Maneuvers in port in 5 steps

Maneuvers in port in 5 steps

– Notes to successfully dock –

Some openly recognize, others less. But here there’s an issue that really concerns both those employers who have just obtained their title, like those others, that despite having navigated during a  long time, do not do it often enough, or they do not have the opportunity to practice maneuvers in port.We know the departure conditions, but the come back ones are imposed. For that reason, we must adjust our experience in our early departures. We want to make sure here you interiorize this concepts better perfom «maneuvers in port in 5 steps».

You better regret for not having gone out, than regret for having done it».

Remember that the port tavern is a very nice place when wind and sea conditions are harsh.

The result of my experience as a skipper and practices teacher, says that the issue of berthing or unberthing in port, is one of the most recurrent, and more concern. Many employers recognize not even renting or buy a boat for this reason.
In addition to the guidelines that we point can point here, needless to say, nothing replaces the hours of navigation. Unfortunately, mandatory to obtain qualifications, practices are not sufficient to acquire enough skill. So no choice but to get close to the boat and the pontoons and not stop in berthing or unberthing especially when windy.

When we get out our berth, if we don’t know the boat, we must take its pulse. We can do nothing but leave the berth placing ourselves in a broad place of the dock and making a «ciaboga» and reverse. So we will be checking if the helix is left-handed or clockwise direction, calculate the ship ripped off, reaction time, strength of management, etc.

We also know that won’t be the same maneuvers in a boat with 1 or 2 motors, but some of these tips are common.

Before arriving at the dock we can make a small «check-list» mentally:

1- Do not improvise.

Preparing well in advance any maneuver will give us security. It will also significantly increase the likelihood that this is executed successfully.

2- Observe.

Where does the wind comes? When we get to the dock, where is going the wind attack from? ¿Wind intensity?. We know that the wind will affect mainly on the bow causing it to fold down. Therefore, the cross wind is our main enemy. If you do not know the port carefully, study the portolan to see where the pontoons are located, if they are floating for maneuver and for the correct positioning of defenses. Where the waiting dock is located, probes of different basins, etc.?

3- Decide. Maneuvers in port in 5 steps

We know the intensity and direction of the wind. Mentally, we have drawn our ship entering the dock and we know where the wind will affect it. Now we have to decide how: bow, stern traveling across the water surface, making a «ciaboga»… Always seek the easiest and safest option. For example, if we have a wind of 30 knots or more, and the wind is going to attack transversely, not doubt it for a single moment: we dock bow, foreseeing abatement will occur when we start the maneuver.

4- Organize.

We must seize the entire crew to help in the work of docking and undocking. We will calmly explain the maneuver and how we intend to do it, and we will have each with a specific mission: a person can be responsible for preparing the stern lines and one the bow, or take the guidance of the dead with the gaff if the case .

We will warn of which is the first moor we must take: of course the windward. This is often forgotten even to the sailors of the port, so remember that the skippers are the most responsible for the maneuver, and not doubt for a single moment to give instructions that are accurate to the sailor who comes to help us in the dock.
We place the rest of the crew if we have a defense in hand. We can locate a person in each band, but warning that under no circumstances put their hands between the boats apart. A helmet is usually easily repaired but a hand … not so much.

Defenses can be taken by the end of a cape easily, and serve to place them wherever lurks the potential collision. Having two people controlling the collision or friction, will greatly strengthened the confidence of the skipper and facilitate the operation.
Place defenses on each band intuiting the height of the dock. If we do not know, let’s put defenses sandwiching a low and a high.


If we have swing topsides structures as cockpit bar hoods, we fold these to improve our field of vision and also reduce dejection. Not bad advice to prepare moorings in the two bands and aft and bow. This will allow to carry out any type of maneuver and be prepared if we have to modify the initial maneuver. This is usually very helpful when we enter into a port that is unknown for us, and therefore can not know where we are going to settle. Alternatively, go straight to the waiting dock and get to know the location that the port has decided adjudicarnos.

5- Act.

We have everything ready, the crew is properly chastened and are entering the mouth. Above all we must remain calm and quiet. Nobody should make sudden movements, unnecessary acceleration, or yelling at the crew. We are sure of ourselves and we will make a perfect docking.

If we decided to make a ciaboga when we get to docking, a good rule will start to veer right when our mast (in the case of a sailboat), is placed in the center of the dock. Remember to leave some space to not engage the guides with our propeller.
The turn must be performed quickly. Also, regulating plucked up the engine to prevent lateral displacement. It can help a lot to play with the throttle as if it were a double clutch. In my experience, this increases security skipper by transmitting their hands full control of the ship ripped off. In any case, I always insist that before entering and constantly play with the command. Also to be with him and gain driving safety. Once we start reverse, we not lose sight at all times the direction of the bow of the boat because that way we will know the verticality of the boat relative to berthing.

And last but not least…

If for any reason we see that we are not going well, we do not hesitate to abort the maneuver. We will go out and prepare again the whole maneuver. Many times we insist on entering the boat as is a mistake. Remember that anybody gives prizes by entering the first and the important thing is to do it safely.


In Nautic Ocean, we hope this post has been useful and may serve you to improve a little your berthing maneuver.


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