BerthingNext - NavigationPrevious - Security
Getting to grips with berthing (or docking) your vessel
In a three year circumnavigation, I can count on one hand the number of times I was berthed alongside in a marina. More than a dozen years later I have bought a boat twice the size, to accommodate my growing family, for sailing in The Solent on England’s south coast. But the first day out I realised my sailing experience to date almost counted for nothing. For gone were the vast deep oceans and open bay anchorages, it was all about operating in tight channels, and coming into river marinas with tidal streams whistling out beneath their pontoons. Worse, at 47 foot, my new boat was approaching a third longer and more than double the breadth of my lean circumnavigator. And, being in excess of 14 tonnes. it was way beyond what could be in any way physically manhandled. But with three young children, it was still all down to my wife and I to berth her. This all had to be handled in the area of peak density of UK boating, The Solent, and in tight marinas that were optimised for boats that were 20% smaller so there was with little margin for error. In short, it was a bit of a rude awakening. All of this had raised a level of unease within me that was approaching an aviation experience; tense take-offs, momentary liberation, then the apprehension for the inevitable tense landing. We even gave it a name, berthing anxiety, and it became an impediment to the enjoyment of our family boat.
Taking a vessel alongside and holding it stationary with just one dock line
Coming alongside a berth or slipping one can be a challenge. In the case of coming alongside, the boat has to be tethered with shorelines quickly so that it does not overrun or fall off forcing the helmsman to go around again to make another attempt. When departing, at least the last two shorelines have to be released from the wall or pontoon in quick succession. This is a challenge for two-handed vessels, because once one end of the boat is let off you then have to run to release the other almost immediately and clamber aboard. Even with slip lines set, the person releasing the lines has to run from one end of the boat to the other and it requires more time to take in the long lengths of line that form the bight. Single-handers are severely challenged.
A convenient and sturdy boat hook
Boat hooks are unwieldy and difficult to store on a yacht, particularly so the traditional strong and durable wooden boathook. Although more convenient, telescopic boat hooks which are available are not good for continuous or challenging use.
Being a happy hooker - getting to grips with anchoring
Novices tend to forsake anchoring for the safety of a marina, harbour wall or the security of an established set of moorings. This is because they have not yet acquired the confidence to serenely sleep whilst swinging to an anchor. If those aboard have confidence in their ground tackle and the manner in which it has been deployed they will sleep soundly and untroubled. Whether or not their peaceful slumber is justified is irrelevant - only their perception matters. Guests on a first cruise will often enjoy a full night's rest whilst the skipper lies awake contemplating the distressing consequences of dragging his anchor - he recognises the vagaries of anchoring, his gently snoring guests do not. If the anchorage is shared with other boats the consequences of dragging become even more far-reaching - other people will become ensnared in the debacle; there will be shouting and accusations and damage to other boats. And a shared anchorage provides the opportunity for the uncertain anchorist to worry about other boats dragging, because if you don't trust your own anchoring arrangements, how can you trust anyone else's?
Bolstering ground tackle holding in moderate winds/current
Some holding grounds are very difficult to get a purchase upon and if the anchor cannot be made to set, the location will have to be abandoned unless alternatives are available.
A trick to manoeuvre a poor steering vessel around tight marina bends
Getting into complicated marina berths can prove challenging. Especially so for long keel vessels that do not steer well in tight conditions.
Rafting arrangements for two or more yachts to come alongside
When two vessels come alongside in an anchorage the potential for them to damage each other is magnified. Rafting can be particularly damaging because the vessels tend to roll at slightly different frequencies whilst in close quarters. A further added risk is because it can be difficult to quickly extricate a vessel from a raft in the event of an emergency.
Making it easy to depart from a berth with slip-lines
Departing a berth or pier can be difficult shorthanded or solo. The shorelines have to be manually released from the wall or pontoon resulting in a last moment dash by the releasing crewmember to jump aboard the departing vessel. This is made worse if two-handed, as with a cruising couple, because once you let one end of the boat off you then have to run to release the other and clamber aboard. This can be challenging with an offshore wind as the vessel might quickly drift once the lines are released leaving the crew member stranded.
An excellent knot to secure a warp to ground tackle, the fisherman’s bend
General purpose knots can float loose if jostled about lightly loaded. This is a concern when securing a warp to the anchor or a ground tackle chain.
Making your private moorings convenient to be picked up
Picking up moorings can present a challenge, never more so than for the single-hander and anything that makes it safer and easier has to be welcomed.