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  #1  
Old 07-29-2013
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Training for dock hands.

As I cruised around Georgian Bay this summer I had the opportunity to dock at a few marinas, fuel docks and public docks.

Most of the docks were staffed by young people: probably high school kids working for the summer.

Each of the dock hands were friendly and polite. None (or at least very few) of the dock hands seemed to know what to do in order to assist me in docking my boat.

My wife and I have docking down to an art form - granted it's not always 'classic': occasionally we slip into the 'surreal'. We prefer not to get help when docking as more often than not the 'help' is anything but and tends to throw off our rhythm. However when approached by these bright-eyed youngsters, eager to grab our lines and make us fast, it is hard to discourage them by denying them the opportunity to help. They will invariably haul in the bow line, thus causing my potentially precisely executed landing to devolve into a mad scramble to get my stern under control. Or they will stand on the dock, line in hand, and mutter something unintelligible that sounds something, but not actually, like:"Your going to hit the dock."

I know someone will say, "Don't hand them the bow line." We don't. I generally approach the dock at a steep angle and bear off just in time for the boat to stop and the fenders to kiss the dock at the exact point that I intended. We have the bow line draped over the pulpit just to have ready. As I approach the dock the line is within easy reach of the dock hand. I suppose I could yell at them to drop it or not touch it but I don't want to frighten them, or have my line trailing under my boat.

We actually heard an older dock attendant, giving instructions to a bunch of new dock attendants. We heard him tell them "The most important thing is to grab the bow line and pull it in hard. That's how you help someone dock."

We also noticed that there is no consideration given to wind direction when assigning slips. Sure when the marina is busy you can take what you get. We pulled into a largish marina that was almost empty (it was midweek - we also had made a reservation). We were assigned slip #38. There were a few more slips beyond us so I figure there were close to 50 slips on our dock. Only six boats were tied up at our dock for the two nights we were there. So space was not an issue.

When we arrived the wind was blowing reasonably briskly. Our assigned slip had the wind coming from behind. We docked without incident. I wondered why, when the dock was almost empty I had been assigned a slip with the wind coming from behind, instead of one of equal size, on the opposite side of the dock with the wind coming from ahead. After tying up I went to check in and asked about the policy of slip assignments and explained that docking into the wind is generally preferable. The young guy at the desk was very polite, but he obviously had no inkling that wind direction could be a factor in successful docking.

I got to thinking about these things and had an idea.

I am a member of the Canadian Power & Sail Squadron (CPS) and have been since I took up sailing.

We pay annual fees to CPS - which I don't mind at all. For these fees we get membership and a monthly magazine (which I enjoy). We have taken courses through CPS and we pay for the courses in addition to our fees. Again I feel the fees and the course costs are reasonable and don't have an issue with them.

I thought that it could be a great service for the CPS (and perhaps the equivalent organizations around the world) to provide marinas with a half day training session for their summer staff at the beginning of each boating season (or at regular intervals in areas where boating is carried out year-round). My suggestion would be that there would be no cost to the marinas. The cost to CPS would be negligible if they used member-volunteers to provide the training.

The benefits to the marinas would be their ability to provide better service. CPS would benefit as they would have a great opportunity to promote their brand and solicit new membership. And boaters would benefit by having more knowledgeable hands into which to toss our lines.

What does anyone think of this?
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Old 07-30-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

I think your idea, if executed correctly, would be great for the boater and the marina's reputation. I personally ask for no help, if offered, because I have had more trouble with the "help" than docking single handed. If I do hand a line it is a mid ships line only and I give direction on what I want them to do with it.
Of course there are exceptions, but those are few and far between in our area. Most of those are old salts that have taken harbor master jobs later in life.
Manpower could be an issue in the training, but even a short video would be of great help in training summer staff. I would think that the marina management would welcome it, the costs would be low, and those that used it as part of their seasonal training would welcome it.
Great idea!
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Old 07-30-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

Brilliant idea.
on our first pump-out of the season we give the new redshirts a gentle crash course in the physics of sailboat linehandling. While they are pumping, we demonstrate why snugging up the bow first is a bad idea that leads to more yelling and fewer tips.

