Mooring, Docking, Berthing and Anchoring

It’s normal to get terms like “docking”, “berthing” and “mooring” confused. They all refer to parking a boat while it’s not in use, so don’t feel bad if you get any of them wrong.

mooring berthing docking

It can get a little confusing, and the differences between these terms are subtle, so getting them mixed up isn’t a big deal. However, if you really want to get these terms correct, here’s a simple guide to the words used to describe parking a boat.


  • Noun: A permanent fixture that a boat can be secured to
  • Verb: The act of securing a boat to a mooring

Whenever a boat is attached to a permanent fixture like a dock or slip, the fixture is a mooring and the boat is being moored. Mooring is a catch-all term that can be used any time a boat is secured to any permanent fixture. It can also refer to the area of water used for storing boats by securing them to fixtures on the water’s bed. 

Boat mooring


  • Noun: Structure(s) to which a boat can be moored, or the water adjacent to the structure(s)
  • Verb: The act of mooring a boat to a dock

Is docking a boat any different than mooring a boat? Not really. The technicality lies with the boat being moored specifically to a dock. Docking is also generally used in reference to larger commercial ships that are mooring for the purposes of unloading and loading cargo or passengers. It can also refer to a boat mooring only to fulfill a specific purpose before it moves on. 

Boat docking


  • Noun: An allocated space within a dock to which a boat can be moored
  • Verb: The act of mooring a boat to its allocated space within a dock

Berthing is another term used to differentiate and describe the type of mooring that occurs. It generally refers to smaller watercraft moored for an indefinite period of time in an allocated space within a dock. These spaces are known as slips or berths. It’s also used to describe mooring perpendicular to a dock.

Boat berthing


  • Noun: An object on the bed of a body of water to which a boat can be moored
  • Verb: The act of anchoring a boat

Anchoring is the least ambiguous of these boating terms. An anchor can be permanent, designed to secure a boat in place for long periods of time. A line is attached to the anchor with a buoy, and the boat is secured to the anchor via a mooring line tied to the anchor line. A permanent anchor can be considered a type of mooring. 

Boat anchor

Temporary anchors are cast into the water, and use their weight and shape to dig into and grasp onto the bed of the water. These anchors are prone to slipping, and are only used to secure boats for short periods of time. 

Camco river anchor

Camco fluke style anchor

So there you have it, the words to describe parking a boat or personal watercraft that often get mixed up. Don’t worry about being ridiculed if you say the wrong one. Again, it’s not uncommon to get these confused. 




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