Marinetalk is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Moor a Boat? (A Comprehensive Guide)

Fact checked by William Hart

how to moore a boat

Mooring a boat is challenging for new owners. Unlike parking a car, it requires the driver to maneuver while considering the winds, waves, and even the wakes of other vessels.

In this article, we will explain how to moor a boat safely in a marina and how to tie your boat to a buoy in the open water. During rush hours, things can go sideways easily, so learn the complete guide below before you go on your next boat trip.

Table of Contents

Guide to Moor a Boat in a Marina


What you need

Step 1. Prepare your boat before mooring

When the mooring condition is challenging, you can rely on fenders to protect your vessel. So, if you haven’t already, pull out your fenders and secure them to the sides of the boat.

Check the charts and rules for mooring a boat in the marina beforehand. You should learn your mooring location and whether there is a designated shipping area.

If the marina requires side-on mooring, is it starboard-to-dock or portside-to-dock? What are the rush hours to avoid? Learning the information in advance will keep you from trouble.

You should have at least one crew member helping you out. He/she must be at the bow or stern and prepare to secure the vessel when you drive close to the dock.

Step 2. Approach the dock

Depending on the marina’s boat mooring systems, you might have to drive your vessel stern-to-dock, bow-to-dock, or side-on.

  • Stern-to-dock mooring

Most marinas will ask you to moor your boat stern-to-dock. This method takes more time, but it helps you board more quickly in crowded marinas. Also, you can step on and off the boat easily.

To approach the dock from your stern, follow these steps:

  • Head to the dock at a slow speed. On windy days, go a little faster to counteract the wind.
  • When the bow is level with the dock, rotate the wheel so that its stern is perpendicular to the quay.
  • Put the motor in reverse and proceed towards the quay.

Note: Most sterns are heavier than the bows. So, the boat automatically drifts to the quay when it is in reverse. Be careful not to go too fast, especially on days when the wind blows towards the quay.

  • Bow-to-dock mooring

If you are a beginner, opt for a marina that offers a bow-to-dock mooring setup. It gives you better control of the vessel.

When you are near the dock, steer your vessel so that its bow is perpendicular to the quay. Then, slowly slide the vessel into the designated area.

  • Side-on mooring

To moor side-on, you need to approach the dock on your vessel’s side. On windy days, you must put your boat in reverse and approach the dock from the stern, or you can use the lasso technique.

  • Have a crew member stand on the bow
  • Throw the bow dock line to “lasso” the on-land cleat
  • Quickly pull the line in and secure it to the bow cleat of your boat

Now that the member has tied the bow to the dock, the driver should slowly go backward until the bow line is tensioned.

After that, steer the stern to the left. The line will keep the bow in place while the stern approaches the dock. Doing so will pull your boat alongside the quay.

Step 3. Tie your boat to the dock cleats

After approaching the dock, spread your dock lines. Most boaters use one bow line and one stern line to secure a vessel to a dock.

A bow line connects the boat’s bow to the cleat in front of it, and a stern line attaches the boat’s stern to the cleat behind it.

To tie the lines, you can do a cleat hitch or clove hitch knot. Remember to leave enough slack in the lines if you dock in tidal waters.

How to Use a Mooring Buoy


When you moor a boat in a lake, you might have to use a mooring buoy.

What you need to tie your boat to a buoy

Step 1. Tie a line to your bow’s cleat


On your boat, tie a mooring line to the cleat on the bow.

Step 2. Approach the buoy


When you have picked a mooring buoy, slowly maneuver your boat to approach it from the bow. You should go downwind for better control of the boat. When you’re close enough, put the motor in neutral.

Step 3. Tie your boat to the buoy


Use your marine hook to pick up the buoy’s line. You will see a loop at the end of the line. Pass the bow line through the loop and quickly tie it to another cleat on your boat.

You can use the same procedure to tie your boat to a mooring anchor. This video demonstrates all the steps for you:


Maneuvering a boat in wind and tide is challenging, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t steer your boat into its docking spot perfectly. Now you’ve learned about how to moor a boat; with practice, you will soon master the skill.

Don’t forget to share this article with your crew members. Everyone should know and agree on one procedure to moor the boat safely. If you have any further questions, leave us a comment. See you then!

5/5 - (2 votes)