I wish I could share photos …. anyway, this is my single-handed, stern-first marina berthing technique which works for me the Bavaria 32 up in Fleetwood, where it is often windy, there is a lot of tide across my berth and my berth is the most difficult possible – I am blown off and tided off most of the time.
You need one single long braided line which will run smoothly through fairleads, pontoon cleats, winch etc. I use an old mainsheet from a smaller boat. It is of smaller diameter than my B32 sheets, I guess about 10mm.
Tie a bowline on ONE end (or work in a loop if you know how to with braided line – I don’t).
Start rigging by passing all the line over the pushpit and bring the bitter end inboard through the gap in the aft CLEAT (it won’t stay in the fairlead so don’t bother with that). Keep hauling until the bowline is about 2 metres from the cleat. Take the bowline round everything and lay near the cockpit step.
Then take the bitter end along the deck and through the centre cleat from in to out, BUT DO NOT TAKE IT THROUGH THE FAIRLEAD. Bring back aft, outside everything, round the aft quarter and place next to the bowline. Do not tie the bitter end to anything.
Just before landing in the berth, remove the step and unclip the aft lifelines. At the same time check that BOTH ends of the mooring line run outside everything, including the backstay, and are to hand. Make sure also that they are not dragging in the water.
Reverse into the berth not too slow – this is necessary to maintain steerage and takes a bit of practice. It is important to curve onto the berth so that the boat’s angular momentum takes her onto the berth (very important where I am because of the tide).
When a few metres from ramming the stern, click in to neutral and pause … you mustn’t tense up or panic. When close – about two metres – click into forward and stop the boat. You do not need to make the engine scream. Click into neutral.
WITHOUT RUSHING, step (don’t jump) off the stern and place the bowline over the aft pontoon cleat. Calmly walk with the bitter end (so that you have control of the boat) and tie it tight onto a centre pontoon cleat. This must be tight in order to keep the boat lying alongside. If you rush you’ll get the bowline and the bitter end muddled.
Shut down the engine. The boat will lie tidily alongside in all conditions I have faced, as long as you get the line really tight. Then you have to remove the berthing line and fit up your normal dock lines according to your preference – I double up at the front and stern as we have a lot of storms in Fleetwood. You can do this at leisure because you’re already settled alongside.
I’ve tried everything over the years and this works best and feels the most controlled and the most calm.
If you run the line through the centre fairlead then the boat will not lie alongside. I’ve found that the well-known trick of holding a boat to a finger using just a line at the centre really does not work with a B32 if the fairlead is used. It is OK if you take the line directly from the centre cleat to the pontoon.
Of course you do need to have a centre cleat on your pontoon finger …..
I do not advise any of the techniques people write about which involve throwing a line or a loop in a line. When it is windy the chances of a catch are limited and then one just gets flustered. I know some will chuff at me stepping ashore with the yacht not secure but I am just taking advantage of the sugar-scoop and, provided the lines are not tangled, I can guarantee getting one line on within a fraction of a second of stepping onto the pontoon.
You don’t have to measure the amount of line to leave aft of the aft cleat; just pull if you need more. If you have too much, pull on the bitter end when you move up to the centre cleat with the aft secure.
I hope this helps. I almost never have a crew and when I do the crew is rarely experienced so I use this technique anyway. Until I developed this method I spent much of every trip worrying about berthing after my sail, which does rather ruin one’s enjoyment of sailing.