How to motor onto a mooring buoy

If there is not enough wind to sail onto the mooring, or there is just too much traffic to make it feasible, then the approach will need to be made under power. First, observe the direction other yachts on the moorings are pointing,  this will determine your approach direction, this will then be one of two directions, into the wind or the tide, however generally tide is stronger than the wind if you are in tidal waters.

A quick fly by under motor is also worth doing to determine the features on the buoy, i.e. does it have a pick up line with a float?  Does it just have a large shackle on the top?  This will determine the method to be used to fasten the yacht to the buoy, we don’t recommend using a lasso.

The key to success when picking up a mooring buoy under power is fully understanding the conditions, approaching at a decreasing speed, making sure mooring lines are prepared well in advance and also making sure the crew are fully away of what you intend to do. They need to know what their respective rolls are and consider an exit strategy if it starts to go wrong.  It is always better to bail out of a manoeuvre when it starts to go wrong, rather than trying to force it!  If the buoy is run over, there is risk of damage to the hull, the keel, the rudder or the propeller.

Follow these steps:

  • Once you have determined what is stronger, tide or wind, drive the yacht directly at the mooring, keeping the buoy on the side of the yacht the line is set up (making sure the anchor is out of the way) .
  • Your approach speed will be determined by the strength of the wind or tide. 
  • As you approach slow the boat right down,  aiming to be stationary alongside the buoy.
  • As soon as the bow person has picked up the mooring with the boat hook put the yachts engine into neutral, to avoid getting any trailing lines caught in the propeller.


When the buoy has been collected it’s advisable to use a bridal from the cleats on the bow of the yacht. This allows you to quickly release the line and let the mooring go in a hurry if needed.  If, however, you need to tie a knot onto a mooring buoy,  make sure you use a round turn and two half hitches, as this knot can be untied when under pressure.  It is recommended to use two lines on either side of the bow to tie to the mooring.  This will reduce some swinging, will give a back up if one line slips undone or breaks and will also make departing easier as you can choose which side to let off first.

Related article: