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anchoring - page 5

5.5 Stern mooring

Stern mooring (also called Mediterranean mooring)  is a demanding handling, which to be successful requires experience and knowledge especially in strong winds. Mooring can be done on a pier, on other boats or on (near) a shore. If some basic rules are followed, as will be discussed below, stern mooring is a safe way of mooring, offering comfort and independence.


In most of the Med ports, it is the most common way of mooring as not enough space is required for each boat.

The following should be taken into account when choosing the appropriate position:

  • The available berth should be at a point of the marina that the mooring is allowed for yachts, something that is written to all navigators (Greek Waters Pilot).

  • Have enough space for the boat to enter comfortably without being squeezed with the adjacent boats.

  • Provide water and electricity, if possible.

  • The orientation of the available berth should be such that in case of strong wind the boat receives it from the stern or from the port/stbd quarter, and not from the beam or bow. 

  • We avoid mooring in places where our anchor chain will cross the chain of another already moored vessel and which has dropped its anchor in the wrong direction. For example, we avoid anchoring in position 'A' of the photo 5.5.1 because the anchor will become entangled with the anchor chaim of the boat 'B'.

The steps for a Med stern mooring: The setup, the laid in, the drop, tying up.

The setup

Step 1: Setup two stern mooring lines and attach to the stern cleats. 

Step 2: Set up the fenders at either side of the boat. 

Step 3: Position anchor of the bow roller and loose about half a meter of chain, but without leaning on the sea so that it can not make a big swing and hit the boat. It would be better if you ease the anchor chain over by hand. 

Step 4: The dinghy should be on the deck of the boat or in the leeward beam side. 

The laid in

Step 1 : Go pass have a look at the spot that you would like to berth. Note the lie of other boats anchors, look for any lazy lines, check the depth and look for any obstacles in the water.

Step 2: Come out to drop quit far out. At least 4 boat lenghts away (position 1 - photo 5.5.1). Stay in the middle of the boats next of you (B & C). 

The drop

Step 1: Start the anchor drop and try to stay in straight line driving the boat in slow-medium speed.

Step 2: The anchor man should inform the helmsman the lenght of the chain that is out by showing one finger every ten meters. It is very critical for the anchor man to ease the chain gradually following the speed of the boat. When the chain is about to run out,the anchor man should inform the helmsman.  

Tying up

Step 1: When you are close to the quay the crew takes the windward stern line ashore and passes it through a ring or similar at roughly 45 degrees to the boat before passing it back to someone in the cockpit. This is then secured and sweated if necessary to get the boat in the correct position.

Step 2: When the windward line is secured do the same for the leeward line making sure the yacht is the correct distance from the key. During this process, the skipper may need to motor forward or backwards slowly.

Step 3: Once positioned the correct distance from the quay, according to the lengh of your boats passerelle, take the strain up on the chain. To ensure the stern stays away from the quay/pontoon - often the stern lines are eased and the chain tightened, then the stern lines made taught again.

Step 4: Once the lines are cleated off, put the engines in neutral. It’s good practice to leave the engine on for a few minutes just in case the lines stretch or were not tied tight enough. Never turn the engine off too soon. You need to be able to quickly throw the engine into forward if you start getting too close to the dock.

Note 1: If a line falls in the water, instruct the Captain needs to be notified immediately. The helmsman then put the engine in neutral until the line is retrieved. The risk for fouling the prop is high and this is not a place where you want that to happen.

Note 2: Try not to cross the next boat's anchor chain. If all the chains are lined up parallel then there will be no problems. But if you cross over their chain and they leave first, they will pull out your anchor. For instance, the chain of the boat 'E' is not perpendicular to the pier as it should be, so if you anchor at the starboard side try not to tangle your chains. 


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Stern mooring video from 'Nisos'

Photo 5.5.1

Leaving a stern to mooring

When leaving the dock, follow the below steps:

Step 1: Plan your exit before getting started. Consider the wind, any current, and the proximity of other anchored boats or obstructions in the area.

Step 2: Turn on and warm up the engine for about 10 minutes.

Step 3: Prepare the windlass to raise the anchor. 

Step 4: Ease the leeward (downwind) first.  

Step 5: Simultaneously: Start raising the anchor - ease the rest of the lines (the windward)  - move slowly forward using the engine. 

