Competent crew skills: mooring lines

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Mooring lines are used when arriving or leaving a berth. One of the most important competent crew skills is to know how to handle and tie mooring lines securely and safely.

Mooring lines may be tied to a variety of purpose made objects ashore, including cleats, rings and posts. It is best to tie the end of a line to the shore and feed back the rest of it to the boat where any excess can be stowed neatly. The knots used will depend on the type of object the line is tied to. They include:

  • Cleat hitch – used for tying to a cleat.
  • Round turn and two half hitches – used for a ring or a post.
  • Bowline – a secure loop that can be used for a cleat or ring. 

Fairleads

Mooring lines are susceptible to chafe where they rub against cleats and various parts of the boat, a pontoon or a harbour wall. In order to protect against chafe, ropes are fed through devices called fairleads fixed to the boat. Some lines may be fed through thick plastic tubing to protect them. 

Berthed alongside

A number of lines are used to secure a boat alongside a pontoon or jetty.  The side of the boat is protected by fenders tied to the rail.

The bow line runs forward from the bows to the pontoon, the stern line runs back from the stern. Other lines, called “springs” run backwards from the bow and forwards from the stern. These lines stop the boat from moving backwards and forwards along the pontoon, holding it steady alongside.

Berthed stern-to

If a boat is berthed stern-to, where the stern is backed up to the pontoon or quay, it will have two stern lines holding it in place. The bow will be held by an anchor or mooring buoy ahead of the boat.

Allowing for tide

Allowance needs to be made for the rise and fall of the tide when a boat is berthed alongside a quay in tidal waters.  This means either the mooring lines will need to be adjusted by the crew as the tide rises or falls, or sufficient slack needs to be left in the lines to allow for the rise and fall of the tide.

No adjustments to the lines need to be made when tied up alongside a pontoon. This is because pontoons are floating and are designed to rise and fall with the tide. 

Tips:

  • Spring lines stop a boat from moving forwards and backwards when alongside.
  • Learn the best knots to use to secure lines to cleats, rings or posts.
  • Don’t leave excess line on the pontoon, stow it neatly on the boat.

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