Getting onto a windward berth: using a bow spring
When a stiff breeze is blowing off the pontoon, getting a line ashore isn't easy. This method makes it easier because it uses engine power, a good throwing technique and a cannily deployed line to make sure that you don’t need to make a desperate leap ashore. We found the most reliable way of getting a line onto a cleat is throwing a bight of line (Jan 17). It’s worth adding that several YM readers, Graham Lascelles and Stuart Tanner among them, contacted us to say they prefer a loop of thin line on a mooring line’s bowline and using the boathook and the thin loop to drape the bowline over a cleat.
On your approach, fender the entire side, but particularly the bow as that will be making the initial contact. Have a look at the berth first so you know which cleat you’re going for, ideally one in the middle of the berth, then rig a bow spring of a suitable length and a stern line.
You’ll need to approach with enough pace to stop the bow blowing off. When you're within a metre or two, the crew throws the bight over the target cleat and the skipper starts to square up alongside.
Both skipper and crew should be prepared for a bit of a lurch as the spring is pulled tight and once it is, the skipper adds more revs and puts the wheel over to drive the stern into the pontoon and keep her securely alongside. This is what prevents the bow blowing off, which is how these manoeuvres tend to go wrong.
Get the stern line on and leave the engine in gear until the rest of the mooring lines have been added.
When close enough, the crew throws the bight over the cleat, the skipper begins to square up alongside and skipper and crew brace for the lurch as the bow spring pulls taut
Scout the berth first to identify the pontoon cleat you're after. Ideally it will be in the middle of the berth, so the bight of the bow spring should reach a touch aft of the shrouds
Again, it's a simple way of using the engine's power, a mooring line and a reliable throwing technique to make coming alongside a potentially tricky berth a piece of cake
With the bow secured alongside and propwash over the rudder keeping the stern in, you can step off safely, rig the stern line, then the rest of the mooring lines at your leisure