HOW TO BERTH SIN­GLE-HANDED

Top tips for go­ing it alone with­out any crew to help

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

Boat­ing alone can be a glo­ri­ous experience. Ob­vi­ously you need to ap­proach it with a safety-first mind­set, but I re­ally en­joy time alone on the boat, and the sat­is­fac­tion that comes from deal­ing with all the chal­lenges is im­mense.

In­evitably it’s leav­ing or ar­riv­ing at a berth that presents the big­gest chal­lenge, even though it’s re­ally just an ex­ten­sion of the nor­mal crewed process with some ad­di­tional plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion to en­sure it goes smoothly. One of the most com­mon con­cerns is ar­riv­ing back at your orig­i­nal berth to find that the per­fect con­di­tions you en­joyed on your de­par­ture have changed and you are now faced with a much more dif­fi­cult, if not near-im­pos­si­ble chal­lenge. The an­swer is to change your plans and choose a berth that you can man­age. And never be em­bar­rassed to ask the ma­rina or a fel­low boater to take your lines.

As with so many as­pects of boat­ing, prepa­ra­tion is key. Leav­ing a berth ef­fi­ciently is done by as­sess­ing the el­e­ments, which line comes off first, and how to get the boat clear. I usu­ally start at the bow by re­mov­ing the bow line and walk­ing aft, coil­ing it as I go so it can be neatly stowed away. Then I re­move the stern line, step smartly aboard, go to the helm and leave in a pos­i­tive man­ner be­fore I’m blown back on to the berth.

I like to make it easy to re­move the lines and fend­ers by stop­ping the boat with the stern to any el­e­ments so the bow doesn’t get pushed around. I then tidy them away on deck with­out rush­ing. I al­ways try to do a cou­ple at a time and then re­turn to the helm to check my po­si­tion.

When ar­riv­ing some­where new, I find do­ing a drive-by of my in­tended berth al­lows me to check its suit­abil­ity and as­sess the wind and tide. Un­less the con­di­tions are re­ally light, then a berth where the el­e­ments are as­sist­ing you onto the pon­toon will gen­er­ally make things eas­ier. Fend­ers will need to be set and ad­justed to the cor­rect height, and I al­ways lay the bow line along the side deck (tak­ing care to pass it up and over the bow rails) so it can be picked up eas­ily as soon as you step ashore. I leave the stern line loosely flaked and at­tached for the same rea­son.

The key is not to rush. It sounds ob­vi­ous, but many a berthing ma­noeu­vre is ru­ined by rush­ing in, es­pe­cially since you have no crew to shout out the dis­tances as you make your ap­proach. Aim to get the whole boat into the berth and stopped be­fore you at­tempt to step away from the helm, leav­ing the el­e­ments to close the last few inches to the pon­toon. Judg­ing dis­tance is cru­cial – stop too far away and the el­e­ments may push you on too fast; get too close and you risk not stop­ping in time. In both cases you are likely to bounce off the fend­ers and get pushed back out of the berth.

Only when you’re cer­tain you’ve judged it cor­rectly should you leave the helm and walk to the exit point to get your first line on. I tend to go with stern line first, then walk for­ward tak­ing the bow line with me. The ex­cep­tion be­ing when I am berthing into a strong tide or wind. In that in­stance, step­ping off at the stern and tak­ing the bow line for­ward first may be more prac­ti­cal to pre­vent the boat moving aft.

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