Just one of the great perks of Sunsail Yacht Ownership is that you get to take advantage of all of the spectacular sailing destinations that Sunsail has to offer all over the globe: From the tropical palm tree-lined beaches of the Caribbean, the mesmerizing sights and sounds of exotic Thailand or the culture filled ports and rich history of the Mediterranean. But you are not alone if the word 'Med' fills you with slight trepidation.
Med mooring, Medi-mooring or the reason many weekend sailors avoid the Mediterranean, can be an intimidating factor when considering a Mediterranean yacht charter. Squeezing your boat stern first into a packed marina while having to anchor or catch a slime line at the same time as battling crosswinds as droves of spectators pack the town dock, phones in hand, ready to capture possible YouTube gold, is reason enough to postpone your Mediterranean sailing adventures if you are not that well acquainted with the European standard of docking.
Nowhere does there ensue more chaos than with theoretically simple-sounding med mooring. The basics of executing the perfect med mooring are to line up your approach to your assigned slip stern first, then either drop the anchor or grab a slime line or mooring ball, and back up until you are close enough to pass the stern lines to the dockhand or have a crew member jump off and tie on the windward stern line first followed by the second stern line. Technically, you should be docked perfectly. But let's break this process down step by step.
That's What Fenders Are For
First things first. You will get very, very close to boats on either side of you, especially in a bustling, packed marina in the middle of the Mediterranean summer. Don't panic. That's what fenders are for. Make sure fenders are out on both your port and starboard side.
Secondly, communication is key! Make sure your crew members know exactly what it is that you want them to do. Now, there are two ways of going about doing this. Firstly, you can yell and scream frantic instructions as you approach the dock. Or you can calm down and precisely explain what you want your crew members to do before you even enter the marina. We highly recommend option number two. But if you are going for entertainment value and wish to have your 15 minutes of online fame, then option number one will be wildly amusing for everyone not on your boat.
Instruct crew members properly on their duties and who will pass stern lines, catch a slime line, mooring ball, or drop the anchor. Having a calm and collected crew who know what they are doing will do wonders in helping you feel in control of docking in the Mediterranean. The Sunsail base in Croatia has a great video on how to calmly execute a med mooring if you need some inspiration.
Mooring Ball, Slime Line Or Anchor
This might be the most confusing part of executing a med mooring: Are you dropping anchor to keep your bow in place, or do you need to pick up a mooring ball or the aptly named slime line? Mediterranean marinas will mostly either have a slime line or have you drop anchor.
This you can make sure of by contacting the marina on vhf before heading in to dock, and in the very likely case that no one answers in the busy med season, you would have to do a quick look at the boats around you as you come in to see whether they have their anchors out or a line tied to the bow.
A slime line resembles a mooring ball anchored to the seabed's bottom. When med mooring, the end of the slime line will be attached to the dock, from where a dockhand will pass the line to your boat, and you would have to walk it to the bow and cleat it off tightly. Sometimes, there is one slime line, and sometimes, two must be attached to both the bow port and starboard cleats. Always put on the windward line first to keep the boat stable and avoid getting blown off.
Remember that all the boats in the marina will have slime lines in front of them, so do not prop-wrap them!
Don't Get It Twisted
On the other hand, it can be more tricky if you have to anchor, especially in crowded Mediterranean marinas with numerous anchors strewn about.
To ensure your anchor does not end up like spaghetti twisted on a fork, ensure your approach is perfect and straight ahead in front of your assigned berthing spot. But most importantly, you must commit! It's once you start panicking and questioning yourself and flinging the boat backward and forward that you will begin to lose control over it.
Once you have completely lined up your boat to your assigned slip, start dropping the anchor about three boat lengths before the dock. This is the general rule of thumb but could vary with different depths in marinas and weather conditions. Once you have dropped enough chain, back down until you feel the anchor bite (without hitting the dock!) Once the anchor has set, pass over both of your stern lines to the dock. Depending on the setup, you might have a crinkle – a large metal loop attached to the dock that the line will pass through, and you will tie the line off back on the boat - or a traditional cleat.
