Boat berthing or docking involves the use of bow, stern and breast ropes, and bow and aft springs. A bow spring is a mooring rope led forward from the stern, an aft spring is one led aft from the bow. A warp keeps the yacht close to, but not tight against, the pontoon or quay. Follow these boat docking techniques and tips to dock a yacht securely and safely.
When short-handed and entering a berth or dock, use an amidships spring to control the sailboat:
The amidships spring is used as a stopping spring when the yacht is moving too fast coming alongside:
Use at least four marine fenders when lying alongside. Have some spare fenders for when another boat berths alongside with insufficient amount of boat fenders. Fender movement can damage the gel coat or paint on the hull so avoid this by hanging a fender skirt between the hull and the fenders.
Berthing a boat alongside an uneven quay wall poses a difficulty in keeping the fenders or dock bumpers in position; a boat fender board hung outboard solves this problem.
Marine fenders protect the sailboat from contact with whatever it is lying alongside and be concentrated around the maximum beam and not spaced along the hull at even intervals. Attach the boat fenders to the coach-roof handrails or the toe rail and not to lifelines or stanchions, which may damage them by the fender’s movement.
All members of the crew should understand the docking procedure and the level of competency expected of them. Leaving a permanent berth with an inexperienced crew is a rigorous test of the skipper’s ability to handle the sailboat in a confined space.
A tip when approaching or leaving an quayside berth is to take into consideration the combined wind and tide effects on the sailboat. When handling a sailboat in close quarters, try to leave or arrive at a berth pointing into the strongest element. If there is doubt, assume the tide has the greatest effect.
A tidal stream usually has the strongest effect on the boat. Except in a strong wind and weak tide, choose to stem the tide in the final approach. With the absence of tide, head into the wind using the sailboat's wind resistance to help slow down and stop.
When berthing a boat under power or sail, aim to stop the yacht in the preferred position alongside the berth. This enables the crew to step and not jump ashore to secure the lines.