Mooring, docking, parking, berthing or coming-alongside. Described using a variety of vocabulary but arguable the most stressful part of any day on the water.

I have witnessed a wide variety of mooring methods and there is fundamentally not a right or wrong answer but there are a series of underlying principles and practices that you can apply to help ensure that your maneuvers have the best possible chance of success.

The boat that we are using for illustration purposes in a 34 Center Console that would be equipped with a joy stick helm control. The approach below does not use this functionality.

1.) Preparation

Assess the conditions where are you planning to moor. Look for the effect that the wind and current is having on the water where you are planning to maneuver into. Which is stronger? Can either of the elements be used to help your manuever?

Prepare a minimum of two mooring lines and two fenders. Fenders should be positioned depending on the height of the dock that you are approaching. Typically the bottom of the fender will hang just above the water line. The position of the fenders fore and aft will depend on the shape of the hull of the boat. Typically you will have one towards the stern at the widest part of the boat and one just forward of the middle of the boat.

2.) Execution

-Nearly all maneuvers are best executed as slowly as physically possible thus limiting the potential to damage the boat and dock. There are occasions when a moderate use of engine revs are required but for the most part, idle revs are more than adequate. Below I describe brief amounts of thrust as ‘bumps’. Put simply, this means putting the engine into gear for 1-2 seconds then returning to neutral. This is the easiest way to control your speed.

(i) Maintain a 45° approach angle towards to dock controlling your speed by taking the boat in and out of FWD gear as necessary. At this point you should be crawling at less than 1 knot.


(ii) As your approach the dock steer the boat to STB (right) whilst engaging FWD on just your PORT engine. You can use ‘bumps’ of FWD to control the boats speed and position.


(iii) As your boat nears a parallel with the dock steer gently to PORT and engage ASTERN on the PORT engine. This will stop the boats forward momentum and also bring the stern in nice and close to the dock. Depending on the weight of your boat, the speed of your approach and the number of persons on board, you may have to use more RPM to stop the boat.

3.) Securing the boat

(i) Once alongside the dock your priority should be to stop the boat moving away from the dock. Using the two lines that we prepared on our approach we can make the boat safe.


(ii) The main purpose of your bow and stern line is to pull the boat in towards to the dock. Next you will need 2 additional lines that we will use as SPRINGS to stop the boat moving forwards and backwards. There are two ways you can secure these spring lines. The first method below uses a mid ships mooring cleat.


If your boat does not have a mid ship mooring cleat then simply use your forward and aft cleats and run spring lines to dock mooring cleat near the middle of the boat.



4.) Preparation to depart 

Before loosening any mooring lines it is always a good idea to re assess the conditions effecting the boat where she sits presently and also where you are going to move her to. (the water away from the dock) Assuming that the conditions are the same as when you arrived start my removing the mooring lines are not under load. (Aft spring and stern line). In this situation the last line you will remove is the forward spring.

5.) Departure

If you feel comfortable using opposing throttle handles in a balanced fashion then the most controllable way to maneuver a boat away from the dock in these conditions is with PORT engine ahead and STB engine astern. This will make the boat pivot on its axis and enable a safe departure from the dock. If you prefer to use one engine simply use PORT ahead for the helm turned to STB.

For help, guidance, instruction or simply another pair of useful hands on the water, please don’t hesitate to reach out!!



Opinions stated are that of Tuna’s Marine Services. They  by no means represent the finite way to complete this mooring procedure. This document has been produced to act as guide and encourage discussion. Tuna’s Marine Services accepts no responsibility for damages or injuries incurred whilst practicing this manoeuvre.