Before a single handed docking in heavy wind…..


What do you do, when docking in your slip would be too challenging in a really heavy wind? Do you cross your fingers and hope for the best? Do you call for your dock buddies to help? What if there isn’t enough wiggle room between you and your slip neighbour?

The Answer My Friend is “Hanging in the Wind”

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. As is often the case nowadays, the weather didn’t obey the forecast. Calm became chop, when the wind came up out of nowhere. While heading back to the harbour, the chop tuned to waves with white caps as the wind intensified.

By the time he got back to the harbor, the wind was really howling offshore. Being alone, he knew he would never be able to dock his boat single handedly. He feared the worst and was terrified at the possibilities of all that could go wrong.

He had stored all his fenders and lines, before heading out and now it was too rough to prepare them for docking.

Derek had mastered Dawsons Docking Lessons and was confident that he could dock in the wind. He just had to figure out how to get his fenders and lines on first. Then, Derek remembered a tip in the Docking Lesson, that he could modify to help him in this situation.

The fear drained out of his body as he prepared to “Hang Out in the Wind” to give him lots of time to calmly prepare his fenders and lines for docking.

When you are stressed and rushed, chances of things going wrong , are almost always guaranteed. Isn’t that one of Murphy’s Laws?

The instructions in the lesson to give you lots of time to calmly prepare your fenders and lines for docking; instead of idling around the harbour in a heavy wind, running around like a madman continually re-aiming the boat trying to keep from hitting something:

Hanging in the Wind
  • As in all bad weather, start by putting on your pfd or life jacket.
  • Pick an empty dock or pier, where the wind is blowing off of it.
  • Attach one stern line to a stern cleat by putting the eye through the port cleat and over the horns, so you know it will not jump off on you. (preferably the port corner because you can see that corner better from the helm).
  • Reverse towards the chosen cleat, post or mooring ball.
  • Once close enough for you to reach this dock cleat, shift into neutral.
  • While holding on with one hand to a rail or handhold at all times for safety, carefully and quickly, step onto the swim platform.
  • Toss the middle of the Stern Flipp Line over the dock cleat or post with your free hand, holding on to the end of the line.
  • Tie that bitter end back to your boat’s port stern cleat. (Leaving enough slack that your boat hangs well clear of the dock.)
  • Take a deep breath and relax. Just Hang in the Wind.
  • Now, you can take your time to secure all your fenders and attach all your dock lines to your boat cleats, because your boat will hang in the wind, like a windsock.
  • Hang out in the wind here, as long as you need to, for the wind to drop.
  • Before you untie your stern line to head for your dock, check your cockpit sole to verify there is nothing to trip on.

This simple procedure is also a lifesaver, when you need to hang out in a storm.

Stern tying into the wind is better than tying the bow because:

  • Your stern (with the motor(s)) is the control end, allowing the bow to blow like a wind sock.
  • When docking alone, like Derek had to do, it’s a much shorter, more secure walk from the helm to the swim platform, than from the helm to the bow, to tie the line to the dock cleat.
  • When docking with a First Mate in the wind, they are much safer in the aft corner of the cockpit than out on the bow.
  • Your visibility and communications with crew in the aft corner of the cockpit, is much more precise than out on the bow.
  • If your crew misses the dock cleat on the first or second toss to the cleat, you can see and hear what is going on and adjust your approach to the dock accordingly.
  • For lower floating docks, the cockpit or swim platform is closer height-wise than the bow, for tossing a line with accuracy.

So, if you ever find yourself in this situation,
don’t panic.
Just “Hang Out in the Wind”!

This is only one of the docking situations you could find yourself in one day. Now you have a solution should it ever happen to you. Dawson’s Docking Lessons cover many more challenges and solutions that boaters could be confronted with.

Get Your Docking Lesson Today
Study It
Take It To Your Boat
Start Docking Right – Tomorrow

Enjoy Boating More!

5 thoughts on “Before a single handed docking in heavy wind…..”

  1. Thanks for your comments on “Hanging out” I mostly single handed and this a great idea until the wind decreases

  2. As a new boater a few years ago found your docking book invaluable.
    One comment I would have is that many of your techniques assume the availability of cleats. Those are often not available as marinas and docks go to bull rails.

    1. James,
      You are right. Marinas especially in BC use bull rails instead of cleats in many places. We have sent you a solution that we’ve devised in consultation with several west coast boaters. I am sure you will find it helpful.
      Doug Dawson

  3. I have a formula 40 PC. Because the props are tucked into tunnels in the hull, the boat doesn’t really respond to one in forward and one in reverse spinning. It is very sluggish and in wind or current, forget it. Outside one in reverse will never pull the stern into the dock. What boating lessons do I need to handle this boat

    1. Peter,
      Twin inboards with tunnels like on your Formula, handle differently than other twin inboards.
      I would recommend that you purchase and study the twin inboard lesson (intro, video and advanced)–not the twin sterndrive lesson.
      In this lesson, I talk about setting the wheel and the throttles and ignoring thereafter during the docking.
      In your case, with the propellers tucked into tunnels, I would suggest that once you have got yourself familiarized with all the processes in our docking lesson, you turn the wheel away from the dock, add a short burst of throttle in forward on the motor closest to the dock to help aim the propeller thrust sideways to push the stern towards the dock.
      Or, in reverse, turn the wheel towards the dock, add a short burst of throttle to the motor furthest from the dock to pull the stern towards the dock. This is a merging of the twin inboard and the twin sterndrive methods to accommodate the tunnels that tend to lock the propellers’ thrusts straight ahead and straight back.
      Call me when you have studied the lesson and I can answer your questions.
      Doug Dawson

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