Departing and arriving at marinas

It is common for every Skipper to experience some concerns when departing or arriving at a marina whether it is your vessel’s regular berth, or you are entering an unfamiliar marina.

You can encounter another vessel departing, arriving, backing off a slipway, or cutting across your path. Wind and current may effect your vessel, causing you to lose steering control or your engine may stall. These occurrences are real possibilities. So, it’s best to be prepared, have a departure/arrival plan and refresh your knowledge and understanding of the give-way and steering rules. (also known as the International Collision Regulations COLREGs) These rules are paramount to safety on the water.

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Outbound vessels from a port or marina have right-of-way over inbound vessels.

Departing a marina

  • Deliver the crew departure brief ensuring they know which lines to slip first and last.
  • Test engine controls and astern propulsion prior to slipping the lines.
  • It is good practice to announce your departure details on VHF Ch 16 or your local port operations Channel. (Ch12 or Ch13)
  • Ensure you have a clear departure area from the berth.
  • Once clear of the berth sound one long blast to indicate you are underway and need room to manoeuvre.
  • If you encounter another vessel backing off a berth or slipway you are required to stop and stand-by.
  • Look out for other vessels moving within the marina.
  • Your vessel has the right-of-way over another vessel arriving, as you are operating in a close quarter situation with limited sea room.
  • Adhere to designated speed limits within the marina whilst maintaining steerage.
  • Don’t forget-marina areas are 6 knot- no wash zones.
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Larger vessels traveling in or out of a marina need greater turning circles, so give them plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Arriving at a marina

  • Do some research in advance. Study local charts or google maps that show an aerial view of the marina.
  • Call ahead to the marina by mobile or marine radio. Marina personnel will appreciate advance warning of your arrival. They will allocate your berth, provide you with updates on marina traffic, wind and current conditions, give berthing recommendations or provide you with assistance if needed. They may also request the following information: Your current location in relation to the marina. Your estimated time of arrival. Type of vessel. (sail or power) Beam, length (including tender) and draft.
  • Deliver the crew berthing brief. The conditions at the time and the gangway access location will determine which side (port or starboard) to berth.
  • Prepare lines and fenders.
  • Test engine controls and astern propulsion prior to entering the marina.
  • Ensure decks are clear and passengers are seated.
  • Just before entering the marina, check wind direction and speed. Use visual indicators such as flags and observe other vessels swing direction at anchor or on moorings.
  • Give way to any marina outbound vessels.
  • Adhere to designated speed limits whilst maintaining steerage.
  • Don’t forget – marina areas are 6 knot- no wash zones.
  • Listen carefully to any instructions issued by marina personnel.
  • If you encounter another vessel backing off a berth or slipway you are required to stop and stand-by.

The motivation to write this article stems from questions asked by our students and other people simply seeking advice. Tell us about your marina arrival and departure experiences. Good and bad we’d like to hear them. Your personal experiences will help us to develop better training programs.


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