How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Picking up a mooring ball is an art and a skill – one that’s good to practice in fair weather before you’re in a situation where it’s crucial to perform the manuever perfectly.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

First, check the depth all around where you plan to moor.
Consider the tide flow, tide range, prevailing winds, swing room, lee shore; all the same considerations as when anchoring.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Call and make a reservation for the mooring you wish to pick up and stay on for the night. Agree with crew on which hand signals you will employ to indicated “forward,” “reverse,” “neutral,” or “hold,” and any others you wish – such as fingers held up to indicate 500 rpm each or to indicate distances.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Approach the mooring from downwind or downcurrent – whichever is strongest. You can determine this from looking at the other boats in the mooring field; sailboats with deeper keels might be turning into the current, while powerboats with more superstructure might be turning into the wind. Your goal is to come to a stop right at the mooring, so, you are trying to spill off momentum as you approach the mooring.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

If all the boats are pointed in all directions – you are in luck! Slack tide! Approach the mooring as you would an anchorage; slowly and cautiously, watching the depth.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Have someone on the bow with a boat hook, and a length of line already rigged to create a bridle for the pennant – the line attached to the mooring. Some moorings will be on a stick, others will have a line coiled into a “crown” or “bucket” on the mooring ball.

As you slowly approach the mooring ball, the person on the bow can point to the mooring ball, and indicate distance. The person at the helm can pick a stationary point, and continue creeping toward that point when they can no longer see the mooring ball.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball
The direction of the wind is pretty apparent in this mooring field.

The person at the bow will retrieve the pennant, slip the length of line through the eye, and make fast both ends to forward cleats. This can be very tricky if the winds are strong and the bow blows away quickly. You might have to drop the mooring, and reapproach rather than fight to keep a line that’s screaming off the cleat as the boat gains momentum and blows off the mooring.

Be prepared to adjust the length of the line in order to suit the bow of the boat you are on, and be prepared to wrap chafing gear on the line if you will be staying a long time or through a strong storm.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Make note of positions of all vessels around you, then back down on the mooring to test it – if someone ran their prop over the line and it’s just hanging from a thread, or the ground tackle eyes or fittings are nearly rusted through – you don’t want to discover this in the middle of a big blow. Watch something close and something far to see your relative movement. Watch for your stern to creep to port (if you have a right-handed prop) as you reverse and come to the end of the line.

If it seems good and strong, now make note of any boats, markers, lights; items to watch throughout the night to make sure your bearing relative to them remains the same.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

Mooring fields sometimes are marked with the size of boat intended for that mooring; a smaller boat can go on mooring meant for a larger boat; it will just have plenty of swing room and extra space around it. A larger boat should not attempt to use a mooring for a smaller vessel; they will overlap every time the wind or tide changes.

Now, a note about that boat hook – make sure you have it thoroughly tightened before using it on a mooring; you’d hate to see the far end and hook pull out and sink, leaving you with only the handle.

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

When you are ready to depart, carefully consider where the lines are leading and if you are going to have to drift off before putting your vessel in gear due to the mooring line lying against your hull. Pay attention to where the wind or tide will take you, and be ready to slip your line out of the pennant,

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

If you can coil the line in the “crown,” that’s considerate so the line does not get slimy for the next person. Be very careful to not get your boat hook caught in the mooring shackles; if the wind or tide pulls the boat away rapidly, you may lose your boathook!

, How to Pick up a Mooring Ball

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