The ultimate guide for mooring at buoys and piers

Sailing is an art, and mooring is one of its most essential skills. Whenever the time comes to anchor our vessel, whether it’s to spend a night under a starry blanket, weather an immediate storm or simply enjoy a quiet day in a bay, the mooring technique becomes our greatest ally. It is crucial to protect not only our precious boat but also neighbouring vessels, ensuring that, whatever happens, our vessel remains safe and stable. However, before venturing into this fundamental act, it is essential to pay attention to several factors: the weather forecast, the course and intensity of the wind and, of course, to carefully study the environment in which we intend to moor, from the sea bottom to the conditions of the buoys and lines. In this article, we’ll break down in detail the techniques and tips to ensure a successful mooring, whether on a buoy or directly on the quay.


Essential factors to consider before mooring

Before mooring, it is crucial to understand that every action at sea is influenced by several natural elements and environmental conditions. Paying attention to these factors not only ensures the safety of the vessel and its crew, but also avoids potential damage to other vessels or infrastructure. These essential factors are detailed below:

Weather forecast:

  • Short- and long-term forecast: It is always recommendable to check the forecast for the next few hours and the following days. This information prepares us for sudden changes or adverse situations that could pop up.
  • Unexpected conditions: Although modern forecasts are fairly accurate, there is always a margin of error. It is vital to be prepared for any possibility.

Wind heading and wind strength:

  • Wind direction: Knowing where the wind is blowing from is critical, as it determines the approach to mooring and how the vessel will react during the process.
  • Wind strength: A light breeze versus strong winds can drastically change the technique and caution with which you should moor.
  • Sudden changes: It is important to remember that the wind can change fastly, especially near coast or particular geographical formations.

Meticulous study of the environment

  • Sea bottom: Knowing the composition of the sea bottom is essential. While a sandy sea bottom may offer a good grip for an anchor, a rocky or coral bottom presents challenges and risks for the vessel.
  • Buoy and line conditions: Not all buoys and lines are the same. It is essential to inspect their condition and check whether they can withstand the weight and forces that will be acting on them.
  • Other dangers in the environment: This includes other boats, submerged structures, or anything else that may interfere with the mooring process.

Mooring safely is not only about technique, but also about preparation and understanding of the environment. Being well-informed and prepared for every situation is the key to ensuring that your vessel, and everyone on board, is safe.


Steps for Mooring on a buoy

Mooring your boat to a buoy is both an art and a science. Each step, when carried out with precision, ensures not only the safety of your boat but also your peace of mind:

  1. Choose the bay:

Look for bays that offer natural barriers against wind and waves, such as headlands or rock formations. Also, watch the currents. Ocean currents can influence how your boat settles, so it is vital to choose a bay with minimal or predictable currents.

  1. Choose the buoy:

The buoy must be able to support the weight of your boat. Check its specifications and make sure buoys are spaced far enough apart to avoid collisions with other boats.

  1. Visually inspect the buoy:

Look for scratches, discolouration, or any other signs of ageing on the buoy. If possible, dive to inspect the submerged part of the buoy and the line for signs of deterioration or damage.

  1. Assign roles:

Make sure each crew member understands and is comfortable with their role. If it is your first time or you have a new crew, doing a rehearsal can be helpful to ensure everyone is on the same page.

  1. Approach the buoy:

Maintain a slow speed and approach the buoy at an angle that allows you to manoeuvre easily. Also, keep a constant vigilance for obstacles and adjust as you approach.

  1. Retrieve the buoy:

Equip your boat with mooring hooks or boat hooks to facilitate the process. Communication between the helmsman and the pick-up person is crucial at this point to avoid mistakes.

  1. Tie to the mooring buoy:

Use reliable and sturdy knots, such as a bowline knot or a reef knot, to ensure a secure connection. Once tied, pull firmly on the line to make sure it is securely attached.

  1. Safety line:

It is always advisable to have a secondary line as a backup in case the main line fails. Make sure this line is not too taut or too slack, it should act as a safety net.

  1. Post-check:

Observe your boat for the first few minutes to make sure it is stable. Depending on how long you plan to stay, make periodic checks to ensure that everything is still in order.

  1. Leaving the buoy:

Before releasing, check that there are no other boats nearby and that conditions are safe to set sail. Carefully untie and manoeuvre your boat away from the buoy in a controlled manner, avoiding sudden movements.


Mooring at a dock

Mooring your boat or yacht at a dock is a common practice that, although it may seem routine, requires skill and attention to detail. Depending on circumstances and preferences, there are different ways of mooring to the dock that every sailor should be aware of. Whether alongside, bow, or stern, each way of mooring has its advantages and peculiarities. The choice depends on the design of the boat, the dock conditions, and personal preferences.

First of all, you have to take into account:

  • Sufficient depth: It is vital to ensure that there is enough water under your boat to avoid scraping or hitting the bottom, especially during low tides.
  • Sea bottom appearance: The type of bottom (sand, rock, seaweed) can affect the way your boat moors and moves while moored.
  • Engine and propeller: Keeping the engine running allows you to be able to manoeuvre quickly if a problem arises. It is also crucial to keep lines from getting tangled in the propeller.
  • Fenders: Fenders protect your boat from hitting the dock or other boats. They should be fitted at the right height and ensure that they are in good condition.

Types of mooring on the quay.

Side berthing

Side mooring is the process by which a vessel is positioned parallel and directly to the side of the quay. This is one of the most common and direct ways of mooring a vessel.


  • Positioning: The vessel must be aligned parallel to the quay.
  • Use: This type of mooring is most common on docks or marinas where space is not limited and there is sufficient space between boats.
  • Advantages: Access to the boat from the quay is direct and easy, facilitating loading, unloading and passenger boarding or disembarkation.


Bow to dock mooring

In this type of mooring, the front part of the boat, known as the bow, is oriented and moored directly towards the dock.


  • Positioning: The bow of the boat must be directed towards the dock.
  • Use: It is especially useful on narrower docks or in situations where space between boats is limited, ensuring a more uniform and compact alignment.
  • Advantages: Allows for space optimisation on crowded docks and often provides a clear view from the stern of the boat, which can be good for certain activities, such as fishing.


Stern to dock mooring

In the stern-to-dock mooring, the rear of the vessel, or stern, is oriented and moored to the pier, while the bow faces the open water.


  • Positioning: The vessel approaches the dock in reverse, ensuring that the stern is aligned with the dock.
  • Use: This technique is widely adopted in the Mediterranean region, especially in ports and harbours that have limited space or are specifically designed for this type of mooring.
  • Advantages: For vessels that have bathing platforms or entertainment spaces at the stern, stern-to-dock mooring allows easy access to these areas and a smooth transition between the boat and the quay.

The art of mooring is a complex combination of knowledge, skill, and experience. Whether you are seeking the serenity of a buoy in a quiet bay or the comfort of a dock in a bustling harbour, understanding and mastering these techniques is essential. Every detail, from knowing the surrounding conditions to choosing the right type of mooring for your boat, plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and stability of your boat. In the end, the most important thing is to enjoy the wonders the sea has to offer with the confidence and peace of mind that your boat is safe. And if you’re looking for an ideal place to moor your boat or yacht, Marina Vela offers first-class moorings in an exceptional setting. Discover the experience of mooring in one of Barcelona’s most exclusive port!