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How to Make a Boat Mooring

Updated February 21, 2017

For lakefront homes, a private mooring provides an alternative to the dock or boathouse. The boat owner who doesn't have a home on the water knows dock space is always at a premium, and having the boat in storage is both expensive and defeats the purpose of owning a boat. One readily available--and less expensive--method of parking a boat is to establish a mooring, whether at a marina or in some other location. Even if the marina's anchorage is full, it may allow a boat owner to place a private mooring within its area.

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  1. Choose the right anchor for the mooring, based on the length and weight of the largest boat that will be using the mooring. The mooring for a bare skiff or tender of 15 feet or less in length will require a 25-pound mushroom anchor; a mooring for a "loaded" runabout of the same length will require a 100-pound mushroom anchor. Anchor weights are in 50-pound increments, up to a 2,000-pound anchor for mooring boats of 45 feet.

  2. Choose the right mooring rode for the mooring. The mooring rode is the line between the mooring anchor on the seabed and the mooring buoy on the surface. Because the mooring anchor will stay in place indefinitely and because nylon line is subject to damage by sand, chemicals or dirt in either salt or fresh water, chain is recommended. The length of the mooring chain should be five to seven times the depth of the water. Like all anchors, a secure anchoring is maintained by the weight of the anchor and the weight of the mooring rode.

  3. Attach the mooring chain to the mushroom anchor with the anchor shackle. Anchor shackles are a screw-in clevis pin and shackle. The clevis pin will either have a hole tapped through its shaft in the lowest part of the thread to accept a cottar pin, or will have its head formed into a ring. If the shackle is stainless steel, use stainless steel baling wire (if the head has a ring) or a stainless cottar pin. If the shackle is common steel, it must be painted with two layers of a rust preventive coating before being assembled.

  4. Attach the mooring rode to the mooring buoy with the second anchor shackle. The mooring system is now complete and ready for installation at the chosen location.

  5. Load the mooring system into the boat that will be used to set the mooring. If using GPS coordinates has been specified for the anchorage location, proceed to that waypoint and gently lower the mooring buoy toward the seabed. Should the boat drift because of currents or wind, hold the buoy off the seabed until adjustments are made. When the anchor makes contact with the bottom, continue to release the chain until all the chain is paid out and the mooring buoy floats on the surface.

  6. Tip

    Setting the mooring is a task best accomplished by two people, one to manage the boat and one to place the anchor. Use stainless steel anchor shackles if possible; any cost savings realised by using the less expensive common steel will disappear quickly into upkeep.


    When working with lines or chains on the deck of a vessel, be aware of where your feet are. A foot inadvertently placed in a loop of line or chain on the deck can leave a boatman suddenly entangled in an ever-tightening chain that's dragging him underwater. Homemade moorings are not recommended for offshore use.

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Things You'll Need

  • Mushroom anchor of the correct weight
  • Mooring rode 7x the depth of water in length
  • Mooring buoy
  • Anchor shackles, two each
  • Basic hand tools
  • GPS unit to establish location of the mooring (optional)

About the Author

Will Charpentier

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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