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post #17 of Old 06-16-2011 Thread Starter
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Drifting Down Fairway to Slip

Here's a novel approach that was posted on another thread.

SailingJackson Junior Member

Docking in a strong crosswind

I have not seen any videos, but I did have a really difficult situation a few weeks back. I'm new to a bigger boat, previous was a 25' with outboard so docking in all conditions was easy.

I found myself with my new and unfamiliar 36' boat and a 18 knot crosswind to my finger pier. Trying to control it with boat speed was completely impossible, as the bow was being blown off when I tried to turn. Wind was 90 degrees to my finger pier and blowing me down the slot.

Any boat will want to go basically broadside to the wind. Steering left or right will adjust that broadside to slightly pointed up or slightly down, but the basic motion will remain sideways. What I did was to allow the boat to go broadside out in the open water and drifted into the slot sideways, parallel to my slip. When I got almost in front of the slip I started forward slowly, timing it so the bow just entered the slip as the boat slipped in front of my space. It worked great. The guy on the next pier over was impressed, but mainly because he knew I was a novice and expected the worst. When he realized I had to dock in that crosswind, he had hung every fender he could find on the side if his boat, just to protect himself against my boat.

Next time you're in a strong wind in harbor, try letting the boat drift sideways and controlling the orientation of the boat with the rudder, but without using the engine. It's not very difficult.


I could see this one working in the example that I have presented on this thread. Since my boat, like most, wants to go beam to the wind and the wind is 45 degrees from the direction of my slip, using this approach, if drift rate is not too fast, the boat will pointed generally in direction to enter the slip, with occasional forward power being needed to keep the boat centered in the slip. Once the windward piling of the slip is approached, add a little forward motion to snug up to the piling, then when the bow passes the piling, drive ahead into the slip. It would require less of a turn into the slip since the boat is already more or less oriented to enter the slip. But with just 2 ft. clearance to play with, I think one would still go down on the leeward piling. Not a problem if there is no wave action, but remember in the problem specification, we have 2 ft. waves, so that the piling is trying to erase the side of my boat as it bounces up and down.

Does anyone have any information on how fast a typical sailboat will drift just due to the wind? This would be critical to such an approach. The last time I made a bow first docking in the slip due to winds being too high to control the boat in reverse (I ran the test outside the slip, in front of a gallery of July 4 watchers....I can vouch, after being spun around in a near 360, I didn't have control in backing, hence the bow first approach), I recall using the engine in reverse most of the way down the fairway to check my speed so I didn't enter the slip too fast. Remember, that I either have to get my bow pulpit completely past the finger pier piling or stop the boat prior to this piling. If I don't clear the finger pier piling, I'm going to have to replace a pulpit.

Last edited by NCC320; 06-16-2011 at 07:51 PM.
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