Tutorials

How to Enter a Marina Safely

One of the most daunting aspects, even for the most seasoned of sailors, is mooring up.

You know the feeling. It’s a warm summer’s evening, people are relaxing with a nice cold drink after a great days sail, and into the marina you come. Your fellow mariners greet you with smiles then settle in to watch you park up (whilst quietly giving a running commentary from the safety of their cockpit). There is good news. With thorough preparation, good communication and a positive mindset (“we’ve got this!”) you’ll come in like a pro every time.

Here are a few tips on how we prepare ourselves to come in:

  1. Study the harbour plan (well in advance): Note the depths in the marina, the prevailing winds and locate the visitors pontoon and/or the fuel berth.
  2. Get plenty of lines and fenders prepared (outside of the marina, if it’s safe to do so): Prepare on both sides (to avoid any last minute scrambling around). Be ready to adjust your fenders relative to the height of the pontoon/wall/neighbouring boat you come alongside. Keep a roving fender handy in case you need it in close quarters.
  3. Call the harbourmaster as you approach the marina entrance: If you’re shorthanded with your VHF down below this will leave only one of you on deck. If the marina is busy and you need an extra pair of eyes on lookout, head straight to the visitors pontoon.
  4. Observe wind and tide: Which direction is the wind coming from? Is it gusty? Is there a tide? How might that affect your manoeuvring?
  5. Locate and assess your berth: Take a moment to assess whether you feel comfortable about mooring there. If you feel it’s unsafe you need not attempt it, ask the harbourmaster for an alternative.
  6. Agree on your approach plan, and who will do what: Also figure out a Plan B in case things don’t go quite as you anticipated.
  7. Visualise the whole manoeuvre in your mind prior to starting it, and how brilliantly you’re going to execute it (and breathe!): Sounds a bit obscure but running through it in your head, and imagining what success looks like gives you a palpable confidence boost and puts you in a positive state of mind. Try it!
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