For sailors accustomed to docking or mooring their monohulls at home, securing a charter cat to a Caribbean mooring can be a confusing endeavor. Here’s a step-by-step to guide you.
While under power and still a fair distance from the mooring buoy, decrease your speed to loosen the tension on the dinghy painter line. Pull the dinghy close to the boat and secure the painter line on an aft cleat, ensuring the extra line is free and clear of the water. This will avoid any prop-meets-painter snafus, should you have to quickly shift to reverse.
Prepare a dockline on both the starboard and port forward cleats by tying a loop around the base of the cleat, feeding the line outside of the lifelines, and coiling it tidily back on deck. Ensure the bitter end is in sight and the coil—whether on deck or hung from the lifelines—is ready to run free.
With one person at the helm and another on the bow, slowly approach the mooring going head-to-wind. Have your bowman use the boat hook and predetermined nonverbal hand signals to indicate time and distance to the mooring buoy. I find it helpful to count down in 10-foot increments, starting at 50 feet.
Once the mooring is within reach, use the boat hook to grab behind the small float (often white) and lift until you can reach the painter that attaches the float to the mooring buoy and mooring line. Feed your starboard dockline through the eye in the mooring line and back to the starboard cleat, cleating it off tightly. Allow the boat to settle. Note: Do not pull the float or painter on deck or use them to secure your boat; they are merely guides to the mooring eye. Also, keep in mind that mooring bouy and float configurations vary in different locations, so be sure to evaluate your setup before hooking the line.
Free the port dockline and feed it through the eye of the mooring buoy, then back to the port cleat. Using two lines is wise on a catamaran because it avoids chafe and helps keep your boat still and centered throughout your stay.
Adjust the length of both lines until the mooring buoy lies square in the middle, 8-10 feet from the bow. Once all lines are cleated and secured, kill the engine. Enjoy your quiet night, secure on the mooring!