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!
I decided to learn how to drive the boat and sit at the helm as the Captain, and have Tony tend the lines and tie the bow line from the deck; so,I took lessons from a local boater. The first time I came into the slip to dock, it was raining and windy. Tony was headed for the bow. The sloped deck was slippery and I was nervous as all get out at the helm.
Tony stubbed his baby toe on our narrow side deck on the way to the bow. His stubbed little toe became more important than docking! What a suck! He wanted sympathy! (Note: When I stubbed my toe, he just told me to suck it up and hurry up.) A series of catastrophes followed because Tony couldn't get the bow line around the dock cleat either. The lessons I took didn't help me because we couldn't tie the bow line. Other boaters rushed over to help us. How embarrassing.
After much whining, Tony refused to go forward to handle the bow line ever again. Now what? Sell the boat? Marriage Counsellor?
We were going to get out of boating all together. Then, I found your website and we decided to give it one more shot using your lessons. As soon as we read that you shouldn’t tie the bow line first, we were both relieved. You mean there is another way? You have no idea how pleased we were that neither of us had to return to our old method of tying the bow line from the forward deck. No more did we have to deal with the slippery, sloped, narrow deck and the dangers of stubbing toes.
Your lesson opened our eyes to an easier way to dock the boat. This saved our marriage and we are still boating. $29 is a lot less than a marriage counsellor. Your simple approach to docking makes so much common sense, now we dock without it becoming a scene. Either of us can take the helm and either of us can take the dock lines. Taking the stress out of docking allows us to really enjoy boating. We recommend your lessons to everyone we meet. Thanks for all your help.”
Lee and Tony are not alone. Captains are still ordering their First Mates out to the bow to handle the bow docking line. We saw one again just this weekend in our very own harbour. She just about went overboard when he slammed it into reverse to avoid hitting the dock causing her to lose her balance.
So much of the instruction out there requires you to tie the bow first when docking. Back in the 30’s and 40’s when the original docking lessons were first published, boats and cruisers had big, wide flat side decks and foredecks with high bow rails which were safe for First Mates to navigate and the docks were the same height as the decks of the boats.
Since the 1980’s, most boats have skinny side decks and sloped foredecks (that become slippery when wet) to maximize the interior space. Most have bow rails too low to be a safety rail and now most docks are low floating docks increasing the height differential. The new boat styles required different docking instructions, but the instructions didn’t change. See “Why Docking a Power Boat is Difficult”.
It is not only difficult, but also dangerous, particularly in bad weather, to tie the bow line first when docking. There is a much easier and safer way to do this as Lee and Tony found out. We wrote an article on this very subject a few years ago. See “Tie your Bow Line First?"
Investing a little time learning to handle and dock your boat with lessons that really work, makes all the difference.
Shorten your learning curve and put the fun in your boating.