How to Pick Up a Mooring Ball

Picking up a mooring ball can be tricky when you have high freeboard

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While lying on my stomach and stretching over the front of our high freeboard catamaran with a boat hook trying to pick up a mooring ball in Les Anses D’ Arlet, Martinique, I decided there has to be a better way. Especially since here in this part of the Southern Caribbean they don’t attach a yucky slimy line to the mooring ball that you catch with a boat hook. There is only the steal loop in the top of the ball. It’s just impossible to lift the mooring ball with the boat hook and I simply could not reach down that far to loop a line through it. What to do?

A few options I thought of immediately was to send a crew member out in a dinghy or even more fun – to jump in and swim it.

Still, there is a better way with so much less effort. We did this in Petit Anse in Martinique. All you need is:

(1) Make a dock line that will reach to the stern whilst tied to a cleat at the bow without any knots in between.

(2) Drive the boat to bring the mooring ball to the aft of the boat next to your swim platform


Bring the mooring ball along side

Bring the mooring ball along side to the aft


(3) loop your dock line through the steel loop on the ball.

Place the Dockline through the mooring ball ring at the aft of the boat

Place the Dockline through the mooring ball ring at the aft of the boat

(4) Then just walk your free end to the bow and cleat it off as the boat backs away. Initially, make sure the dock line goes around the outside of everything on your boat – lifelines, stantions and shrouds. Do the same as you walk back to the bow with the free end. The helmsperson uses the engine to keep the mooring ball close to the boat as you walk forward so that the free end does not get pulled out of your hand.

(5) On a catamaran – use one more trick. You’ve got to, at the same time, get another line through the mooring ball loop to take forward for the other hull. Thus, take an extra line and put it through the mooring ball loop at the same time as the other. Take it forward as well but making sure that both ends stay on the boat.

(6) Once you have secured the first dock line to one hull, then take care of the other side with the second dock line. All the while taking care that all the lines are clear of wrapping around each other or on the inside of a forestay or anything else. It’s best done with two crew members one assigned to each line and a helmsperson who can maneuver the boat to keep the ball close to the boat. The second dockline will probably not reach from the forward cleat diametrically opposite the boat to the aft – that’s ok just leave both ends free and cleat them off once the first line is done. Just take care not to drop either end (we did but quickly retrieved it with a boat hook).

Secure the Line to the other side of the boat using the second dock line.

Secure the Line to the other side of the boat using the second dock line.

(7) Finally make adjustments to the lengths to get it just right.

Adjust Lines to get it just right

Adjust Lines to get it just right


You can even achieve all this by backing the boat up to the mooring ball and letting the boat swing around after it has been cleated off.

Train your crew to let go of the dock line if it gets too taught and is going to pull them over. You can always start again. Practice makes perfect.

In Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent the Mooring field is quite tight. We used this trick again without a hitch. Practice this method at your home waterway next time you are out. Then by the time you get to the Caribbean, you’ll be an expert.