Articles to Simplify Boat Docking
There are lots of tips and tricks to help you simplify docking your boat. The following articles could help you or a friend overcome a docking obstacle. Please submit any suggestions so that we can add them in future.
“Good morning Captain. Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to dock your twin engine boat with one motor shutdown.
As always, should you or any member of your crew be………. This tape will self destruct in five seconds.”
Is this another “Mission Impossible”? For details of your mission........
Have you ever pulled off the perfect parallel docking at a long gas dock, but 6 feet out with no one in sight to throw a dock line to?
Tom experienced this recently in his twin sterndrive and emailed this question:
“Your lessons say I should ‘abort and re-approach’ which I did, but I wonder if you have any advice to recover instead”?
Since the mid 1980’s, mid-cabin cruisers have become the most popular style of cruiser for families, giving them two distinctive sleeping areas—mid-cabin and v-berth. Most boaters don’t realize though, that the changes to Power Boats over the decades, made them more difficult to dock than earlier power boats—especially mid-cabins.
Manufacturers re-designed smaller cruisers to include more sleeping accommodation with the introduction of the mid-cabin. A mid-cabin cruiser is an express cruiser with a cabin under the forward cockpit sole (some people mistakenly call them aft cabins, but aft cabins are at the transom or aft, as opposed to a mid-cabin in the middle or amidships ahead of the motor(s). Having extra sleeping amidships is a great feature for family and/or guests; but, what was compromised?
“Don’t approach your dock any faster than you are prepared to hit it.”
I read this advice several times the other day, when checking some internet boating forums. This really isn’t good docking advice at all for sail or power boats. In fact it is very bad advice because you should never hit the dock at any speed.
Those writers who give this advice clearly don’t know how to dock a boat. When you reduce speed, while approaching your dock against the wind, who do you think is going to win?—You? Or the Wind?
Boats are not like cars, but we still see boaters pull out from long docks, like they were pulling out of a parallel parking spot on a street. Cars steer from the front; but, all boats steer from the stern.
Boats pivot as they turn. When you leave the dock, turning the wheel away from the dock, causes the bow to swing out, but at the same time, swings the transom in against the dock and drags it along the dock as you move. Dragging your transom corner or platform along the dock, causes damage and embarrassment.
There are many ways to avoid “butt dragging” or scraping your transom along the dock when departing.
Thanks to Lee for her very interesting docking experience. We have changed her name and her husband's name for this story, as they didn't want to be identified. Her story follows:
“I would like to know what chauvinist decided it was best to send the First Mate out on the bow to tie the bow line first when docking. I struggled every time we came into the slip, trying to tie the bow line from the forward deck, while my husband Tony sat at the helm.
It was such a frustrating experience every time, because I couldn’t get the bow line around the cleat on the dock, no matter what I did. The bow on our 30’ cruiser was way above the floating dock and the cleat attached to it.
I would have to be a magician, to have the line go out, over, down, around and back to me! Needless to say, there was a lot of yelling involved in our dockings.
Then, I came up with a solution!
“My boat slowly and smoothly slid into my slip alongside the dock as it always does. I have perfected your FLIPP Line™ procedure and docking is easy for me and my First Mate. She attaches the FLIPP Line™ and we are secure. I can count on her.” Explained Dan.
“However, today was different. My First Mate wasn’t with me, but my son-in-law insisted he knew how to tie the FLIPP Line™, so I let him do it. My son-in-law jumped onto the dock, secured the Stern FLIPP Line™, then let me know I was secure” continued Dan.
“As the boat edged deeper into the slip, the boat pulled the FLIPP Line™ off the dock cleat. The boat crunched against the main walkway.
Why? What happened?” asked Dan in surprise and shock.
“I have your Sailboat Docking e-Lesson and my First Mate and I love your docking procedure. It makes so much sense and has made a huge difference to our docking confidence. But, I have a challenge that isn’t covered in the lesson” Mike wrote.
“On my 41’ Sailboat, I must stand to steer so I can see over the coach roof. The gearshift/throttle is at the floor and is only 9 inches long. So, when I need to change gear or adjust the throttle, I have to sit to reach the low, short lever. The problem is that when I stand up again, the boat is heading in the wrong direction. This is a real problem when docking.
My question is, How do I steer and shift gears at the same time so I can keep my boat aimed where I want it to go, especially in close quarters where it is more critical.
It was perfectly calm when Derek left the harbour to go out for a peaceful afternoon cruise all by himself. Relaxing on the water didn’t last long though. Calm became chop when the wind came up out of nowhere. While heading back to the harbor, the chop tuned to waves and white caps as the wind intensified.
By the time he got back to the harbor, the wind was really howling offshore.
He had stored all his fenders and stowed all his lines, before heading out and now it was too rough to prepare them for docking.
Being alone, he knew he would never be able to dock his boat single handedly. He feared the worst and was ter
rified at the possibilities of all that could go wrong.
How often have you seen boats weaving their way across the water, unable to keep heading in a straight line? Maybe you have even experienced this snaking yourself.
Sometimes, it is because the Captain is over-steering—first too far one way, then too far the other way. It is primarily because he doesn’t know how to aim his boat.
When cruising, it is very important to know where “top dead centre” is, so that you can steer straight. It reduces the back and forth of the wheel, and over steering.
But, just locating “top dead centre” on your wheel to steer straight, is not the whole solution. You also need to know how to aim your boat so that it follows a straight line to a destination point—near or far.