Learning How to Sail - Yacht Manoeuvring, Docking & Mooring

Published: 18th May 2009
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While sailing, you should have adequate knowledge and proper skill to maneuver your boat on water. Efficient handling of boat would prove easier if you are able to turn your boat in any direction. These simple techniques help you deal and cope with all types of wind and sea conditions.

Maneuvering Techniques

Important maneuvering techniques include:


Although tacking is a very simple technique of maneuvering your sailboat, it is extremely essential to understand when to tack and use proper skill of tacking. Ideally, tacking refers to changing direction of the sailboat such that bow of the sailboat is into the wind or faces wind directly. So a tacking maneuver instructed by the helmsman is when he steers the sailboat through the wind direction, passing over the bow of the sailboat.


Gibing is a very skillful technique of maneuvering your sailboat. This is a team effort and every crew should remain aware of specific roles assigned to him or her while gibing. This maneuvering technique requires accurate timing and precision to carry out the action smoothly. It is important to maintain perfect balance of your sailboat while gibing to avoid any untoward incident of capsizing. The main sheet should be pull in as tight as possible without losing boat speed, when the signal is given to gibing the wind direction will pass over the stern of the boat, at the stage when the wind load on the sail is reduced the main sheet should be released and left to run. The wind will fill the sail and the main sheet can then be pulled in to its optimum position.

Docking & Mooring

Docking is another important and essential maneuvering technique. Successful docking depends on various associated factors like wind conditions, boat features, high tide or low tide, presence of other boats in the vicinity, and how best you can tackle available conditions to go through a smooth docking process.

While learning to dock your sailboat, you should try to practice in a quiet harbor where number of sailboats is few or almost nil. Before starting with docking process, plan every action considering available weather and harbor conditions. While docking, it is best to work into the wind. This provides a natural brake if maneuvering is not very successful. However, going along a strong wind can cause difficulties, as your sailboat would then move towards other boats or dock when you do not want it to do so.

Presence of tides and tide movements play an important role in mooring techniques. While tying up your boat in a mooring, be sure of length of mooring line. The drop between high and low tide could vary between few inches to around forty feet. Incorrect mooring could cause your boat to remain swinging in mid-air when the tide goes out.

While docking, it is necessary to reverse briefly to slow momentum and keep engine on so that you are able to monitor the boats movements perfectly. When docking a larger sailboat it is normal to place on the outside edge of the hull, fenders. These are inflated rubber sausage in shape of items complete with attaching line, to attach to the boats handrail. Consider and keep note of wind conditions before approaching or leaving the dock.

Mooring to a mooring buoy within a harbor or river, can sometimes be easier than docking to a pontoon. To moor a boat, you should approach the buoy bow first with crew ready with a boat hook. The mooring buoy will have a short length of rope with a float attached; this should be picked up using the boat hook and attached to your sailboats deck cleat. The buoy is anchored to the sea or river bed by a large diameter rope and then chain fixed to a concrete block.

If you are learning to sail then this article will help you understand how you can manoeuver, dock and moor a sailing boat or yacht before you even venture out on the water. I am a great believer that if you know the basics before you go out and practise anything, then you are half way there
For more tips and sailing strategies please consider buying my E Book from the web site below.

"The Complete Guide to Learning How to Sail"

This is a great time of the year to be contemplating learning how to sail before the season actually starts!
Safe and happy sailing
Clive Peterson

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