Jonty Pearce explains why you're always learning when out on the water


We arrived at Neyland to find Aurial returned to her usual berth after the repairs to the fractured pontoon piles. Not only is she now closer to the access bridge but she is now bow to the pontoon whereas her temporary berth had been stern to. On her temporary berth I had needed to carefully adjust the mooring lines to prevent her rudder from nudging the fender on the pontoon; she seems to lie easier bow to than stern to, perhaps as her length is greater than that of the finger berth – a common issue.


In the morning I checked the lines. It took me half an hour to rearrange everything as I like it. I could not easily work out which line had been put on the cleats first, and locking half hitches and turns abounded. She certainly wasn’t going anywhere fast! But I was glad she had been made secure.


After re-roving the cat’s cradle of rope, I pondered the variation of preferred mooring methods. On Aurial I like a bow line to each side, a bow spring, a stern spring, and a stern line to the end of the finger berth which I tidy up by using the excess as a second bow spring to my midships cleat. The stern line could not in any way be described as a breast line – it’s angle to the finger berth is more like a second stern spring, but it is the best I can do. Each line has one function (apart from the second bow spring) and my preference is for multi strand polyester with a loop spliced in one end. The other end will be secured to the cleat with a round turn, two crossing turns, and a final round turn – ‘OXO’ – without any locking turns. It has never let me down yet.


I have seen many other mooring techniques – wandering round the marina, sailing with other skippers, and cruising in Aurial up and down the West coast. Some skippers are obsessive (that may include me…) One I sailed with undid all my bowlines and retied them as round turns and two half hitches, cussing under his breath as he did so. Others have been sure to feed up bowline loops through those already occupying a mooring post so all can retrieve their lines with ease – some seem not to care and just pile them up, a nightmare for the first-comers to extract. Some seem to ration their lines; I have seen one yacht tied up with one old sheet serving as bow line, bow spring, stern line, and stern spring. Yes, it was a long line, and gave no room for adjustment. And how would you cast off? One line, one job gives the versatility to spring off after any change in the conditions.


With one disabled visitor on board I had reserved the marina holding berth for ease of disembarkation. Unfortunately, when we arrived shortly after another yacht had occupied it. The owners had disembarked, so we rafted against them in a stiffening breeze to allow our passenger to climb over with assistance. Once happy with our rafting lines, I checked the inside boat’s moorings before taking our own shore lines to the pontoon. I was dismayed to see this 40′ yacht attached with only two threadbare 12mm lines. The wind was trying to blow the two boats off the pontoon – I made sure my 16mm shore lines were wound in tight to hold us both safe! The owners had not returned by the time we left for our own berth; I hope their lines held.


It is always best to have some give in your mooring lines. Use materials with some stretch in – I prefer polyester, and use nylon for an anchor snubber. Pay attention to chafe – I use off cuts of marine hose, or if mooring to a buoy I use a piece of chain to each end of which I have spliced 3m of 3 strand nylon to the bow cleats each side. The nylon gives the stretch and the chain does not chafe against the buoy’s metal ring. There is no right way – whatever works for you is best. I’m always learning when sailing and compare it to my work as a doctor – not for nothing is my trade called Medical Practice….


Jonty Pearce