How To Pick Up A Mooring – Sailing Basics Video Series

Picking up a mooring ball is one of the most common things you will do as a sailor. Watch the video to see the simple steps to do this right, and avoid embarrassing situations!

  • Where is the wind coming from?
  • Check out the area!
  • Get lines, crew and dinghy ready
  • Approach into the wind
  • Watch your speed!
  • Get connected
  • Inspect the mooring

We already took notes!

We have included all of the things we said in the video here, so you can just copy and paste what you need for your notes.

Good morning guys. We are down here in the Sea of Cortez and we are anchored at Isla La San Francisco this morning. It’s a beautiful day and today we’re going to talk you through how to pick up a mooring ball. Whenever you come in to pick up a mooring ball, it’s really interesting, at least half of the people in the anchorage are going to be looking through hatches or popping up  just to watch you to see how good of a sailor you are, and they’re going to be judging you on how well you do when you pick up that mooring ball.

We’ve seen people come flying in and usually the wife is up on the bow, husband at the helm, they’re yelling at each other back and forth. Sometimes they hit other boats. We want to make sure you avoid that. We’re going to show you a couple simple steps just to make sure that you know how to do this well. We’re going to show you how to nail picking up a mooring and look like a pro in the process.

So as you enter the mooring field you want to find out where the wind is coming from. One of the easiest things to do at this point is to look at the other boats, see which angle they are pointing at and it will give you a good clue of just where the wind is. We like to do a lap through the mooring field just to check things out. At this point you can be looking for hazards in the water, looking at distance between boats. One really important thing, we like to have somebody up on the bow of the boat looking down as you approach each mooring pennant, the line coming off the mooring ball, just to inspect it and make sure, hey, it’s in good condition, and isn’t barnacle encrusted. You’re going to be trusting your boat to this line, so you want to make sure it’s a good one.

Once you’ve decided on your mooring ball, then you want to get everything ready to come in and pick that ball up. So if you’re nervous, choose a mooring ball that’s a little further out. Don’t try to get the most difficult one, close into the beach or where it’s crowded. Choose the one that’s a little easier just for your first time. Really important at this point to talk to your crew about hand signals. Make sure you agree on what the communication is going to be between the helmsmen and the person up on the bow. We like to actually have the person on the bow who’s going to retrieve it, point with the boat hook and use gestures with their hand like either come forward or hold.

Then the other thing that’s important is as you get closer to that mooring ball and you’re half a boat length to a boat length away, depending on the height of the free board on your boat, you’re going to lose sight of the mooring ball. So you want the person up on the bow to be telling you or giving you some signals to let you know how far you are from the mooring ball. Some people do hand signals for the distance. We actually like turning around and saying 10 feet, five feet, four feet, just so youknow how far you are. And keep pointing with the boat hook to right where it is. We want to go ahead and get the mooring bridle ready, all set up on the bow. You always want to use a mooring bridle guys. You’ll see people cheat and just take one line from a cleat, run it down through the pennant and back. One line is not a good idea. Just with chafing that can break. Always use a mooring bridle, which means you’re going to have one line from each cleat through and back. So you’ve got two lines holding the boat.

It’s really important now, you want to pick it up from dead downwind. So what this means is plan your approach from as far out as possible and come in right at that morning ball. Be Watching your wind indicator on your instruments to make sure you’re into the wind. You can also look at your flags just to make sure you’re really into the wind. Now as you approach, the most important thing with picking up a mooring ball is speed control. You want to make sure that your boat pulls up and stops right next to that mooring ball and you don’t have speed. The biggest mistake we see when people are picking up a morning ball is they come in really hot. And so if you’re coming flying in, someone’s up on the bow and they reach down to grab that pennant, they’re not going to have the time they need to grab the pennant, and put the bridle through it and cleat it off.

You need a minimum of 15 seconds for somebody to do that. So to do that you’ve got to control your speed. Put your boat first click in forward, and just come in real slow. When you get about one to two boat lengths away, depending on the wind, put it in neutral and glide in the rest of the way. You can always give it little more burst in forward if you need to inch forward, but you definitely don’t want to come in too hot. When you see the person on the bow reach down with the boat hook to grab the pennant, that’s when the helmsmen wants to give it just a little bit of reverse to stop that boat. You want the bow of the boat to stop right next to the mooring ball so they get their 15 seconds to reach down, grab it, feed the bridle through and cleat it off.

One of the mistakes we see, people make is they try to get two lines down and through the bridle. That’s a little too difficult at this point. You just want to get one line attached to the mooring ball. Once you’ve got one attached nicely, then it’s easy to go ahead and get the second one on and get your bridle sorted. If you’re in a nice, warm place guys, it’s a really good idea, throw on a mask and snorkel and just inspect your mooring pennant and the line that goes from the mooring ball all the way down to the anchor on the seabed. Just to make sure it’s nice and strong, there’s no nicks or cuts. Again, you’re trusting your boat to this line, so you want to make sure it’s in good condition.

Well guys, we’re going to go hop in the water go swim with the sea lions. These playful creatures are amazing, and this is often the highlight of the week for us. So we’re gonna go have some fun.

About the Video Series

New to sailing? We created this comprehensive basic sailing video series just for you! We know how difficult it is to find solid answers to your questions related to sailing fundamentals. As professional sailing instructors, we get it, and since we cover these topics regularly with our students, we knew we could help you too. We created these Learn How to Sail:Sailing Basics Videos, to be your ultimate sailing 101 video series. In them we cover monohull sailing for beginners from anchoring to steps to recovering a man overboard, all the way up to perfect sail trim!


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