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Old 12-09-2012
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Re: docking alone

The key to backing with minimal prop walk is to use short, sharp (high rpm) bursts on the throttle - get moving fast enough for steerage, then go back to idle. If you do that you can even go through neutral and idle it in forward, the prop walk from being in forward at idle will cancel the port prop walk in reverse that you got from the short burst.
By short burst I mean a second or two - if you can see the boat is moving that's probably two much. Large boats change directions slowly, but then inevitably keep going because of the small car's worth of weight in lead on the keel.

The other way to eliminate prop walk is to get a maxi prop, the blades reverse.

Setting up your slip is the other key, spring lines should be rigged for easy pick up on the very first piling you come up to. Note I said lines, two, one going forward and one aft.
Once you have to lines in your hand from the pier you can do practically anything, you can cleat one and use the other as a breast to get the bow/stern in etc.
With just one line all you have is a noodle if you it is in the wrong direction.

If you are going into a guest slip you have to work it as best you can. Preparation is the key, including dock line selection - they should ALL be at least as long as your boat so any one of them can be a spring line. You should also have at least four fenders sized appropriately for your boat (nothing under 8 inches diameter for boats you can't just pull in with a hook, those tiny fenders are worse than useless).

I hate slips with no fingers at all and tend to back into them as I'm too old to climb over the bow to get back on the boat - as the stern passes the pilings I put two quick lines on - one on each side, then I work them while backing to keep the stern centered and off the dock.
The bow takes care of it self as the outer pilings keep it out of trouble until you are well back in the slip.

Parallel parking with minimal room is trickier, and helps is there is someone on the pier.
Getting off is easier, as long as you have 3 or 4 feet of room to stern.
Keep a short line on the stern and have it well fendered, let go the bow (you can push it, but wind and or current will laugh at that) back hard down turning the stern into the pier and against the pilings, the bow will turn out. Its like bouncing against a curb. Then go forward and back until the bow is clear.
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