Often a bigger problem is large powerboaters who seem to think that everything happens on the transom. they 've got someone back there with a line and nobody on the bow...and the skipper never leaves the helm until ordered off.
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Old 07-30-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

Like you I prefer the dock hands do nothing, my team has been well briefed for any docking or rafting up I'm going to do.

That said, training dock hands sounds good, but then you go into the great unknown of which is trained and which is seeing a boat for the first time.
Personally I would prefer if fuel docks had lines already on the pilings - just let me do the docking. If I'm visiting a marina I can dock at the fuel dock and eyeball the slip. If I don't like it I then have a choice of anchoring out.
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Old 07-31-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

I agree, a bad dock hand can really ruin a landing.

However, I also see what they deal with every day. A knowledgeable skipper should ask for a very simple task and no more. Do not let them volunteer. When we get help, its to tie one line on a specific cleat that we point to. We do not even throw them the line, until the boat is right next to it.

If you want to be handed a line from the dock, I always suggest it is a different color from the rest. Just ask for it by color and no explanation necessary.

However, I also see them handling some landings where the skipper seems totally frozen and is counting on them to give instruction. Putting myself in their shoes, its hard to know which you are dealing with. The skipper who only wants you to do what your told, or the skipper that wants to be told what to do. The latter, of course, has not business being a skipper, but they are out there.
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Old 07-31-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

it's funny - when we bring guests out who have not sailed they always ask how they can help and I always feel a little bad when I tell them NOT TO TRY AND HELP.

my wife and I have it down to a science...
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Old 07-31-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

I was that young, low-paid dock hand throughout high school and college at a busy municipal marina. Training was on-the-job by those who had been there longer. It would have been great if every boat approaching the dock said, no thanks I got this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of boats needed a lot more help landing than even the most highly trained dock hand could provide. It often came down to damage control, and sometimes it was a matter of putting personal safety ahead of that. It became easy to determine what level of assistance was needed, if any, just by analyzing the boat on its approach. Who was on board, what were they doing, how were the lines prepared, how was the boat maneuvering.

If the dock hand does something you do not like, make it a teaching moment. Everyone has to learn somehow. If they are out there trying, most would be receptive to feedback.
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Re: Training for dock hands.

I hand them the bow line and tell them not to pull but leave it slack. Of course you have only a few seconds to instruct as you are coming in to the dock and trying to time your swing in, etc. Sometimes it helps sometimes it doesn't.
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Re: Training for dock hands.

Quote:
Originally Posted by administrator View Post
it's funny - when we bring guests out who have not sailed they always ask how they can help and I always feel a little bad when I tell them NOT TO TRY AND HELP.

my wife and I have it down to a science...
This is so true. The most help they can be is to stay seated, so they don't become another variable.

I strayed and asked a guest recently to help remove the stern line as we cast off. Its the last line to go and I usually do it from the helm myself. I figured nothing could go wrong, he would feel helpful and I was right there to supervise.

We drop the springs and I man the helm to keep us in position, my wife casts the bow off and I tap the bow thruster to push the bow off and the stern in to ease the stern line. He methodically removes and casts the stern line on the dock. All good, right? Wrong!! Just as I push the bow out further, which often pushes the stern against it's fender, he pulls that fender aboard. WHAT???!!! Who asked him to do that? My topside paint job is about to contact the dock directly. I ask him to put it back and thankfully, he gets it back down about a nano-second before there wouldn't have been enough room to do so.

That's it. No more amateur help.
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Old 07-31-2013
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Re: Training for dock hands.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
he pulls that fender aboard. WHAT???!!! Who asked him to do that? My topside paint job is about to contact the dock directly.
I wonder if there's a direct correlation between how new and expensive a boat is, with the level of anxiety while aboard.
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