watch Clip