Confession: Fairline owner’s struggles with swing mooring

In this month’s Confession, we hear how negotiating a swing mooring turned out to be much harder than child’s play for this Fairline owner

A typical weekend on our boat (a Fairline Sunfury) with my wife, Sarah, and all three kids, is a cruise down Milford Haven before dropping the hook to overnight near Dale; then fishing, or playing on one of the sandier beaches, and a trip to Skomer.

However, this weekend it was just Sarah, myself and our 12-week-old son, Richard. The prospect of an uncomfortable night (me waking up every five minutes wondering if we were dragging anchor to end up in front of the Irish ferry) persuaded me to spend the afternoon alongside the pontoon tinkering.

Several hours later, tinkering done and dinner eaten, the forecast for the weather was now wet and very windy. It was dark and time for bed.

You can’t stay overnight on the pontoon, so we returned to our swing mooring in the middle trot.
It was about then that I realised Sunfurys don’t have demisters and their windscreen wipers are extremely small!

In the pouring rain, I untied and made off into the fast flood tide. Creeping along the line of barely visible boats, I headed for the inflatable on our mooring.

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My plan was to gently nose the boat between the buoy and inflatable, run over the inflatable painter by a few feet, knock the engines into neutral, clamber out and grab a mooring line with the boathook as the Sunfury drifted back in the stream.

I wasn’t keen on Sarah risking a slip on the wet boat. Not only that, who would look after the baby?
Lining up the Sunfury, I gave it a little squirt ahead and knocked both engines into neutral.

I climbed out (remembering the boathook), shuffled along the deck and looked around desperately for the inflatable.

It should be making its way back towards the starboard bow, but it wasn’t. Instead it was rapidly moving aft towards the sterndrives!

I scrabbled back into the cockpit and as I entered, the boat lurched, swung aft to stream (and to wind!) and stuck there.

Peering aft, the inflatable was to starboard, its bow almost underwater with the painter bar tight. I trimmed the legs right up. The boat didn’t move but now there was a lot of splashing from the stern.

A closer look revealed the reason I had so badly misjudged my manoeuvre. In the haste to exit the cockpit originally, I’d left the starboard engine going ahead! Now in neutral, I checked the damage.

We had run over the painter which was now jammed between the transom shield and the legs, and it wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

A myriad of thoughts rushed through my head. Were we going to be stuck like this all night? Should we wait the three hours for slack water at high tide? The only thing certain was I wasn’t getting any sleep soon.

Sheepishly, I explained to Sarah that things “hadn’t gone well” and asked her to lend me a hand.
After some lengthy deliberation, Sarah positioned herself at the helm while I lay on the swim platform in the rain (again).

Clipping a davit line onto the inflatable, I gingerly cut the painter while yelling to Sarah to trim the legs down to a usable position.

With painter cut, the inflatable shot out of the starboard side, the buoy from the port side, and we were free! Except, I now had about five seconds to run back to the cockpit, get the helm over and apply drive to avoid clouting the delicate yacht moored next to us.

It worked. We got the boat turned, didn’t hit anything, and are back head to stream.

With now just a buoy to aim at, trailing mooring lines, and half an inflatable painter attached, I inched the boat up towards the buoy. Sarah deftly climbed through the forward hatch (boathook in hand) and easily hooked the Sunfury on.

Relieved, soaked to the skin, but safely tied up, we collapsed into bed and slept like Richard had done through the whole thing!

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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