Docking in ideal conditions is relatively easy—especially if you are going very slowly and there are dock helpers waiting.
By practising the proper docking procedure, you’ll get really good at it and not need any assistance.
But, we all know that most of the time there is a breeze or a wind and/or current that takes over.
Sometimes Mother Nature throws in a little rain as well just to make it even more interesting.
The wind and weather can turn a perfect docking into a disaster in a flash, unless…
you dock with attitude and follow sound instructions. Luck is out the window and you can’t count on dock helpers to be waiting and, if they are, you don’t know their skill level to know whether they will help or hinder your docking. You need to know exactly what to do and carry it out without a hitch.
Bill Mc from Chesapeake Bay, sent us a question about docking his 341 Meridian Sedan Bridge, Twin Inboard when it is windy.
“You tell us to set the RPM at 800 for docking and higher with wind. Will I hurt my transmission shifting in and out of forward and reverse? If it is banging is that a problem? Your book is great, big help, thanks for taking the time to reply.”
The answer to Bill’s question may be helpful to other Twin Inboard owners. (For twin sterndrive owners, the answer would be different.)
Bill is following the docking instructions in Dawson’s “Docking Your Twin Inboard” e-Lesson. The highest setting in neutral for your throttles shouldn't be above 1000 rpm for a gasoline engine. You will find when you shift into reverse that you get a louder "clunk" than going into forward. Be sure to pause in neutral a little longer when the engine is set to rev higher. You engine shouldn't "bang" or "crash".
If you find that the wind is still stronger than what you can handle at 1000 rpm, then you would have to challenge your brain severely to shift into gear, then advance the throttle to give it a "good swift kick". Then, slow the throttles, synchronizing them back to say 800, then pull them into neutral before shifting them into gear again and advancing the throttles again.
This process is easier with single lever controls like on a sterndrive than four separate levers like you probably have on your twin inboard. Hence, my comment of "brain overload".
Before you attempt operating four levers at the dock, practice in open water, where there is nothing to hit.
For twin inboard Captains with single lever controls, your levers are both the shift and the throttle—all in one lever. The first motion/indent is “in gear”, beyond the indent advances the throttle in gear. The motor automatically returns to idle speed, when the lever is “slowed” to the “in gear” position or to the “neutral” position. No brain overload.
Just be cautious not to advance the throttle so far, that the boat jumps more than you want. Practice in open water to get the feel of how far to push or pull the lever to get the desired results.
Adding the Wheel
Once you’ve mastered juggling the four levers, you can add turning the wheel the direction you want the boat to go. The biggest part and toughest part is remembering to return the wheel to “top dead center” at the completion of the turn, as well as synchronizing the two throttles again. You must do both, before attempting to give your boat its next order; otherwise, it will be lopsided in its response to that order.
Again, practice in open water before trying it in a confined space. If your brain says “I can’t handle all that”, then just sync your throttles at 1000 rpm or as high as you feel is comfortable and swing on the shifts.
Dawson’s FLIPP Line Procedure works like a charm for docking in calm weather; but it is an absolute must in a very windy docking (bow or stern first, wind on the dock, wind off the dock) to give you control over Mother Nature.
Bridge versus Lower Helm
When the Captain has a First Mate, docking from the bridge rather than down below, gives him better visibility of the entire boat and dock situation, as well as his First Mate and her FLIPP Line™.
When docking single handed, I would recommend driving from the lower helm, if you have one (The Meridian doesn’t) to allow the Captain to move safely from the lower helm to the cockpit and back again; otherwise you have to drop from the bridge like a fireman, then climb back up again to shift into gear.
Dawson's Docking e-Lessons
Dawson’s Docking e-lessons work really well in calm weather, but more importantly, they work extremely well in very windy weather allowing the Captain and First Mate to dock without the need for Yelling, Swearing, Jumping, Boat Hooks, Bionics, Dock Helpers or Guesswork.
Note to Captains
Note to other Captains with questions: I can be more specific in answering your docking challenge, if you send me either a Google Earth shot of your marina or a diagram, as well as a photo of the boat. Include the direction of your approach, wind/current direction, docking bow first or stern first, and dock configuration-floating or pilings etc. Let me know whether you are docking alone or with a First Mate. The more detail the better.