James Stevens answers your Questions of Seamanship. This issue - how to come alongside without an engine in a sheltered marina


Jenny and two friends are on a cruise to Brittany on board their Bavaria 32, Firebird,
 a standard production boat with a fin keel.

It has slab reefing and a roller furling
 jib. The trip has been a great success until 10 miles from entrance of the Trieux river, the engine fails.

Jenny has completed the RYA Diesel Engine course and realises it’s not a problem that can be fixed at sea.

The intention 
is to moor at Port Lézardrieux seven miles up the river which has a boatyard and a diesel fitter.

Fortunately, conditions are favourable for sailing to Lézardrieux. It’s blowing ESE Force 4 and the tide is flooding up the river.

Continues below…

Jenny is a good dinghy sailor who is determined to sail the boat into the marina without resorting to a tow or other assistance.

Apart from her pride, there are good financial reasons for berthing on a walk-ashore pontoon when the engineer arrives.

She sails upriver and luckily, the hammerhead at the end of the first pontoon in the marina is free on the starboard side of the river.

On the approach, the wind is flukey, blowing about 10 knots. Firebird is on a close reach on port tack. The tidal stream is flooding at 0.7 knots and the pontoon is parallel with the riverbank.

Does she sail alongside port or starboard side to? 
Full sail, jib only or main only?


Unless the tidal stream is
 very weak, it is almost always 
a mistake to come alongside under sail or power with 
the tidal stream from astern.

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

The tidal stream is the strongest force so Jenny needs to come in port side to pointing into the flood tide.

The boat will then be on a broad reach
so if the mainsail is set, it is impossible to stop.
 The final approach needs to be under jib alone.

She should sail past the marina upstream to some clear water where she can smartly drop the mainsail and prepare the fenders and warps for coming alongside, then turn into the flood tide and sail back to the marina under jib alone.

Speed can be adjusted by using the roller furling to increase and decrease the size of the jib and the opposing tide will help to slow the boat down.

It sounds complicated but it is surprisingly easy.

Even if the boat comes to a halt over the ground, it is simple to apply more power from the jib and start moving again.