Rumble: How NOT to moor a yacht.


The principle of mooring, “fixing a yacht to a mooring buoy”, is pretty easy: A rope with a loop sticks out of a floating ball. The rope is connected to a chain anchored onto the sea bottom. The skipper approaches the mooring buoy against the wind while someone stands on the bow (the front end of a ship), to grab the loop with a boat hook (a long stick with a plastic hook on it). A rope is pulled through the looped mooring line, and both ends are fixed onto the bow of the ship.
All in all, if well prepared and executed, it takes two minutes to moor a yacht. If well prepared and executed….

There is a secret, sarcastic joy to be found in sitting on deck of your ship at sunset, with a drink in your hand, and looking, judging how well the others are doing, mooring their ship…
When you are on the other side, and you are the one arriving late at an anchorage, you know a lot of more people are watching and judging you. That is the point where the most inexperienced skippers get really nervous: the point where a lot of shouting goes on between the guy at the helm (steering the ship), and the poor person (often his wife), trying to grab the mooring line.


Two years ago, we were moored at Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, and watched some Americans (I am sorry, but in the Caribbean, American bareboat charterers are amongst the worst sailors!) approaching a mooring buoy.
It was almost a recipe for disaster: the ship approached the buoy with the wind in their back, a definite no-no in the “yachting for dummies”-course: even if the skipper halts the ship close by the mooring buoy, the wind will push them past the buoy… So we already smelled some trouble, especially as they had three people on the ship’s bow. Tine and I looked at eachother: “Novices!”..

Sure enough, the boat approached too fast. One of the guys hooked the mooring buoy, but the wind pushed the boat forward. The guy who held the boat hook, the long stick with a hook at the end, tried to pull as hard as he could to lift the mooring loop.. Of course, the ship, a good 30 tons of dead weight, moving at 5 mph, would not stop, the wind pushing it gently forward. The only thing the poor chap could do, was, with the hook in his hand, and the mooring buoy at the end of the hook, walk alongside the ship, towards the stern (the back of the ship).

Loads of shouting, and orders flying around… Unfortunately, the guy reached the stern in no time, still pulling onto the boathook like there was no tomorrow, but standing at eh very back tip of the boat, he decided to let go of the mooring ball. Unfortunately, the boathook did not unhook from the mooring ball, and fell into the water.

Loads of cursing of the captain made the guy decide “Oh shit, now I’d better get the boathook!”, so he jumped into the water, to get the boat hook. “Cool stuff”, I thought, “Not only did they miss the mooring buoy, had a boat hook in the water, but they have a man overboard too!”.

It only got better. With one of the crew in the water, the skipper panicked and turned the boat sharply to starboard, forgetting he was still going downwind, in a real busy and crowded anchorage. The boat turned right in front of another moored yacht, so its keel grabbed the mooring line of the second ship. I saw the boat jerking to a sudden halt, pulling on the second ship’s mooring line. Now the ship was dead in the water, the wind pushed the yacht against the second one, and all the crew was ordered to hold off the ship with their bare hands. There they were: all hands on deck holding off a ship pushed by the wind against another boat, one crew in the water, and a captain frantically trying to rev up the engine to get the keel untangled.

To make a long story short, it took them at least half an hour to unhook their keel, by which time, the guy in the water – with the boat hook – got onto the ship.

They went off, with red cheeks, to anchor somewhere far away from all the other yachts. They did not even come on land for dinner, probably avoiding the snickering from the crew of the other yachts who witnessed the whole endeavour.

More about sailing on The Road.

Drawing mooring buoy courtesy RYA


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