How to handle port manoeuvres smoothly

How to handle port manoeuvres smoothly

The wind is blowing, the marina is coming, no time for mistakes. Crewed or uncrewed, do you know how to do it?

Memories from holidaying on a yacht are mostly positive. Otherwise we wouldn't go sailing, would we? We remember the sense of well-being, the boat breaking the waves, watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and even leaping dolphins... We remember sunbathing at the bow and drinking at the stern, the endless sea all around... But the fact is the sea is not really endless and we always end up at a marina. And entering the marina is all about port manoeuvres, which don’t always go as smoothly as we would like. A nervous captain giving out orders at the last minute, a crew who doesn't quite understand running aimlessly around the deck, hanging around exactly where they shouldn’t be. In the end, the captain would do a better job alone. So how do you ensure that port manoeuvres take place smoothly? Here are five simple tips.  

1. Do not improvise 

Preparing well in advance will give you space to handle any manoeuvre and will also significantly increase the likelihood it will be completed successfully. It's a bonus if you have some tried and tested procedures that work. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your procedure in time.  

2. Observe 

Explore your surroundings and all conditions. From which side is the wind blowing with what force? How will the wind affect the manoeuverability of the boat and where will the bow turn? Are there any currents? If you do not know the marina, study its plan carefully to find out exactly where the pontoons are and how to dock in this particular marina. Every single detail can be of help.   

YACHTING.COM TIP: Whether you're going to park the boat for the night, ride out a storm, or just relax in the bay for a swim or barbecue, it's good to know the right techniques for bailing the boat. Read our in-depth article How to properly and safely moor your boat on a buoy, on a pier and how mooring works. It's not always possible to spend the night in the safety of a marina. What do you need to know about mooring and how to anchor safely so you and your crew can sleep soundly? We've put together an Complete guide to anchoring.

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TIP YACHTING.COM: A scratched boat is a very common reason for forfeiting a boat deposit - see the article The most common reasons for forfeiting a boat deposit. You can avoid this not only by managing your boat perfectly, but also by taking out bail insurance, which saves you nerves and money, and covers many other situations.

3. Be decisive 

We have already performed the manoeuvre in our mind and we are aware of everything that can affect it. Now you have to be decisive. How do you get into the marina? Bow or stern first? Always make the simplest and the safest choice. Make good use of all the features and abilities of the boat. Take into account how the rudder reacts, which side it is on and how the propeller specifically affects the rotation of the boat. Always adapt the manoeuvre to the specific boat. The fact that you are used to going to one particular marina on a Bavaria 45 with a bow thruster does not mean that you can use the same manoeuvre for an Elan 38 without one.  

4. Organize your boat and crew 

If you have a crew, it is a shame not to use it when docking. Even an inexperienced deck hand can be of use. But everyone needs to know exactly what to do. You already know. Now it remains to explain it carefully to them: who will be in charge of which line, who be in charge of the fenders and who will just need to report on the distance. Do not assume that the crew knows what to do and always communicate with them clearly and intelligibly. Make sure they understand you and that they can do the job. Throwing the rope correctly can be quite an art, and a sailor who has been telling you all week how much he has sailed may not even be able to tie the mooring properly. Make sure that there are no unnecessary things lying around the boat that could prevent the crew from moving around safely, and have everything you need during the manoeuvre ready. Starting to pull the ropes from the companionway when you are already 5 metres from the shore is really not a great idea. Likewise, make sure that nothing obstructs your view during the manoeuvre. Whether it's a sunbathing beauty or an inflatable flamingo.  

5. Act 

Everything is ready, the crew and you know what to do, all that remains is the simplest but most difficult part: to perform the manoeuvre itself.  

Anyway, try to avoid this:

Are port manoeuvre still out of your comfort zone? Come and train on one of our refresher cruises. Give us a call to find out more. 


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