Mooring Against a Strong Wind Blowing-Off

Mooring Against a Strong Wind Blowing-Off

One of the most difficult manoeuvres is berthing against a long Quay with a strong wind blowing off the quay.

The normal procedure of approaching the Quay at an angle, turning away at the last moment while reversing the engine to slow and stop neatly next to the quay so your crew can step off is unlikely to work with a strong wind blowing off.  The head will veer away as soon as the speed is reduced and a large gap opens up between the yacht and the berth.  

Heroic crew who jump the gap should be strongly chastised.  I have seen some horrendous injuries when the jump falls short.  I always insist crew stand ready, at the rail, with their toes pointing inwards.  This reduces the urge to jump.

Many skippers try to make the manoeuvre work by doing it at a higher speed.  This generally results in hitting the Quayside hopefully without trapping your crew’s feet in between or other moored vessels.  Very dangerous, unnecessary and potentially costly.

Try this.

In addition to the breast and springs, prepare a good line (a braided 12mm is adequate) running either through the centre fairlead or better yet via a turning block mounted there.

I use an old halyard so it passes thru blocks and winches easily.

Lead the inboard end to the biggest sheet winch.  The free end needs to be long enough go past the stem head by about 10m.   Adjust in or out using the winch.  This is the line you will berth with.  The breast & stern lines will only be used later - just to tie up.

What happens next depends on what you find on the quay.  The ideal are large bollards or large open ended cleats and plenty of free space - so let's take that case first.

Open Bollard or Cleat with Assistance Ashore

If there is a competent looking person on the Quay who will take your line even better, but they are not really necessary.  Beware of professional berthers, often seen in Greece, who will charge for their help.

First, stand off the quay and choose exactly which bollard you will use.  Ideally you want a strong point at the rear of the berth space you are targeting.

Prepare a large bowline in the free end of the centre line.  If someone is there, manoeuvre the boat as near as you can safely and throw the line with plenty of  spare to them with clear instruction to place the loop over THAT Bollard or Cleat.   NEVER expect the shoreside person to be able to tie a bowline, always hand one to them.   If the line doesn't reach, don't panic, pull it in quickly so it doesn't have chance to foul the prop, go around and start again.

Once the line is in place, ease the engine and let the boat settle back onto this single line.  

With some experience you will position the turning block at the true centre point of the boat so the wind acts evenly on stern and bow.  In practice, the bow will usually start to drift out so you can't hang there too long.

Now move the helm to steer AWAY from the Quay and motor slowly forwards.  Don't snatch at the line, go smoothly.

The boat will arc on the fixed point drawing neatly against the Quay.  Some adjustment on the steering and amount of engine may be needed to keep the boat parallel with the quayside.  If you have allowed too much or too little line ease the engine to release the strain and adjust the line at the winch.  Then just start again.

Once against the Quay, leave the engine pushing in gear with the steering pointing away from the Quay.  The crew can now step ashore safely, at their leisure, to secure the other lines. Once secure recover the centre line.

Open Bollard or Cleat with No Assistance Ashore

If there is no-one on the quayside you will need to get the loop over the bollard somehow.

In this situation I take the free end, made up with a bowline, to the bow.  Helm motors the boat slowly and directly at the Quay I.e. at right angles.  This is quite a delicate manoeuvre requiring a careful balance of engine, steering & bow thruster to stay on track and inch forward to the quay without hitting it.  The crew leans forward with the bowline held on the end of the boat hook to slip the loop over the bollard.   Some yachts handle this manoeuvre into wind better in reverse, only practice will teach which is better for yours.  In a stern cockpit boat I would motor backwards to the bollard as control is often easier with the stern into the wind, but on our centre cockpit boat that is much more difficult as the stern is some 6m behind the helm and out of sight at the waterline.

Once the loop is in place let the yacht settle back slowly.  From here it is the same procedure as above.

Closed Rings with No Assistance Ashore

The worst situation is if the mooring points are closed ring type.  I have had some success using a large steel hook in place of the bowline but I am less happy with that.   I also have a heavy nylon detachable mooring hook on a pole, bought in a flight of fancy at a boat show, which has worked but I am loathe to trust it in really big winds even for the few minutes I need to berth to.

If the closed rings are flat to the floor, and no-one can help, it is almost impossible so look for somewhere else to berth.

The key to success is practice!  

Try it first with no wind and get used to the mechanics of the manoeuvre and where all the lines and blocks should be.  You may feel a bit silly doing this BUT trust me everyone else will envy you when the wind really is blowing off.   Once you have the process mastered try it in a medium and stronger winds whenever the chance presents itself.

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