STEADY NERVES. SOME USEFUL TIPS TO PERFORM THE BEST MOORING MANOEUVRE
Shouts, traversing boats, insults and reciprocal accusations. It often happens to see scenes like this in the marinas during mooring manoeuvres. Tight spaces, the effects of wind on a boat moving slowly, the fear of potential damages often provoke a state of anxiety – even greater than what the moment would justify – which inevitably contributes to increase the chances of error. Moreover, the general tendency to value a captain according to his mooring skills contributes to bring further pressure on our self-esteem. Regardless of the amount of miles we have sailed, a wrong mooring manoeuvre can definitively ruin our reputation for years.
We’ve already written many articles about the different methods we can take into consideration to have a ship-to-ship mooring or to moor in cross or fair wind. However, in all cases, instructions can only be general and approximative since every manoeuvre is different from the other even when executed on the same boat and in the same place.
Today, we don’t want to discuss the matter from a technical perspective but rather from an emotional, “nervous” point of view. In other words, we want to show you some useful strategies to think clearly and reduce both anxiety and risks.
A general rule, from which all the other remarks result, concerns skill: it is extremely important to know the boat and the place where to moor, prepare equipment and crew and, when possible, choose the easiest solution. Nothing should be left to chance: on the contrary, the certainty that everything is in the right place radically changes our approach with a considerable reduction in anxiety levels.
First of all, it is important to know the boat and its essential reactions. Whether it is a sailing or a motor boat, we’ve know it for years, we have to check its real responsiveness before approaching to the dock, preferably in narrow waters or in area with reference points nearby. The attitude of the boat in different situations, such as headway, reverse, tight turns, sudden accelerations and decelerations and the effect of crosswind on the deadwork are all elements that should be accurately tested before enganing in a mooring manoeuvre.
After these prelimirary checks, the boat can be prepared for mooring. In addition to mooring lines and fenders, the deck, too, should be in order, unencumbered and free from potential dangers, such as towels, glasses, tubes of body and after-sun lotions. In the cockpit, a portable VHF radio is very useful to contact the marina where we want to moor and ask for instructions and assistance. Everything hanging at stays should be removed for more than one reason: we might run the risk of getting it dirthy; it’s no proper to enter the marina with our underwater hanging up; this might increase resistance to wind and the risk of unpleasant effects on the boat. For the same reason and in order to preserve visibility, in case of wind, both the bimini and the spray hood shoud be closed.
At this point, it is important to inspect the place where we want to moor. If we don’t know it, we can use a pilot book or some web pictures. According to weather conditions, if possible, it is preferable to reach a windward quay rather than an upwind one.
Now, we can prepare our crew. A flood of confused contradictory orders inevitably engenders great confusion on board. If the skipper even gets angry and starts shouting against his crew members unable to translate his hysteria into a manoeuvre, the bomb is definitively triggered and it will go off in front of the audience that is just waiting for that moment at the dock.
So, the first thing to do is to choose the right members for the specific task. Before entering the port, we must explain them their role and position accurately. If necessary, we can even simulate the necessary moves. Then, in taking action, we must give clear sequential orders and invite our guests to stay seated in the cockpit or below deck in the few minutes that separate the entrance from the mooring manouevre.
Of course, we, too, need to be prepared. Only fools don’t change their mind but changing the manouevre at the last minute is never good. Consequently, we need to be clear in our mind about the sequence of actions to perform: how to approach to the berth, how to take advantage of the evolutive effect of the propeller, how to stand or endure the wind effect, which line to through and which one to take.
Once everything is clear in our mind, we only have to perform our manoeuvre with the help of (more or less skilled) ground line runners and without never forgetting that we are solely responsible for the manoeuvre. We have the last word on this.