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.

Manure Aboard – S.H.I.T

Saling Ship - Atlas
A portrait of the East Indiaman ‘Atlas’, shown off South Foreland, near Dover, in broadside view. By William John Huggins – Royal Museums Greenwich, Public Domain,

During the 16th and 17th centuries, all trading goods  were transported by ship.This was before the invention of commercial fertilizers, so large shipments of manure were quite common.

Manure was shipped in dry form as it weighed a lot less than when wet. Once water (at sea) hit it, not only did it become heavier, but the process of fermentation began. It’s  by-product was methane gas. As it was stored below decks in bundles,  you can imagine what could and did happen.  Methane began to build-up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern – BOOOOM!

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined what was happening.   The bundles of manure were then always stamped with the instruction “Stow High In Transit”. This meant for sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this “volatile” cargo and start the production of methane.

Thus evolved the term ‘ S.H.I.T ‘ , (Stow High In Transit) which has come down through the centuries and remains in use today as a well-recognised slang word. These sailors definitely would have been in “deep shit” (meaning in trouble) if someone had taken a lantern below!

Thanks to Captain Gavin for providing us with this little gem of maritime history.

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Safe boating guidelines

Planning to go boating for the summer holidays?  Before obtaining a boat licence, buying a boat and perfecting your destination, take some time to review these safe boating guidelines:

  • Book on a one day boat licence course delivered by an approved training provider using qualified maritime trainers. This will give you the best chance of gaining essential knowledge, rules and skills you need to keep your vessel, yourself, family and friends safe.
  • Ensure you have the required in-date, safety equipment aboard your vessel. Know how to use it and where it is stowed.
  • Check current weather conditions and be prepared for the elements – Wear appropriate clothing. (Don’t forget sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and provisions) Summer thunderstorms and severe wind gusts are common during the summer months.
  • Boating at night is challenging – your vision is restricted and it’s more difficult to see whats happening around you. Ensure you have the correct navigation lighting and safety equipment on board if boating at night. Keep a good lookout and travel at a safe speed appropriate for the conditions.
  • Day or night pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware of other vessels around you and comply with speed limits, safe distances, and local state rules. The waterways are busier during summer – reduce your speed and give yourself more time, planning the day accordingly.
  • Five short, rapid blasts on your vessel’s horn means “danger – what are your intentions, stay clear.”
  • Monitor VHF (Very High Frequency) 16 on your marine radio.
  • Be prepared to move out of the way of larger vessels. They may not be able to see you, or, if operating in a narrow channel may be restricted by their ability to manoeuvre. Even if you have the right-of-way, you must yield to them.
  • Consult  your area charts – Look for chartered depths, hazards and restricted areas for your boating destination.
  • Obtain up-to-date tide, wind and current information before heading out.
  • Never get between a vessel and its tow – Tow cables/lines are often submerged and not visible.
  • Listen out for float planes taking off and landing. There is a designated safety zone around moving aircraft. A Foward Safety Zone of 60 metres in front of a moving aircraft and a 30 metre Aft Safety Zone behind a moving aircraft.
  • Boat respectfully – Keep wake and wash to a minimum to avoid damage to sensitive habitat, property or other vessels.
  • Even though there is a valuable place at the helm of your vessel for much of the technology available, remember eyes and ears are still the most valuable tools you have. Safe boating practice means balancing the technology you have at your helm, with full awareness of the environment around you.
  • Engage your crew and passengers by getting them to assist as lookouts. Maintaining a good lookout is a collective activity for all on board.
  • Report incidents – If you are involved in a boating incident or, see anyone violating safe boating practices, contact your local State Maritime Authority or in an emergency, press VHF: Channel 16 on your marine radio or, phone 000.
  • Be wary of the effects of drugs and alcohol when consumed on the water. Wind, water, sun and fresh air environment combine to intensify the effects which can affect balance, slow reaction abilities and impair judgement. Driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence.

More Information

See Boating Rules and Safe Boating guidelines published on the National Maritime College website.
Go to the NSW Roads and Maritime website to view their “Safety on the Water” section.