Join Date: Apr 2006
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Moorings can be funny animals. When I was learning to sail we went in for the first time, kissed the mooring ball dead on, and made it in one shot with no drama. Then the instructor said "Let's do it again" and it took a good half hour to do the second mooring.
The biggest thing to remember is that the mooring ball and lines rarely get to eat, so they will try to snare you keel and climb in between the rudder and hull while looking to swallow your prop and pull the shaft out of the boat. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
You need to get a little familiar with your boat and how she carries way, how long it takes to drift to a stop or reverse to one. Typically you will approach a mooring from dead downwind of it, and the goal is to come up dead slow (unless you're a pro) and then put your engine in neutral so you come to a dead stop just kissing the mooring. Then you run up to the bow and try to tie up before the wind pushes you off. "Good" moorings will have a whip float attached to the mooring pennants, so you can reach under your rail, pull the whip onboard (they like to poke at eyes) and then pull the mooring pennants off the whip and drop them on your bow cleats. If the pennants are just floating around in the water, they'll be harder to reach, you may need a boat hook. Good idea to have one regardless.
If you come up on the mooring too quickly--that's when it can wrap on the keel, rudder, or prop, and you may have to go swimming. So take your time.
If you want to make it easier for single-handing, and there is room in the mooring field, you can rig a dock line from your bow cleat, outside the stanchions, and back to the helm. Then you can motor up alongside the mooring (and again, it is better to be drifting with the engine in neutral!) grab the pennant, slip your dock line through it, and walk the line back up to the bow--all the while being attached to the mooring ball. Shorthanded with enough wind to keep pushing you off the ball, that's the only sure and simple way.
If you want some practice, take a big empty detergent bottle or something, tie an anchor on it, and throw it in the water someplace where you have room to practice.
And, you may want a 'drool rag' or a bucket handy to get the slime off your hands on the real thing.