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post #1 of 47 Old 08-07-2013 Thread Starter
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Docking help

This is our first year sailing and we are having a wonderful summer sailing Lake Michigan. We have had some good "Instructional" sails where have learned a lot. But we struggle coming into the marina slip. We have a 35 foot boat. We come in too fast or too slow. We can't find dock lines. We are pushed by the wind. We hit the dock box, crunched fenders, and torn carpeting from pilings. . Luckily we haven't hit a neighbor's boat. This has been frustrating.
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post #2 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Stay around a marina for a day and watch people dock similar boats. When you see someone that does it well and makes it look easy...introduce yourself. Tell them you watched them dock, loved how easy they made it look, and ask them if they could teach you. Most would be proud that you liked what you saw and they would help.

If that does not work for you, find a instructor to give you a days lessons (your boat or theirs) on docking and single handling. A day is more than enough for both, and both are good skills. Not sure where you keep your boat, but Bay Breeze in Traverse City would put you with a captain that could help you.

Have fun. After you bump a few times it will click, and then it gets easier. It is painful for you when you bump, but entertaining for those in the bar.
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post #3 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

What I did was practice where there was nothing to hit. Find a crab pot or mooring buoy in calm water and and practice coming up to it from different directions. Try to have your boat stop dead 1 ft. from it, sometimes in front, sometimes to the side, but always where you planned ahead to have it.
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post #4 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Here's what I do....It may work for you and it may not. I purchased a 32 morgan several years ago and was terrified every time I took it out, but not any more. When leaving the slip I have to back up about 150 feet to an intersection in the docks, my boat walks to the left so I found out by placing the engine in reverse and getting some sternway going the boat will start to walk back into my neighbors docks and boats. Slipping the tranny into neutral with full right rudder and letting her coast then popping it back into rev to keep headway going works for me. when coming into dock do the same thing...maintain steerage by putting it into gear and back to neutral and go slow! It will take some practice but it works and set up your lines on the dock before you leave so that you can grab the all important spring line and drop it on a cleat before you hit the dock, dock box or something else....maintain forward motion and control and speed with the transmission being shifted to neutral and then when entering the slip place it in reverse and give is some throttle and you will come to a perfect stop....just dont forget to take it out of gear before you start celebrating you seamanship!!! Good luck
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post #5 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Sebez, captures my favorite saying. "Neutral is a gear too". By the time I make the turn into my slip, I've been in neutral for awhile. That, from dead slow. There's enough carry to get me in to the slip. If the wind is coming off the dock, I take a little steeper aproach angle. If the wind is blowing toward, I come in straight but, stand off the dock a little and let the wind set me down. I single hand alot, and find that a mid ship cleat ( I put them on my genoa tracks) tied to a mid-dock cleat is all I need to worry about. Once that's tied off on a very short tether, I can leave the boat alone and go attach the other lines. If the wind is strong on the bow, you just need to throttle up to maintain bare steerageway. If it's pushing you along, just go into neutral sooner, and use reverse, neutral, to slow... I don't usually have to touch the throttle it's set at idle. Just slow everything down..
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post #6 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Yes thats it " Neutral is a gear to!"...can I use that in a conversation? Its all about speed and control...If you don't have forward motion you have no control with the rudder, if you don't have control then you are "Out of control"!!!!

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post #7 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Great thread... very good tips. We're currently docked in pretty much the toughest spot in our whole marina to get out of, and are complete beginners. To make matters worse, there's a big lily pad and weed patch right in the way just as we leave the dock. It fouls our prop so bad that it stalls our 8hp outboard, so I don't even bother putting it down any more until we carefully walk the boat out past it using the lines, a boat hook, and our hands to guide it alongside the boat behind us. I always start the outboard and warm it up before hand to make sure it'll start immediately and is ready to go once we've drifted past the weed patch. Once the motor is warm, I tilt it up and start the walking/hooking process, then drop the motor as fast as I can, get it started, put it in reverse, and get a little motion so I can steer. It's REALLY tight where we are, so I use the motor tiller to steer in reverse, then center the engine and use the boat's tiller when going forward. We're completely new to this, and it's still real scary, but we go real slow and haven't come even close to harming any boats at all. Slow as she goes.. just enough to maintain control, as every one has said. I'm hoping our confidence builds up soon so the trip out of the dock isn't so anxiety-instilling. Coming in is a piece of cake. It's backing up that we find so difficult, and having to wait until we've drifted PAST the weed patch to fire up the motor sure doesn't feel good. I should probably go snorkeling and cut'em out for the owner.

I'll be reading all the tips here faithfully. Thanks!


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post #8 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

I was intimidated with docking myself, when we brought our only first boat which was 32 foot Islander after sailing lesson, I was scared to death of doing damage to our boat and maybe other boats. What happen the gentleman next to us in the next slip told us to get some bouy, go out into large body of water with noone around and drop bouy off the side with weight hanging off bottom of them so they stay in one spot.
We use two of them for practicing docking and backing into a slip, try to stop boat before hitting the bouy, and along side without hitting them but getting as close as you can. Try using different direction for all excerise(going into wind, wind behind you, and each side of boat, port side and starboard side of boat).

This help us a lot. Another thing to try is turn your boat on a dime, Asailor friend of ours show us how to procede doing this. We turn wheel all way over to port and give hard throttle forward and than hard throttle reverse to keep boat in a tightest circle as posssible, it took us awhile to accomplish this, but it work for us turning in tight places.

I hope this help you out for learning curve of docking your boat. But every time we take boat out we learn something new. Some time it bad and some time it good. But all together we are still learning, and We love it even our mistake.
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post #9 of 47 Old 08-07-2013
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Re: Docking help

Oh yea, I feel your pain. I was practicing this only yesterday with a good friend who said, as soon as I had made it in the slip, "now pull out and do it again." The suggestions everyone has already mentioned are the ones I've also been told to do and there's only one way to figure out how your boat is going to maneuver. One thing I would suggest is to ask the harbor master for a better slip or to let you know when one is opening up. There were two I could pick from and while one had more space, I chose the one that usually would be downwind of this big honking sport fisher that's sharing my slip.

Good luck!
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post #10 of 47 Old 08-08-2013
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Re: Docking help

We were all there at the beginning. The only part of the OP that I would say not to worry about is crushing fenders. IMO, that is what they are there for. Do not expect to arrive or depart a slip and never have them do any work. In some cases, you must press the boat against them to do it right.

Speed control is key. Find something in open water, such as an empty mooring or nav aid and practice maneuvering beside it, until you get a handle on speed control. Open water allow you to try this into the wind, downwind, crosswind, etc. You want to go no faster than necessary to maintain control.

Then get Captain Jack Klang's docking video. He's a classic. I will post a link, if I can find it. While he shows you how to do it singlehanded, the exact principals apply if you have help. Spring lines are your friend. Good luck.

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