Take Offs & Landings – Stern First Approach.

Bow first or stern first onto the berth, what are the pros and cons?

So we are talking about your average cruising yacht, being a fin keel with aft cockpit. Well, going in bow first the helm will loose sight of the pontoon when you are about 3 meters out, whereas going in backwards you have perfect vision right up to when you put the brakes on.

Stern first always gets my vote.

Lots of factors will influence your decision, the wind, its direction and strength, the tidal stream, your crew (are you short handed – maybe just two of you)

Most modern yachts of a fin keel type steer really well going backwards, provided you are going fast enough for the rudder to give good steerage. SLOW IS PRO…… EXCEPT WHEN THERE’S A BLOW. Always use enough power to overcome wind and tide.


1. If possible face the way you are traveling – looking over your shoulder really makes your neck ache 😖

2. Two hands on the wheel at all times – don’t loose control by letting the helm slip out of your grasp (it will want too!)

3. The point about which the yacht rotates when being driven backwards changes to a point near the engine which means she will turn fairly quickly by using a small amount of rudder

4. Have a distinct midship marking on your helm so that you can feel when the helm is amidships and you don’t have to look (looking down will cause you to become disorientated – don’t want that!)

5. Practice, practice, practice and two people can do this on their own.

6. As soon as the stern line is ashore with a full turn around the dock cleat, power the boat gently forward and turn the wheel to bring the stern of the boat alongside (turn away from the pontoon) – See, easy isn’t it!