8 Berthing Tips That Work Every Time

1. Check the wind direction and speed

Knowing exactly where the wind is blowing will have a big impact on the path you choose to park your boat. If you’re being blown onto another boat, you will need to drive into the wind, whereas if the wind is blowing you away from other boats you can get away with closer distances and you will have more time to tie the ropes.

2. Learn to tie up

Knowing how to get a line secured onto a cleat before you practice berthing is essential– otherwise you will be practicing parking and ropes, all at the same time.

3. Prepare and tie ropes beforehand

Having a bow, stern, and fenders tied on ready to goes a long way when getting into tricky berths. If your bow has blown too far out but you have a rope on the stern, you can put your engine(s) in forward and it will slowly bring it around.

4. Turn your bow thruster on before

Most thrusters take a few seconds to turn on, and some even have other switches that aren’t in reach at the helm. Once turned on, some brands will timeout and automatically switch off after a period of 2-5 minutes.

5. Know your style of boat

I find a lot of people jump onto YouTube, watch a few videos of people driving into a berth but can’t get the same techniques to work for them. It’s essential to know if you have a stern drive or inboard, and what equipment is available (bow thrusters, stern thrusters etc.) to decide how to park your boat. For example, driving a boat with rudders will be completely different to a stern drive, because the steering is connected to the stern drive, whereas the rudder requires forward or reverse momentum to make steering adjustments.

Mercruiser Alpha 1 Sterndrive trimmed in the up position

6. Trim your sterndrive leg down

This only applies to stern drives and outboards, but it’s vital that your boat isn’t trimmed up aggressively as you will have less “bite” on the water, and
gear changes will have little to no effect.

7. Ask for help

If it’s your first time berthing, don’t expect to get it straight away. Driving a boat is foreign to everybody at some stage, and rather then coming crashing into the berth, ask somebody for some help. Driving a boat is completely different to a car, and even taking some lessons can be a good idea.

8. Park forwards

Sometimes, parking in your berth forwards is safer than reversing in with heavy winds. Provided you can tie up securely and the berth is long enough (some marinas have very short berths which can make it impossible to board the boat), driving in forwards is OK until the wind speed and direction changes

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