Originally Posted by ltgoshen
Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current.
The vast majority of time, close quarters maneuvering at low speed is fine. But the strong currents in Beaufort South Carolina can greatly reduce the margin for error. We recently got a great lesson and saw an example of exactly what can happen if you are not experienced with river sailing. My sailing partner Jim got to the marina early and packed and readied the boat for our afternoon departure. He de-berthed her and repositioned her on the face dock. The problem was the direction she was faced put her back to the wind and her stern in the current. A new moon phase that weekend made for especially swift currents.
Here’s where we got into trouble. I was at the helm. Jim was at the ready on the dock, ready with the lines. I fired the trusty 2gm Yanmar diesel and warmed it up. I checked my position. I was nervous. I had an instinctive feeling this departure was not right. He untied the bow first, at my command and shoved it out a few feet, then the stern and jumped on board. I yelled wait Jim!!! Were not right I yelled! Jim, get the boat hook, I screamed! I had no steerage at all. We began to pick up speed with the incoming tide. I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach. We have 4 boats down the dock and we are now cross ways of the dock moving sideways to the dock with our bow toward the dock. We were now headed straight, well “sideways” for the other docked boats. I have a folding prop on the boat and this prop gives almost no reverse propulsion. In desperation, I threw in into reverse and gave it my best shot. Jim could not find the boat hook so he sat down on the bow with his feet hanging over in the hopes to push off the oncoming boats with his feet and we all know this is against the rules. His instinct kicked in to at least try and stop a collision. With what seemed a lifetime and after pushing off 2 moored boats, we were able to finally get the bow into the current and find some steerage. It was so dangerous... We had no less than 5 possible insurance claims that day. Not to mention the near heart attack I had. I learned. Oh yes. I learned the hard way just how volatile a situation can become when you have no experience in close quarter maneuvering in a swift current with a large vessel. I know a lot more today about Close quarter maneuvering; in fact I have been practicing on the face dock over, and over again. I spend a considerable amount of time studying the tides and wind next to the marinas dock. For now on, before I unhitch the boat, I know just what the boat is going to do. Just thought I would share my near miss in the hopes that someone might read and get inspired to practice in close quarters with your boat before something bad happens. I read and read and practice. I’m doing the best I can, not to get hurt or hurt anybody. I take full responsibility for this near miss. I was at the helm. I knew better. I knew it was wrong when the stern line was taken off. Won’t happen again under my watch.
Happy Sailing, be safe. Capt. Curt 07/07/2012
Drhoward is correct. you needed to use what is called a "watermans" spring line. I do a lot of docking in river currrents. I am an instructor and also teach people to dock in river currents. Here are some tips you should always think about. Remember the five forces:
1) Propeller Wash
2 Propeller Walk
The idea is always get at least 3 of the 5 forces working in your favor. Remember current is always stronger than wind. So you want to try and get your bow into the current at all times. Once you do that, you can use a spring or bow line if the wind is not where you need it to be. Now if there is minimal or no current, then wind becomes the controlling factor--usually. If the wind and/or current make it difficult for you to use prop wash/walk, then a spring or pivot line is essential (unless you have bow thrusters). Of course always talk with your crew about docking and undocking before you actually do it so everyone knows how to handle the prevailing circumstances.
Thank you for sharing your story! It is a good learning tool and don't worry--we have all been there. Anybody who says otherwise is either inexperienced or a liar.