Lazy Line Mooring – A Masterclass

Do the methods we use to moor a boat change much over time? If you went back in time 2000 years, I’m sure you’d see boats tied up to lazy lines all over the Southern Mediterranean! Modern quay lazy lines tend to use large concrete blocks, or massive chains laid out parallel to the quay, in front of the berths. The lazy line is attached and usually tailed back and tied on to the quayside for easy access. Though in some areas, the line is attached to a buoy and left floating in front of the berth to be picked up from the front of the boat. When not in use the line lies, out of the way of boats, on the sea bed, hence the name slime line. When well tensioned off the bow of a yacht, it will hold the boat off the quay, even in strong winds. 

Pros and cons of lazy lines: 

Essentially a lazy line is a more permanent, secure version of a med mooring with an anchor. Obviously, anchors can drag in strong winds, whilst concrete or chain is more secure. At Sail Ionian we will often advise yachts seek a lazy line mooring during a blow. It also allows many boats to be moored in a small harbour stern-to, rather than side-to, so that they take up less space. In addition, lazy lines are a necessity in deep water harbours, where anchors would not hold. For example, in Spartahori, on Meganisi, the water where the pontoons are is over 20m deep. 

The first question I am often asked when teaching is ‘How do I know it’s a lazy line mooring?’ This is completely understandable, as you should never drop an anchor where you can see lazy lines. If you happen to catch your anchor on the concrete or chain on the sea bed, you could have a long wait, and hefty charge from a diver to free the anchor. 

The rule of thumb in the Ionian is that if you are mooring in a marina or on a pontoon there will be lazy lines. Public, concrete, quaysides are usually where you would med moor with an anchor. An up-to-date pilot book will also detail the mooring method. However, there are exceptions so always check the bows of the boats already moored and see if they have chain, or rope with their anchor still aboard. You’re more than likely to receive a loud shout of ‘No Anchor!’ from shore too, if the taverna owner sees you approaching with someone on your bow ready to drop. 

All this sounds great, and for the Greek fisherman whose ancestors have passed on their advice for generations it works very well. But to the visiting charterer it can be a challenging manoeuvre to perfect. Not because it is harder than a med moor with the anchor. Rather because many charterers are new to the method and do not understand the steps that need to be carried out to secure the yacht well.

How to set up, and where to position the tender? 

Set the yacht up as normal for a med moor. Stern lines should be flaked ready to throw ashore, and the tender positioned on a long painter from the mid-ships cleat. Remember you will need a bow cleat for the lazy line so don’t attach the tender to them. The idea is the that once the yacht is reversing the tender will sit next to the bow and not get in the way. If you can tell in advance which side of the yacht the lazy line will be on, then position your tender out of the way on the other side. 

The Approach: 

The helmsman’s challenge is to achieve a slow steady, straight, reverse direction towards the berth. Modern sail drive charter yachts have little prop kick, but when changing from forward to reverse is when it might twist the yacht. A long run up will allow you to counter that effect if necessary, and give you the time to correct for a cross-wind. 

Once moving in reverse normally tick over is enough speed. At Sail Ionian we offer a free parking practice session the morning of your first day. It’s a great opportunity to practice with a skipper on board, to guide you and your crew through the process. 

Picking up the lazy-line: 

Once you have the yacht in the berth it is normal in Greece to be passed the lazy line from the shore. You will want a crew member ready to accept the line on the stern, or leaning out from the aft quarter. A boat hook can be useful from here as they might not be able to reach. Set up your stern lines while they deal with the lazy line. 

When they receive the lazy line, it will be a loop of rope – one end will go back to where it is still attached to the shore, and the other out towards the bow and the concrete block beyond. Your linesman’s job is to get the line up to a bow cleat as quickly as possible. So, they need to go hand over hand on the slimy rope, up to the bow. Pull on the end going out to the bow, not the end going back to the shore, that will only pull the boat back into the quay! It may sound obvious, but to an inexperienced crew-member under pressure, it is a common mistake to make. 

They will have to work their way around the push pit, towels, cushions, fenders, shrouds, SUPs, li-los, tender, and any one of another million obstacles a charter yacht presents. It’s not an easy as you think, so don’t shout too impatiently! If you have a large crew, passing the lazy line from one person to another up the side of the yacht can speed the process up.

Prop wraps, beware of lines in the water: 

At this point in the process, it is very tempting to use your engine to nudge the boat away from the quayside if you get too close. Be very careful though. It is common to get the lazy line wrapped around the propeller. As your linesman struggles getting the line up to the bow, they may have inadvertently pulled it tight to the shore too. Check the line is not caught on anything. Also check off the back of the boat, you can usually see if the lazy line is pulled tight off the sea bed under the boat. 

Tensioning the lazy line: 

The most common mistake we see happening is that the lazy line is not pulled tight enough. A slack lazy line will result in the boat coming back and hitting the quay if the wind or swell picks up overnight. It is not usually enough to just pull on the line and lock it off, unless your linesman looks like Hercules! 

To start tensioning the lazy line give your stern lines a couple of meters slack on both sides. This will allow the linesman on the bow to pull the yacht out from the quay another couple of meters without breaking their back. If the stern lines are tight, they will be unable to pull the yacht forward off the quay. The linesman gives a final heave and locks off the lazy line once again. At this point the yacht should be 3-4 meters from the quayside, if not repeat the process and slacken the stern lines further.  

To apply tension to the lazy line put the yacht into reverse gear, tick over at first, and slowly increase the revs, taking in the slack on your stern lines as the tension increases in the lazy line. The lazy line will hold the yacht off the quay once it has enough tension, even with the engine still in reverse gear. The same as you might do to test an anchor was well bedded in. Fine tune your distance from the quayside to suit the length of your passerelle, and lock off your stern lines a final time. 

Departure from a lazy-line mooring: 

The morning can present its own issues when on a lazy line. Once again, we need to beware of prop wraps. Have a good look around the boat and make sure your lazy line (or a neighbours) is not looped around any part of the yacht or the tender. I have seen many yachts leave with a lazy line looped over their dinghy painter, it’s very hard to see. Check again at the back of the yacht before you leave.  

When you have the yacht ready, all you need to do is drop the lazy line into the water from the bow. At the same time put the yacht into tick over in forwards. The yacht will motor against the stern lines and hold steady off the quay. Leave a few moments for the lazy line to sink to the sea bed, whilst your crew comes back from the bow to help, or fend off alongside. You can then slip your stern lines and drive slowly straight out of the berth. 

Usually, the Ionian is calm on a morning, but if you have a cross-wind beware that you may be blown onto the boat next to you, as you leave the berth slowly. A great tip is to feed your stern lines out very slowly, leaving a turn around the cleat to hold against the power of the engine. If your lines are long enough, you can get halfway out of your berth before you are actually loose from the shore, which will help to keep the yacht straight in the cross wind. If you find your stern is still being blown onto your neighbours bow as you are nearly out of the berth, quickly put the yacht into neutral to avoid prop wrapping on their lazy line. Your momentum should still carry you clear.  

This post was written by Tom Fletcher