Short-handed mooring device

One of the trickier aspects of sailing is parking.  Parking a car is also one of the skills with which new (and some more experienced) drivers struggle.  In a boat it is made more difficult because 1) the road is constantly moving, 2) the slower you go the more the wind blows you off course, and 3) there are no brakes.  At our current mooring the tide rips through at a fair pace, we have yachts surrounding us, when the river cats (commuter ferries) come by they create large waves, and our gearbox refuses to give us reverse.  All that makes for a bit of anxiety for newby sailors.

However, I have managed to set up a system to pick up the mooring that is virtually foolproof.  I had a great idea for catching a mooring and discovered, as with all my Great Ideas, that it already existed. I came across this carabiner at Whitworths in an unlabelled package with no instructions.  I asked the guy about it and he confirmed that this could indeed be used for short-handed mooring and you could even catch the mooring from the comfort of your cockpit if you wanted to.

So here is the device:

Boat hook 1 Boat hook 3

The carabiner comes with the little latch shown attached to a standard telescopic boat hook in Picture 1. You simply drill a couple of holes into a boat hook or broomstick or whatever.  Picture 2 shows the carabiner loaded and ready to be deployed (except you’ll need some rope attached as in Picture 3).

Boat hook 2

The carabiner is spring-loaded. This is inserted into the small latch and is held in place by the spring-loading and the shape of the latch. When the carabiner is pulled toward you (in the direction of the boat hook handle) it snaps closed.

I have the carabiner hooked on the outside of the pushpit slightly behind the centre cockpit. The line runs outside the stanchions to the bow, through the pullpit (so that it can be hauled up over the anchor roller) then aft along the inside of the stanchions to the cockpit then forward again for a few stanchions and tied taught when not in use.  I haven’t yet had any problems with this line getting in the way.

The procedure then is:

  1. Untie the fixed end
  2. Unclip the carabiner and attach it to the boat hook on approach. Hold the rope and the pole in the same hand.
  3. Either walk up to the bow (preferred) or stay in the cockpit (if single-handed) and gently catch the mooring bouy handle or mooring rope with the open carabiner
  4. Give the rope a short tug. This will snap the carabiner closed and release it from the boat hook.
  5. Place the boat hook on deck
  6. Pull the line in through the pullpit until you can grab the mooring line which you place over the anchor roller and secure as normal.

These are the advantages or this method, as I see it:

  • It buys you time.
  • It requires less strength.
  • You have more room for error. If you come in a little too fast, then you have a lot of line with which bring the vessel to a stop; you let the line out under friction. You shouldn’t have a situation in which the person with the boat hook is overpowered by the momentum of the vessel.
  • Nor do they need to do that difficult manouvre of drawing the boat hook up, grabbing the mooring rope, dropping the boat hook, then wrestling the relatively short mooring rope over the anchor roller.
  • If you had a strong current, or a person with little strength or who was injured trying to haul the line in, you could first take control by wrapping the line around the cleat / samson post, followed by running the remaining line back to a winch, releasing the line from the cleat and winching the line in.


  • You really need to approach the bouy with a bias for the side that the excess rope runs along and work on that side. Failure to do this could lead to the line becoming caught in your propeller.
  • You really should remember to untie the fixed end even if you don’t normally use enough line to make this necessary; if it went wrong you may bend your stanchion or pull it right out.
  • You may want to make the length of line that runs along the outside of the stanchions shorter as there are circumstances  in which this could foul your prop (eg. if you dropped the carabiner).

Anyway, this set up has made us much more confident that we can grab our mooring in all kinds of conditions and allowed me to go out on my own knowing I have a system in place in which I’m not running between the cockpit and the bow then hanging on for dear life hoping my big heavy boat doesn’t hurt that expensive catamaran on the next mooring.

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4 Responses to Short-handed mooring device

  1. Mark Griffiths says:

    That sounds like a great piece of equipment and a relatively easy way to get on. I suspect it could also make it a bit easier when unlike your situation with few crew, the other one when there are many with everyone getting in each other’s way and shouting “other side” etc. I will pass this on to a couple of friends.

    • weedyseadragon says:

      Hi Mark. Great. There is another easy way which is to use a bouy that has a 1.5 metre vertical extension with a handle at the end so that you just grab the handle without needing a boathook. Of course, that only works on your own mooring.

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