Mooring and casting off.

River Murray Boat Owners Association


Select Your Site

Follow the advice of any signage in the area. When selecting a mooring site, the most preferable site is a wharf or other bank construction designed for mooring vessels.

Where this is not possible, select a site which is not in an environmentally sensitive area and does not have overhanging trees. In most cases, it is better to use a site that have been previously disturbed than one that have not previously been disturbed. Avoid water take-offs and other non-mooring structures in river. Where you have to moor to a tree, trees with rough bark are usually less susceptible to friction damage from mooring ropes.

Go Slow

When you are coming to a site in which you are unfamiliar, it is best to travel at the slowest practical speed. While it may seem that you normally travel slowly, you should remember that the vessel has a great deal of inertia that is proportional to the mass of the vessel and to the square of its speed. Even at a seemingly slow speed, the vessel can have enough inertia to firmly wedge you onto a shallow bank, or crunch into an underwater snag.

Mooring & Departing in High River Flows

When the river flow is high, it often not possible to come straight into moor as your vessel will drift downstream quite significantly during mooring. In these cases, it is better to go down stream of the intended mooring spot and work upstream to the mooring location, coming in at an angle. It is easier to control your vessel travelling into the current than with the current behind you. Coming upstream, it is easier to ease off the power and turn away, letting the current push you away from the problem, rather than sweeping you into it.

When leaving your mooring, you may find that your vessel does not have enough power in reverse to allow you to turn your stern against the current. If you continue to attempt to do this, you will be swept downstream broadside with little control.

It is better to power straight back and let the current swing your stern downstream, even if you end up pointing upstream when you want to go downstream. It will be easier and safer to do a U-turn going foprward to go back down the river.

Changes in River Height

Changes in river level that can end up being significant can be quite small.

These sort of changes can occur because of changes at the weir, or because the water is being driven by the wind.

For this reason, it is best not to moor houseboats where the depth is shallow and shelving (has only a little slope). In these cases, a small drop in river level can put a significant length of your vessel's hull aground. The more of the hull that is aground, the harder it is to get it off.

Tensioning off Ropes

When tensioning ropes when mooring, do not drag the rope around the bark of the tree as it can damage the bark and ultimately kill the tree by ring barking it.

Where possible, pull the rope to the correct tension and then put it around the tree so that it does not rub around the trunk.

If you need to haul in the boat with the mooring rope, use the Truckie's Hitch. The rope will not need to be pulled around the tree reducing bark damage and you get a 3-1 mechanical advantage, making it easier to tighten the rope. Be sure to tie off your mooring lines when tensioned as the truckie's hitch can come undone if the tension is removed due to a wind change.

Dropping Tree Branches

Given the frequency with which gum trees can drop large limbs, it is advisable not to moor under trees with branches that could cause your vessel damage if they fell.

Potential Slumping Areas

In the lower reaches of the river below Lock 1, the lower river levels over the past few years have made the river banks susceptible to "slumping" - this is a collapse of the river bank up to 20 metres from the edge of the river. This link provides more information about detecting river slumping and the precautions needed.

Shallow and Shelving Areas

When you have to moor in areas that are shallow and shelving, do not have your lines any tighter than necessary to hold your craft in place. If you have your lines tighter than required, it may cause your vessel to be pulled closer to the bank, making it harder to get off. Also, if the level of the river falls, the vessel will not be able to move back, keeping it afloat.

Rocky Banks

If you have to moor where there are rocks near the bank and your vessel just touches the rocks under the water every now and again, you can often gain some extra distance from the bank using your buffers, in the case of the image below, old car tyres.

By placing multiple buffers in front of your vessel, you can move the vessel away from the bank while still keeping it firmly against the bank with the mooring lines. Of course you will need to tie your buffers in place, otherwise they may shift with movement of the vessel. If you need to place more than a couple of tyres in place, it is worthwhile roping them together so that they stay as a unit.

Multiple buffers

In the example shown in the photo, without the buffers, the wooden barge board of the vessel would be touching well up the bank and the leading edge of the pontoons grinding on the exposed rocks on the river bank. As you can see, the three wedged tyres makes the houseboat stand quite a distance from the bank. When you depart, don't forget to return your buffers to their usual positions.

Another way to keep your vessel standing off from the bank is to use standoff poles. These connect to the front of the houseboat and allow the mooring lines to be kept taut, without pulling the houseboat into the rocks. Two basic styles have been seen. The first uses poles that are fastened to the houseboat and then to star pickets on the bank. The second is a T-shaped bar that can be pushed against the bank and attached to the houseboat using a tow ball at the front of the vessel.

Casting Off

Always check the back of your vessel before starting the engines or moving backwards. This is especially important when the vessel is moored in the more populated areas as there may be children playing in the area.

When departing, look at the direction of the wind and which lines are more taut than the others. These taut lines are the dominant ones that are holding the vessel in place. These lines should be the last ones removed to ensure that vessel is kept in place as long as possible.

This will make it easier for the skipper to hold the vessel until the crew doing the ropes are back onboard. When the taut lines are to be undone, the skipper should move the boat to loosen the lines to make them easier to undo.

When You Are Aground

The level of the river can change as a result of changes in water flow, changes to the levels at the weirs or the actions of the wind creating "tidal" effects. Often you can get your vessel off the bank by "waggling the stern". This means putting the vessel in reverse and alternately putting it on opposite locks. By allowing the rear of the vessel to move to and fro, the vessel will often work itself off the bank.

Vessels that have more thrust in forward than reverse may find that using forward thrust and turning the vessel in the direction of the wedged pontoon may free it. Care needs to be taken that the other pontoon does not become wedged as well, but this method can be successful.

If this does not work, you may be able to lift the front of the vessel by shifting everything heavy and moveable to the very rear of the vessel, including all passengers. This will tend to lower the rear of the vessel and raise the bow. This is will often be enough to allow the vessel to break free.
In extreme cases, you can put the rubbish bins and/or dinghy on the rear deck and fill them with water.

Obviously if you are taking this sort of action, you need to be careful to ensure that you do not adversely affect the stability of your vessel, that anything that you fill up with water will not be damaged, that your deck can handle the additional weight and that it does not cause the propeller to hit the bottom. Any consequences are yours, but it may help get you out of a tight spot.

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