Day sailing dinghies and keelboats are mostly stored or ashore or trailered, and though many clubs have boat launching slipways the use of floating pontoon dock and finger jetties are increasingly used to ease the congestion on race days and at weekends. Many clubs provide owner operated electric docking hoists while heavier boats and keelboats are often kept on a permanent mooring buoy, with the crew rowing out or ferried out by club launches.
Previous preparation is the answer to all boat launching operations, so make a mental check that all equipment available for sailing and systems work before leaving the land base, floating dock or boat mooring buoy.
Boat launching over the side of a pontoon dock or finger jetty is best done before hoisting the sails. At least two people, one on either side of the boat are needed for a pontoon launch.
As there is a depth of water beneath the pontoon mooring there is no need to raise the centreboard or the rudder until safely alongside. When a tidal stream is present, consider its effects on the boat and if strong, turn into the tide to stop. Always plan an escape route in case you arrive at the pontoon mooring going too fast to stop.
When approaching a pontoon dock or finger jetty on a lee shore there are two choices;
If in tidal waters, consider the effect the tidal stream will have on the approach. If the tidal stream is strong, turn into it to stop. Plan an escape route in case the boat is moving too fast to stop. If it is difficult to retain control under sail, drop the sails and paddle in.
Sail to turn head-to-wind on a broad reach close to the shore then stop alongside. Plan an escape route so that the boat, if necessary, can go around and try again. If not confident, lower the mainsail and come in under the jib alone.
Electric hoists are particularly helpful on lakes and areas of high tidal rise and fall. These low, short-armed hoists enable the boat to be lifted off trailers and swung out and lowered quickly into the water. Dinghies and keelboats should be fitted with lifting eyes or permanent strops enabling operators to lift a number of boats in a short time.
Ready the boat for sailing before moving to the hoist, then move the boat to the hoist or free the boat from the trailer then attach the hoist to the bow and stern guiding lines. Then hoist the boat out, having someone keep the boat steady while lowering it. When the boat is in the water, retract the hoist or hand over to the next operator. Once afloat, move the boat away from the hoist area before the next boat launching.
Larger general-purpose dinghies are kept on boat mooring buoys permanently afloat. Mooring buoy designs vary but most have heavy concrete sinkers or anchors securing them to the seabed.
Mooring buoys either have a light pick-up buoy or have a ring on top to which the boat is secured.
Boat mooring buoys are about the most difficult and time-consuming option open to boat owners. As the boat is kept afloat it must be anti-fouled and all the gear transported in and out, while the mooring has to be checked regularly for wear and kinking.
‘Single up’ the painter by running the working end of it through the eye on the mooring buoy and bringing it back aboard, making it fast. Undo the permanent mooring line then release it. When ready to depart, the working end of the painter is freed and pulled back through the mooring eye.
If the boat is moored in non-tidal waters, the boat lies head-to-wind, making it a simple process to sail off with both sails set.
The direction and strength of the wind and tide determines how to leave a mooring in tidal waters. When the boat is lying head-to-wind, leave with the same method as in non-tidal waters. When the wind is not clearly well ahead of the beam, it is impossible to hoist the mainsail without it filling immediately and putting the boat out of control so leave under the jib alone.
When the wind is not ahead of the beam, leave the mooring under the jib alone.
When approaching a mooring buoy, look at other similar moored boats seeing if they are head-to-wind or being influenced by the tide. Assume that the boat takes up a similar position, and look for the wind direction. If the wind direction is well ahead of the beam, approach under both the mainsail and jib, however, if further aft, approach under the jib alone.
The proximity of other boats or obstacles should be taken into account when planning an approach to the buoy. When there is a tidal stream, pass other boats on their down-tide side to avoid being swept onto them.
Arriving at the boat mooring, the buoy is picked up on the windward side, ahead of the shroud. The painter is fastened to the buoy and the sails lowered and then the boat is made fast with the mooring rope.
If the boat faces the wind when moored, approach the buoy on a close reach, easing out the sails to slow down, luffing up so that the boat is head-to-wind at the buoy. If wind and tide are together but the wind is light, it is better to approach on a beam reach avoiding being swept down-tide.
When the wind and tide are opposed so that the boat does not lie head-to-wind when moored, approach under the jib alone. While still in clear water, lower the mainsail and approach downwind under the jib, aiming to arrive at the buoy pointing into the tide. Control the speed using the jib sheet, and let it flap to slow down at the mooring buoy.