If you charter in the Med, you’ll find yourself mooring stern to. Theo Stocker finds out how from Barrie Neilson

An expert’s guide to stern to mooring

Coming alongside at the end of the day in the UK usually means picking up a mooring or some form of parallel parking against a floating dock. In other parts of the world, the Baltic and the Mediterranean for example, bow- and stern-to moorings are the norm, and the challenge of sliding neatly stern-first into a gap barely wider than your toerails can take the shine off a sailing holiday for an unpracticed crew.

Of course, mastering end-on mooring has plenty to teach us for squeezing into an awkward marina berths too, and for those of us content with what our own sunny island has to offer, there are still times when putting bows to a quay, or nosing up to a steep beach is the neatest and easiest way to make contact with the land and get ashore, as long as there isn’t too much tide running.

My first attempt at stern-to mooring was a few years ago in the Baltic, in a small Danish harbour where rows of yachts were neatly lined up stern first in their box berths, cockpits replete with beer-sipping crews for whom I was about to provide the evening’s entertainment. We’d been sailing all day and I’d grown rather used to the forward motion of our small Najad.

A piece of cake?

Naturally, I had omitted to rehearse how quickly she would stop and how she handled in astern, leaving this vital discovery to the last critical moments within the confines the harbour. As we found our berth, it soon became apparent that what had been a pleasant breeze in open water was now a rather brisk crosswind. Easy, I thought. Motor past the berth, lines ready, engine astern and aim for the gap.

The Najad stopped quickly enough and began moving astern, but almost immediately the wind pushed the bow downwind past our berth. By the time we had lassoed a post at the corner of the box berth, she was beam on to a line of anchor-tipped bows and we were desperately trying to fend off the impending disaster. After a couple of attempts we squeezed in and tried to pretend no-one had been watching.


Barrie Neilson joined Sailing Holidays as an engineer in 1979. He and his wife Heidi have owned and run the company since 1987. With 178 yachts in several bases around the Greek coast and islands, he and his team help to moor thousands of yachts every summer

The real experts in stern-to mooring are found in the Mediterranean and, being a novice there, I was keen to learn how to avoid another Baltic humiliation. Barrie Neilson from Sailing Holidays has been helping learners like me moor successfully for the last 35 years, so when he offered to show me how, I jumped at the chance.