Berthing in windy weather
Tips for handling a blown-off berth
Take the panic out of parking
Berthing in windy weather can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. These suggestions from Quality Time Training in Portland will help make things easier for you.
- Think about the wind direction and the space you have to manoeuvre in. What hazards are near by? What is your escape route? Have you got space to turn? Take your time.
- Prepare ropes and fenders on both sides.
- Lower spray hoods or canopies that can act like a sail.
- Brief your crew. Keep instructions concise and explain the plan clearly.
- Think about your approach and angle - if you’re blown-off, keep the angle steep. If you’re blown on, you can drift in almost parallel.
- Get into the right starting position. Don’t assume you can just drive straight into the berth.
- Get the boat going in a steady, straight line.
- Only go as fast as you are prepared to hit the pontoon - come out of gear early if necessary, but don’t lose steerage.
- Many boats are difficult to steer slowly into the wind as the lighter bow gets blown off course. Reversing can be your friend in this situation!
- Get a rope onto a pontoon cleat quickly. Dropping a big loop can be a useful technique - safer than crew jumping ashore. Once you’re attached, you can get other ropes in the right place and the boat secured properly.
Find a clear, safe area and practice slow manoeuvring in different conditions - you’ll soon gain confidence in how your boat behaves.
A blown-off downwind berth
We’ve all been there - the wind is behind you on your approach to your berth, and it is blowing off the pontoon. Get it wrong and you’ll get too close to comfort to your neighbour. Time to panic?
Don’t. Relax and think it through.
If you try to turn into the berth from windward (the ‘sad’ face position), you’ll be blown away as soon as you turn side-on to the wind. Irrespective of the wind, this isn’t a good place to start a turn!
Instead, motor past to beyond the smiley face position and then reverse into the berth. Almost all boats will steer better into the wind in reverse, as the wind tends to push the lighter and higher bow off course.
Start your turn when you can see the corner of the walkway and the finger pontoon (marked with a tick) and aim for that point.
If it all goes wrong, simply motor forward to the smiley face position and try again.