Handling and Operations

To understand a variety of operations, you will need to know some basic terms and concepts.


Trim is the balance of the boat in a fore and aft direction. Trim affects the vessel’s handling and sea-keeping characteristics. Factors that influence trim include distribution of the vessel load, angle of the motor leg and the speed of the vessel. There are several ways that a skipper can adjust the vessel trim to optimise the performance.


Freeboard is the distance from the boat’s gunwale (deck level) to the water level. Freeboard will depend on how much load you put in your boat. Too much load will place your boat lower in the water therefore giving a greater potential for the vessel to be swamped. Sufficient freeboard is essential.


Stability is a measure of how easily your vessel heels and how quickly it returns upright again. Decreased stability makes the boat both heel to increased angles and become more reluctant to return upright from each roll. To avoid a loss of stability, stow gear securely and low in the boat and also bail out any water lying in the bilge (bottom of the boat).

Berthing alongside a wharf or jetty

  • In advance, place fenders on the side of the vessel that will lie against the berth
  • Preferably approach into the wind and/or current because it is easier to apply ahead power than astern power to oppose wind and tide effects
  • Make a slow approach to the berth – it is better to be cautious
  • Secure the vessel at the bow and stern prior to stopping the engine Remember to set the length of mooring lines to suit the range of tide if you are leaving the boat for several hours. Spring lines should also be used
  • Keep in mind that there are certain places where you cannot leave a boat unattended. These areas are highlighted with yellow paint

Leaving a berth

  • Do not release mooring lines until the engine has been started and warmed up
  • Beware of other vessels when moving away from the wharf. Watch the stern as well as the bow of your vessel
  • Be aware of the effects of wind and tide

Picking up a mooring

  • Have a boat hook ready to reach the rope attached to the buoy
  • Approach the buoy into the wind so the vessel is not blown over the mooring. Ensure that the engine is in neutral near the mooring line to ensure the propeller is not fouled
  • Don’t turn off motor until mooring is secured


  • Anchoring is not only a normal part of boating, it is also an important safety measure in an emergency. Anchoring may keep the vessel safely positioned head on to the conditions and it will also stop you from drifting out to sea or on to the shore
  • To anchor correctly, the vessel needs an anchor suited to the seabed, a length of chain and a sufficient length of anchor rope. Boaters should always endeavour to anchor under the lee of the land
  • The length of anchor rope paid out depends on the water depth and the sea conditions. As a rule of thumb, the length of rope paid out needs to be three times the water depth, however more rope may be needed with rough seas or windy conditions
  • Always lower the anchor rather than hurl the anchor and chain overboard together since it is likely the chain will entangle the anchor flukes, causing the anchor to drag. Don’t turn your engine off until you are sure the anchor is secure. Always take a transit to check you are not dragging
  • Regularly check that the anchor is not dragging by inspecting the anchor rope tension and monitoring your position
  • Vessels must not anchor in any channel so as to impede or potentially impede the navigation of any other craft
  • Never anchor from the stern – you risk swamping the vessel