It’s Spring Time! Time to dust off your skills and remember this very useful manoeuvre.

Many of you may think that springing off and onto a mooring is simple but having just completed my RYA instructor course it was interesting to see how even experienced sailors struggled with the planning, concept and execution of this manoeuvre.

Why do we need to know how to spring?

Humans will generally choose the simplest option and most of us can often get away with just untying the dock lines and pushing off to leave a dock or have crew jump onto a dock and pull the boat in when arriving. However, on larger boats or when faced with challenging environmental conditions such as a strong on-dock breeze or when moored in a tight space, springing is the safest and most efficient method to leave a dock. Springing on is perfect for short-handed sailors. Below I will refresh your memory on the two ways to spring off a dock and a suggestion of how to dock in a strong off-dock breeze.

What type of spring should I use and what do I need to set up?

  1. The tide: Look at the tide, it is king, and generally has more effect than wind. If there is no tide, look to see how you can use the wind to help you. Planning is crucial. Perform the setup and manoeuvre in your mind before doing anything.

  2. Spring type: A bow spring can be completed with essentially just one dock line. It is preferable as it gives more control.

  3. Dock lines: Choose long dock lines so they can be slipped (taken from the yacht, placed around the dock cleat and fed back to the yacht so they can be released onboard). However, care must be taken with slipped lines as they are prone to fouling.

  4. Fenders: Apart from midship fenders the bow or stern will need a good size fender – use a ball fender if possible for the pivot point.

Springing the stern off the dock using the Bow Spring (from the bow of the yacht to the dock):

  1. The bow will be the pivot point and the aim is to swing the stern out off the dock. This is useful with a tide coming from the aft of the yacht, with an on-dock wind or an obstruction fore or aft. 

  2. Set a slipped spring line from the bow around a midships dock cleat. Make sure your lines are cleated properly in the RYA fashion O-X-O-O so they can be removed under tension but won’t slip. Try to use two separate cleats on the bow for ease of removal.

  3. Place a suitable fender at the pivot point on the bow or have a crew member with a roving fender in position.

  4. When set up, put the engine throttle into forward idle and set the helm to turn away from the dock. The prop wash over the rudder will hold the stern against the dock.

  5. Take a look at the remaining dock lines; they should all be limp/not under tension and can be removed.

  6. When ready gently turn the helm towards the dock and the stern will drive away. You will notice the control you have and should be able to swing the stern towards or away from the dock using the helm. Remember this for springing onto a dock which I’ll explain later.

  7. When your departure angle is acceptable, set the throttle to neutral and ask your crew (or yourself) to remove one end of the spring line and pull it onto the yacht.

  8. When the line is on the yacht continue astern until you are clear of the dock using a good burst of throttle to provide some way and manoeuvre as required.

Springing the bow off the dock using the Stern Spring (from the stern of the yacht to the dock): 

The stern will be the pivot point and the bow will swing off the dock. This method is used with a tide coming towards you or an on-dock breeze and is also useful if there is an obstruction fore or aft. This method requires two primary lines – a slipped aft spring and bowline.

  1. Set a slipped aft spring from an extreme corner of the stern to a midships dock cleat. Again make sure it’s secured on the yacht in a proper O-X-O-O with the other end on a separate cleat if possible.
  2. Set a slipped bowline.

  3. Place a suitable fixed or roving fender at the aft pivot point of the yacht.

  4. When the setup is ready, put the engine throttle into reverse neutral with the helm set to neutral. Only the aft spring and bowline should be under tension. Remove the other lines. Note: The propeller wash isn’t going over the rudder so the helm will have no effect. Communicate with the crew to release the bowline and the bow will start to move away from the dock.

  5. When you have the required angle to leave the dock, set the throttle to neutral and ask your crew to remove the aft spring. Like all the dock lines this should be done gently making sure they don’t foul. When the line is out of the water the throttle can be set to forward and you can manoeuvre away from the dock. 

How do you come alongside a dock with a howling off-dock wind?

Use the bow spring method above in reverse…

  1. Set a long bow spring with a length at least half the length of the vessel and have a crew member ready at the bow with the warp in hand. If short-handed you can rig it up as a loop to lasso a cleat. Also, set up your normal dock lines coiled and at the ready on the deck. Position normal dock fenders.

  2. Gently motor up to the dock into the wind with the crew member calling distance from the dock. Either pass the bow warp to a willing helper on the dock or have your crew member step onto the dock or lasso a cleat.

  3. Secure the other end of the bow spring onto a dock cleat. Remember the length is important for the spring to work so ask them to just tie the end of the warp to the dock cleat – don’t shorten it.

  4. When ready, slowly motor ahead gently and parallel to the dock. As the tension is taken up the spring line will pull the boat towards the dock. Use the helm to keep the yacht parallel to the dock ending up with the vessel alongside stationary, with forward throttle and the helm positioned away from the dock thereby holding the stern into the dock.

  5. Get the crew to secure the stern line first and other dock lines.

  6. After the yacht is secure, set the throttle to neutral.

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