How to stern too like a pro!

All through out the Mediterranean, and many other places there is a need to anchor with your stern tied to a tree, rock or dock.

In the Med, it is typical to drop an anchor, then back towards the dock or quay, then tie a stern line to the shore. Then with the use of a boarding platform called a passerelle, boarding is done over the stern.

Anchor stern to - Med moor.
Setting up a stern line in Little Harbor BVI.

There are many other times that it is advantageous to tie stern too.. In the lower Caribbean islands the water tends to become very deep very quickly. Some places it may be 150 feet deep only 200 feet from shore.

With this steep bottom profile, regular anchoring techniques are not going to work. With just a single anchor out, if the wind comes from the land you will be blown out into deeper and deeper water, your anchor will simply not hold.

On the other hand, if you drop your anchor with a lot of chain and tie the stern of your yacht to the shore, you will not go anywhere. Your anchor is being pulled towards ever shallowing water and cannot be pulled out towards the deeper water.

Another spot that is very popular for boats to stern to is in Little Harbor on Peter Island in the BVI. It is popular here because its a small bay and being tied in reduces your swing circle to zero so many boats can fit where otherwise only a few would fit.

There is a cautionary note about tying stern to. If your anchor should drag with your stern tied to the shore, you are going to be on the shore pronto. You also should not stern too if you are going to get any strong winds on your beam.

When the boat is not able to swing on its anchor it is always faceing into the wind, The wind can press against its side and this presents a much greater surface area.

This will put a much greater strain on your anchor gear than it normally would be subject to. Also be cautious of the sea direction, especially in a monohull. If the wave direction is going to be hitting you side on you will roll like a pendulum and end up having a very uncomfortable night.

Preparing to stern too.

Anchor stern to - Med moor.
Pick a tree, any tree!

Just like picking up a mooring, the art of looking like a pro when tying stern too is to be prepared before you start the process.

Have your stern line ready before you start, make it long. much more than you will need once tied in.

Decide on the exact spot that you want to end up at. If it is to a dock and there is someone on shore to catch your line, or if one of your crew is going to swim a line ashore, prepare your line by tying an end to a stern cleat then starting at the end attached to the cleat, flake the line on the deck working towards the shore end of the line.


Have large loops that will not knot up when the bitter end is taken ashore. When the time comes to deploy the stern line, it is a time sensitive matter and you don’t want to be dealing with a pile of knotted line.

If you are going to dingy the line ashore, the most successful method is to do it before you anchor. Start by flaking all the line into the dingy, then have someone go ashore and tie off an end. Next he backs the dingy out, paying out line as he goes.

When he gets to the end he can hold onto the end and while still idling in reverse will be able to steer very easily left or right against the taught line. Have him in position before you start the anchoring process.

Once all is ready the aim of the game is to position yourself at least 5 times the anchors water depth away from where you intend to finally sit. Lower the anchor then slowly back up towards the shore. If you have a breeze on your beam you should aim slightly upwind of your intended spot, because as soon as you stop to deal with your stern line the wind will start to move you sideways.

Keep lowering your anchor chain and when you are close to your pre determined spot, juggle the amount of chain out so while still idling in reverse, you are pulling against the anchor.

This next bit is all time sensitive. No mater what you do the boat is not going to sit still while you play with the stern line. You are either going to be pushed sideways by the wind, or prop walk will move you sideways.

If you are in a catamaran, using 1 engine only can help crab you sideways back up wind a bit. If you had the line taken ashore by dingy, he should now be at your stern handing the line to a crew member ready to get on a cleat.

If you’re at a dock with someone ashore, a crew member should be able to toss the line ashore. Make sure that they throw the line from a position that is not directly in line with your prop that is still spinning and just waiting to suck in any errant line.

If Swimming The Stern Line In.

Anchor stern to - Med moor.
No a speedo is not mandatory accessory to swim a stern line.


If you’re having it >swam ashore then now is the time for them to dive on in. I find that having a large bowline already in the end of the line works best, Your swimmer can slip it over his should and have both hands free while swimming.

The swimmer should have a mask and water shoes on. As he approaches the shore he will need to see where it is safe to stand up and will need protection from the barnacles.

While he is swimming, someone pays out line to him, making sure that no slack line can go into the prop that is still in reverse. Once ashore he then ties of to your chosen rock or tree.

Make sure that as the line leads away from the shore that it cant touch any rocks. If it can they will saw through the taught line in minutes. So now you have the end of the line on board, Have the crew pull in until its tight and then tie off on your cleat. If you cant get the line tight enough because the wind is pushing you sideways.

Tie off to the cleat and idle forwards turning your helm to push you sideways. When lined back up, go into reverse and have your crew pull the slack on the stern line.