Step 6: Bring the boat over the anchor. When the boat is over the anchor  the crew informs the skipper that the anchor is ready to break out. The yacht is motored slowly until the foredeck crew have stowed the anchor.

Note 1: Prior to getting underway, you should implement an undocking plan with the help of your passengers. You should consider the traffic in the area, the direction of wind and current and the depth of the water.


Note 2: Do not assume that your passengers have the same experience that you have or that they can read your mind. Be specific and give direction if you ask for their help. This not only protects their safety but their pride as well.


A passerelle (photo 5.5.2) or boarding ramp is useful since it is not always easy to get off the stern. Many boats have fancy custom affairs that get quite elaborate. The best are motorized and extend out of a hatch at the stern, sensors maintaining their height above the dock.  Otherwise, you can carry a simple 2X10 plank about 3 meters long.


Photo 5.5.2


In the height of summer, popular anchorages fill up quickly and you may find it difficult to find somewhere which will give your yacht enough swinging room once you dropped your anchor. In smaller bays, and also harbours that get very busy, it is becoming more and more common to anchor and take stern lines ashore. Your lines will be secured to something on land, such as a tree, rock or if you are lucky, a mooring ring or post. In this way, many yachts can anchor close together and share a small bay (photo 5.5.3).


Photo 5.5.3

You have to get the lines ashore somehow, usually by dinghy or by swimming. If the wind is blowing offshore, or across your bow, the manoeuvre will be tricky and you may find yourself drifting into other boats until you are secure. 

The steps for an anchoring with lines ashore: 

Step 1: Prepare everything before you approach the anchorage. If there are going to be other yachts nearby, put out fenders. Take your longest lines from the locker and get them ready – this involves ‘flaking’ the rope, which means laying it on deck loosely – not coiling it – so that it does not tangle when it leaves the boat.

Step 2: If you already know that there is something onto which you can tie the line, like a post or a rock, you might put a very large bowline, in the end, so the line can easily go over it. If not, the person that will go ashore should be able to know how to make a bowline. 

Step 3:  Drop your anchor approximately three boat lengths away from the position where you want to end up, depending on how deep it is. Make sure you know the depth of your keel and check how much water is under your keel while you are going astern. Do not rely on just looking at the water, it is often deeper than it appears, but also, keep an eye out for rocks or obstructions. Hold the boat in position with the anchor, keeping the engine going astern, and decide how you will get the line ashore.

Step 4:  If you send a swimmer with the rope, it is a good idea for them to wear rubber soled shoes in case they need to scramble ashore or climb up rocks.

Step 5: If you send someone with a dingy DO NOT throw them a coiled up rope. They will not be able to row or motor away from the yacht and untangle it at the same time! You must only give them the very end of the rope, the rest stays on the boat and should be paid out freely as you have already flaked it on deck.

Step 6: Choose something on shore to tie to, that is angled approximately 45 degrees from the stern quarter. Once the first line is secure on land, pull it in from the boat until it is tight. It might be useful to secure it to a winch and wind it in. You may wish to pull in the anchor slightly until the boat is in position. You can take your time with the second line from the stern of the boat and secure in the same way, although another line is not always necessary.


Follow the same steps as for the Med stern to mooring technique. But, don't drop the anchor and instead of that pick up the "Lazy Line" as soon as you arrive close to the pier. These are usually left tied to the dock in the middle of your slip. Its often a light messenger line that extends down to the heavier stern line down on the sea bed. Hopefully a dockhand or fellow boater will grab the stern line and pull it up a bit so you can grab it with a boathook. Note you should be careful not to get the lazy line in the prop. Best to put the engine in neutral at this point. Lazy-lines are often VERY encrusted with an amazing variety of sea-life including slime, corals and more. Gloves are a good idea. You can "hand over hand" the line and walk forward to tie it on the bow cleat.

Note 1: It is forbidden to put a line on the shore where there is a corresponding sign with buoys, and also near an area with bathers.

Docking stern to with lazy lines video


A word on civilized communication during manoeuvres is in order. To avoid the embarrassing shouting you have all heard during anchoring, we have several suggestions for communications that won't start a Mars and Venus kind of discussion.

When you have someone on the bow working the anchor (we prefer the strong male in that department even though we now have a windlass) and the other person is aft at the helm, it may be difficult to be heard above the roar of the engine and the wind.

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