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post #1 of Old 06-15-2011 Thread Starter
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How Would You Dock?....This boat, this slip, these conditions

In advance, sorry for the length, but if I don't cover the details, your advice might not fit the situation.

Edit: A "to scale" sketch to aid you as you work through the words is here:

C320FIGA001.jpg picture by pboatppp - Photobucket

The slip has port and starboard outer pilings. Inboard end is a fixed pier. Windward side has a buddy line between piling and pier. Leeward side has a finger pier extending 40% down the length of the slip from pier, with a support piling (rising above the finger pier), and a buddy line between leeward outer piling and finger pier end piling. There is a boat in leeward adjacent slip, and depending on angle of contact with buddy line, contact with this boat is possible. Slip is 34' long, boat is 32'. Outer pilings are 14' apart, boat is 12' wide. Dock lines are pre-placed on pilings. You may specify additional lines on board the boat as you desire. Outer pilings have bumper pads and leeward pilings will flex some, taking some shock loading. Boat has wheel, inboard diesel, 3 blade fixed prop, aft cockpit.

Wind speed is 15-25 kts, with higher gusts from SW. Marina fairway is WE, with approach required from W, so it is a downwind/crosswind approach. Slip is oriented NS, and is on S side of fairway, midway down fairway, so there will be a crosswind component blowing boat down onto the partial finger pier and adjacent boat. Approach will be bow first (boat cannot be controlled in reverse under these conditions) and single handed. Fairway width is 1.5x boat length, so there is room to turn into the slip. The boat pulpit extends over the side of the boat, and boat must be stopped before pulpit is adjacent to finger pier piling, or must pass this piling successfully to avoid damage. There will be 2' short, choppy waves from the NW. There is no current to contend with. Once starting down the fairway, you will be committed and you do not have room to turn around to abort a bad approach. The boat's rub rail is lightly constructed and we cannot allow the boat to bounce up and down against the pilings, or there will be damage...merely laying against the piling is no problem, but up and down motion is bad. Boat has amidships cleats and spring line use is possible, except that if you don't get boat in far enough before coming in contact with pilings, spring line use might not be possible. Once contact is made with pilings, forward motion must be stopped or there will be damage to life lines/stanchions. There will be no one on the dock to assist.

How would you dock?

Let me describe how I attempt it (have done it just below this range, but not in the range where waves become a factor). Critique me, or tell me a better way. (p.s. what do others in this marina do locally?...they don't go out). Switching marinas or slips is not an option.

I know that under these conditions, I will not be able to get the boat completely in the slip (it takes only seconds to move 2 ft. downwind). I must not get too far into the slip or the pulpit will crash the finger pier piling. If I don't get far enough in, the boat will pivot about the outer piling and be swept out of the slip down on other boats/slips. Also, I have to take care that my bow doesn't get swept down on my neighbor's boat. There absolutely is not enough time to leave the helm station to go elsewhere on the boat until after contact is made with the pilings. Since I know that I am going down on the leeward outer piling, I try to ease down on it and stabilize the boat just aft of it's pivot point. That means to stop the boat precisely at one point. If there were no waves, I would not be writing this post, because it is the waves that I don't know how to deal with because they are going to be bashing the boat up and down against the outer leeward piling until I can get it off that piling. With the narrow distance and forces involved getting a fender in place is problematic, and it still wouldn't accommodate the 2 ft. up and down. Rig it before I come down the slip and it's going to hang on the piling and pivot the bow quickly down on my neighbor. After I make contact with the leeward piling, I have to deal with getting lines secured so the boat isn't swept out of the slip.

Before making my approach, I pre-rig fore and aft lines on deck on leeward side so they are there if I need them. Additionally, the regular dock lines are available on both outer pilings, just pick them up. On the windward side, I pre-rig a bow line that I can clip onto the buddy line with a carabineer hook and that I can tend from the stern. I can also prepare a spring line from the amidships cleat.

Going downwind down the fairway, I use reverse as necessary to check the speed. Since I have to stop the boat in one spot, I cannot approach too hot. I make my turn into the slip, keeping the bow as close to the windward piling as possible, using the rudder and engine to get me sufficiently far into the slip. Between the rudder and crosswind, the stern is being swept down onto the leeward piling. Rudder is then shifted to try to pick up the stern for a bit more distance as I keep an eye on the critical pivot point location. As it is approached, I move the rudder as necessary to ease boat at the pivot point down on the leeward piling. At the same time, I go to reverse, adding power as necessary to check the forward motion of the boat. Once I stop the boat and contact is made with the leeward piling, I go to neutral, step to windward side at a point slightly behind amidships, clip on the bow line carabineer, grab one of the normal dock lines and secure it to either amidships cleat or stern cleat, and try to get the boat stabilized off the leeward piling. Depending where the bow is going, I will either take up the slack in the bow line before or after dealing with the stern. It gets real busy and use of winches (I have two on each side) is required to deal with the situation. Once I get the bow secured to the windward buddy line and the stern off the leeward piling, the crisis is over and I can now use the engine and various lines to get into the slip in proper position and leisurely adjust lines.

So what am I doing wrong, how can I do things better, and most of all, how to I keep the wave action from damaging the boat? I can afford the boat, but I can't afford damage.

Last edited by NCC320; 06-16-2011 at 07:54 AM.
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