James Stevens considers a problem sent in by a Yachting Monthly reader who asks how to squeeze a yacht into a tight berth?

Jane is on a cruising holiday on board Storm Petrel, her 10m yacht. The boat has a long fin keel and skeg. When engaging astern there is a strong prop kick to starboard but once the yacht is moving astern it is reasonably easy to handle.

Jane has been the owner for five years. She has two crew who are both quite experienced. She is approaching a marina where she has been allocated an overnight berth A2, port side to if bow in. The marina is full except for her berth.

To reach A2 she has to pass between pontoons A and B almost to the landward end and then turn into the berth. The wind is about 13 knots and is blowing diagonally down between the pontoons. This means
if she enters between the pontoons ahead it will be on her starboard quarter. It also means the wind is blowing off berth A2. There is no tidal stream.

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Berthed in A1, which is just to leeward of A2 and in the same box, are two fragile- looking clinker day boats which could easily be damaged if Storm Petrel, at 7 tonnes, comes alongside in a following wind.

The marina, which was constructed in the days of smaller yachts but is now populated by larger vessels, has only about a boat-length of space between the rows. Jane looks anxiously at the berth.

Is it possible without shoreside assistance and if so how will she manage it?

Marina diagram

How to squeeze a yacht into a tight berth

Yes it is possible, but it requires a good knowledge of the boat and some very accurate boat handling.

First it would be sensible to have fenders and warps on both sides and a roving fender ready. Eventually the yacht will enter the berth port side to, so the crew need to be prepared to step ashore quickly and secure the lines before the wind blows them down on to the dayboats. Jane should enter the gap between A and B pontoons astern.

It would be easier to engage astern some distance from the pontoons to overcome the prop kick and gain full steerage. If space is very limited before going astern Jane should make a starboard turn and, while turning, engage astern which will straighten the boat on to the original heading.

Once between the boats keep on the upwind side towards B pontoon. Jane needs to stop the boat with the stern very close to the cross pontoon at the end and only a couple of metres from the yacht on B1.

Using very careful throttle control she needs to hold the yacht in that position and let the wind blow the bow to starboard until Storm Petrel is pointing at A2 then motor in and secure quickly.

If there are marina staff available, it might then be possible to motor ahead between the pontoons and secure the lines as the yacht turns into the berth before the wind catches the stern. It would still require careful boat handling.

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