Anchoring, Mooring & Docking

anchoring, mooring and docking

Learning the (Getting) Ins and Outs of Boating

Let’s look at the differences between anchoring, mooring, and docking. While they all refer to ways of securing your boat in place when necessary, these 3 nautical terms all mean something slightly different.

An essential part of learning how to navigate a new vessel is learning all the options you have for stopping your boat whenever the need arises, such as when you’re:

  • Preparing for an overnight at sea
  • Waiting for a storm to pass
  • Stopping to cast a line
  • Taking a swimming break
  • Retiring the boat for the season
  • Getting fueled up

To secure your yacht in place for any length of time, your choices include anchoring, mooring, or docking the boat. All these terms refer to securing your boat in position on the water – for hours, days, or months at a time.

Anchoring Your Boat

Anchoring your boat refers to dropping a large heavy object that is attached to your boat into the water, where it latches itself to the seabed with hooks and suction to keep the boat in place. You can anchor your boat anywhere if you have an anchor cable (known as an anchor rode) that’s long enough. To figure out how long your anchor rode should be, multiply the deepest water you might anchor in by eight.

Many modern motor yachts come with built-in anchoring systems. For example, like on most Riviera luxury yachts, the anchoring station on board the Riviera 57 Enclosed Flybridge is located at the bow, concealed from view, and comes with a remote control, fresh and saltwater washdown outlets, and a rope locker.

Having your yacht come with an anchoring station takes the guesswork out of which size and weight of anchor is best for your vessel, but there is a greater science behind anchoring that you’ll want to be aware of if you’re a new boat owner, especially if you’ll be anchoring in varying types of sea beds.

For additional anchoring security, many boaters carry two anchors of different styles – a fluke/Danforth style and a plow/scoop variety. The type of seabed you’re navigating, such as mud, grass, sand, coral, or rock, will determine which anchor is most suitable to use. Research your anchoring options before sailing too far from shore and make sure you’re confident with how the process works.

Mooring Your Boat

Mooring refers to lassoing, tethering, tying, or otherwise securing your boat to a fixed object, such as a mooring buoy, rather than dropping an anchor to secure your vessel anywhere you fancy. You can moor your boat to a mooring buoy, dock, quay, wharf, jetty, or pier.

If mooring at a dock or pier with many other boats, such as at Van Isle Marina, there is a chance your boat will be occupying a dock or dock space that is the width of your boat, rather than the length. However, you will always have your own strip of docking walkway for easy loading and unloading.

Mooring your boat (sometimes called berthing) is done a few different ways and might take some trial and error until you perfect this skill. Mooring in a tight space amongst many other boaters proves to be intimidating for many new boaters.

To moor a boat at a mooring buoy out in open water, you’ll need something to grab hold of the buoy with, such as a boat hook or a line. You can either lasso the buoy with your line and pull your boat towards it to further secure it or use a boat hook to reach out and grab the buoy.

At these types of mooring locations, there will most likely be the mooring anchor, mooring chain, and mooring buoy – all you need to supply is the line or the hook to help your boat attach to the mooring area.

  • mooring anchor – this is a regular anchor in a fixed position that keeps your boat steady while it is being moored. Use one that is three times the weight of your service anchor.
  • mooring chain – this line connects the anchor to the floating buoy. We recommend three times the length of depth, and a quarter-inch larger than your service chain.
  • mooring buoy – a floating device that connects to the anchor and marks the place where the boat is moored.

If you find a vacant mooring anchor and buoy, simply pull up as close to it as possible and attach your line and mooring buoy accordingly – using your lasso technique or the boat hook. If the buoy is not public property, be prepared to vacate at short notice if the owner turns up. To tell if the buoy is strong enough to moor your yacht, consider the size of boats on similar buoys nearby and use your best judgment.

If you have enough hands on-deck, backing the boat up will likely get you close enough to the mooring point via the stern rather than the bow, making things a little simpler, depending on the shape of your boat.

Van Isle Marina offers moorage for boats of all sizes at competitive rates per square foot.

A Word on Rafting Up: Sometimes you might come across boats that are tied together on the water. This is known as “rafting up” and is essentially a boat moored to another boat. It can come in handy when every other moorage station is full, in emergencies, or if you’re just looking to socialize with another boat on the water. If you’re looking to raft up with another boat, whether it’s moored already or you’re both out on the open sea, the proper etiquette is to ask first, and have your fenders in place and an anchor ready to drop.

Docking Your Boat

Docking your boat refers to pulling your vessel up to a dock as parallel as you can, and then using ropes (dock lines) and nautical knots to secure (fasten) the boat to the dock.

In addition to the docking line, to dock your boat safely, you’ll require four or more fenders – large plastic or rubber devices that act as a buffer between the boat and the dock or pier and other boats, protecting both from damage. Using a couple large fenders close together at the front of your boat when coming into dock can act as a bumper, further protecting your yacht during this procedure.

When you’re docking a boat, the boat will be close enough for guests to easily disembark the vessel onto the dock (land). Docking usually means the length of your boat (bow and stern) will be secured to the dock, giving you a maximum amount of space for loading and unloading of supplies, as well as maintenance and cleanup of your vessel.

Docking is made easier when there is someone already on the dock to help you, and when the winds and the tide are cooperating. However, just like parallel parking a car, docking a boat gets easier and easier each time you do it. At Van Isle Marina, one of our experienced boaters can show you how it’s done.

Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC is your go-to boat marina in the Pacific Northwest. We love to help fellow boaters just like us learn more about all the ins and outs of boating, including anchoring, mooring, and docking. If you’re interested in buying or selling a boat or moorage at our marina, give us a call or stop by to find out why so many people love to moor with us.


What people have to say about mooring with Van Isle Marina:

Impeccable facilities, moorage for 100’+ yachts down to small fishing boats, always helpful and alert staff, 24 hour video security, full service boatyard, large dry stowage yard, two sided fuel dock, Canada Customs dock, pumpout dock, laundry, showers and the best restaurant in town all located just 15 minutes from Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and on the door step to one of the best cruising grounds on Earth.  ~ EZBob Vincent


Great spot for moorage. Friendly staff, excellent facilities with updated docks.  ~ Scott Hutchinson