Once the stern lines and bow slime line or anchor have been secured, you can begin to adjust your boat to get it the correct distance from the dock by dropping more chain or loosening or tightening your stern lines until your passerelle is able to reach the dock.
How To Avoid Getting Anchors Crossed
Naturally, this question immediately springs to mind once you think about the logistics of anchoring in a crowded marina with numerous anchors strewn around in all directions in front of you. Add in the general lack of visibility in marinas from all the movement kicking up the seabed, and it does not make it easy to spot anchors. So, how do you avoid getting anchors crossed in a busy marina?
Anchor as parallel as possible to your neighbors while also being mindful of other boats anchored directly across you. Depending on weather conditions, the rule of thumb is to stop dropping your anchor about a boat length from the dock to get close to the dock or wall. If you find yourself in a situation where you run out of chain, and your boat will not get close enough to the dock, you will have to pull up the anchor and start over again. This is nothing to be ashamed of and happens to the best of us. Make sure your stern dock lines are long enough to reach the crinkles.
But should you, obviously by no fault of your own, find yourself in a situation where another boat has twisted your anchor like spaghetti on a fork, here are some tips on freeing a tangled anchor.
Step-By-Step Successful Med Mooring
1. Know What You Are Getting Yourself Into
When sailing in unfamiliar waters, make sure to review your cruising guides, online sailing forums, advice from fellow sailors and marina websites to get a good idea of the layout of the marinas you will be visiting. Before heading in to dock, also contact the marina via VHF to confirm what kind of berth they will be putting you in.
Will you be going side-to on a finger pontoon or stern-to-med mooring? If you are med mooring, verify if you need to drop anchor, grab slime lines, or catch a mooring ball. It is also helpful to ask the marina about any other obstacles or conditions that you need to be aware of, like extremely shallow spots or strong tides. This way, you will know precisely what you are getting yourself into, and you will be able to mentally prepare to execute the perfect med mooring maneuver.
2. Prepare the Boat and Crew
Communicate calmly and clearly what you want each crew member to do. Depending on how many crew you have, you will need someone dropping the anchor, grabbing and securing the slime line or mooring ball and handling the two stern lines.
Prepare the boat by having your fenders evenly spread out around the widest parts of your boat on both sides before entering the marina, ensuring you have long enough stern lines and that your anchor is open and free from obstructions.
Remember, the aim of a smooth docking procedure is to get your crew to secure the windward lines that will keep you in place first before putting on secondary lines.
3. Do a Drive By
Before you consider backing into your assigned med mooring slip, do a quick drive-by to scope out the situation. Ensure that your lines and fenders are all in the right place; if not, you can quickly make adjustments.
Take note of any hazards, like slime lines heading from the bow of other boats into the water or where other anchors are and plan your approach accordingly.
4. Choose Your Approach
Give yourself as much space as possible to get a clear run. The key is to go fast enough to clear the prop-walk and gain control over your steerage, yet still going slow enough to stop quickly if needed.
There is no shame in bailing on an attempt to dock when you realize something is going wrong. Rather, slowly and calmly abort your attempt, realign, and start over. There is no shame in taking a few attempts to make sure you do it right.
5. All Hands on Deck
As you start to back into your slip, your crew should all be at their designated duties, ready to catch and secure lines. It is also handy to know how long your passerelle is so that you know how far or close to the dock your stern needs to be.
6. Adjust and Secure
At this point, all your lines should be secured, and if you find yourself too close or far from the dock, you can adjust your lines until you find your sweet spot and your passerelle can reach the dock.
And finally, you are ready for a cold drink! If you need more of a confidence boost, you will find a plethora of resources at your disposal online that will inspire you to book your next owners' week at any of our Mediterranean Sunsail bases.