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TakeFive 05-28-2011 02:29 PM

Winching my boat into the dock?
Because I was nice to the marina manager last year, she gave me the only single slip in the whole marina in my size range (just inside a T-dock, marked below in red). There are no pilings in the water, so those who share double slips have to rely on fenders to keep from hitting the finger docks:

So after relying on fenders all last year, this year I have enough cleats and surrounding docks to keep the boat from rubbing the fenders, although I'll probably leave them out just in case:

Note that in the above pic I orient the boat diagonally to reduce stresses on the lines by aligning (somewhat) with the river current.

This gets to the point of my question. Docking on an ebb current is a piece of cake. Since the current is pushing the boat out of the slip and toward the T, I idle the motor in reverse and back in ever so slowly.

However, a flood current is a different story. When backing in with the current (therefore faster than I would like) I grab the spring line labeled "#1" with a boat hook and get it over the midship cleat as quickly as possible. That guarantees that our outboard or fragile rudder will not crash against the dock when backing in. I had hoped that continued backing against the spring line would pull the boat gently against the T-dock (as happened in my slip last year). But the currents are a little stronger in this dock, and they push the bow of the boat (and the underwater keel) hard to starboard, usually ending up like this:

Last night, with just the gentlest SW breeze, it took about 5 minutes of pulling as hard as I could and constantly readjusting my footing so I would not fall off the boat to get the bow pulled in enough to secure the line. In a stronger blow there is no way I would be able to do this. So I am thinking of attaching an additional line, about 30' long, to the cleat on the T-dock, leading it around the bow cleat (or perhaps around the base of the bow pulpit), and back to the winch so I could crank the bow toward the T-dock:

We would remove this line from the winch once we are docked and put a loop over the bow cleat to secure the boat.

Have any of you had to do something like this to get your boat into a slip? Any suggestions of something better?

tomandchris 05-28-2011 03:26 PM

I realize that this is an outboard, but are you trying to use power to make it happen or just muscle? With the spring and power my boat would most likely pull straight against the spring. Not sure about the outboard though.

Your winch ideal should work and save you muscle power at least.

capecodda 05-28-2011 05:22 PM

After you grab the spring which you are attaching midships, what happens if you turn your outboard (best) or rudder (second best) so as to move the stern to starboard (like you are turning to port). Then put just enough power on to move the stern to stbd and put the boat parallel to the dock, but not fully stem the current. If you can turn your outboard, you have a stern thruster, something very few of us inboard guys have. Wonder if the spring would then do its job and crab you in while keeping you parallel to the dock.

I find on different boats, depending on the position of the mid ships cleat, different rudder positions and power setting may be required to get the boat to spring in. Some are so poorly placed, you just cannot make it work. But you've got an outboard that pivots (stern thruster!), but you've got difficult wind/current combo.

Hard to know without exactly what will happen without trying in your boat, in your current on your dock. Once you get the 2 lines on, seems the experiment wouldn't cause harm, and if it works you could possibly eliminate the bow line. If it works your bow line would go slack, and she'd crab in with tension on the spring.

When I had a 52 sometimes I would use a winch to handle a dock line, and found it very helpful. Have to be careful everything run fair, and you don't take out your lifelines, but nothing wrong with using winches IMHO.

deniseO30 05-28-2011 05:24 PM

Seems as the keel is/was broached by the current Rick, would it not be easier to use the rudder hard over? Most boats that I've seen in slips use criss crossed lines to keep the boat in place. bow to stern or port to starboard? Just wondering.

capecodda 05-28-2011 05:27 PM

One other thought, do exactly the opposite of my last post, turning the motor so that in reverse it pulls the stern to starboard. Same general idea, not sure what would work better.

JiffyLube 05-28-2011 06:55 PM

Why are you pulling the boat into the slip in reverse? Why not come bow in first, take your starboard midship line and hook it over the stern dock cleat coming in, turn your rudder to port and power the boat up to the dock.

chef2sail 05-28-2011 07:49 PM


I too was wondering why you were backing in. Either way in your set up I would attach my bow line to the first outward cleat on the dock and buy one of those aeirel like whips with a curve on the end and place it where your port spring line cleat on the dock is (middle one).

When leaving the slip walk the port bow line back and place on the end of the ariel whip as it hand over the water into the slip, and it so it is ready to grab when you come into the slip. it should already be the correct length so you wont hit your stern or rudder when you cleat it on the boat.

When backing in I would then grab both of the lines at the same time, Drop the spring over the midship cleat and then walk forward with the the other line and drop it over the bow cleat. Use different colored lines so you can easily figure the difference between the two.


TakeFive 05-28-2011 07:51 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll try to address everything in one message. Pulling in forward is really not an option because my wife is terrified of going on the foredeck, and doesn't want to take the helm. Backing in allows us to grab the spring line from the cockpit first, and once that's secured I leave the helm and go to the foredeck to do the rest while my wife secures the rest of the lines at the stern. There are also other reasons related to the boat controlling much better in a cross-current when pulling through the fairway in reverse - I thoroughly covered that in another thread last year.

The suggestions about turning the rudder (and motor, since I have a really nice hard link) with forward and/or reverse thrust did not seem to work to move the bow closer to the T-dock. The current was just too strong. I think the keel is broaching, as Denise mentioned. Crossing the stern lines is a problem because I raise the outboard, and the lines can get caught in the prop and/or rub through the paint on the lower unit (I've had both happen on my powerboat before.) The bow is narrow, and the cleats are so close together that crossing them makes no difference except to increase chafing. Fortunately they are floating docks, so we don't need as much slack in the lines, which is another common reason for crossing them.

All this may be academic anyway. I think I'm going to move back to the slip I had last year. I was at the dock today in 17 kt breeze, and not happy with the way the boat was bouncing around. Also, way too much driftwood all the time - you can see in the photo that there's an open fetch and the flood current just pushes all the crap right into my slip. In theory, the ebb should push it back out, but instead it creates a logjam behind my transom and collects there. The brand now paint (Pettit Vivid - a hard paint!) wore off the trailing edge of the rudder at the waterline after only a week!

Also, there's a guy next to me on the outside of the T-dock who's a total a$$, has complained about everything from the position of my shore power cable to the location of my cleats (as if any of this affects him) ,and I suspect he disconnected my shore power the other day to get under my skin. I've never complained about the huge dock box he put at the end of the T, which he obnoxiously located on my side so I can't get to the cleat if I put it on the end of the dock. (This box is clearly visible on the satellite pic above.)

Much as I like having a T-dock for the length of my boat, my old slip was much better protected from both weather, current, and debris. The guy who was in my slip last year left because of a dispute with a neighbor, and I think I've learned the hard way who his dispute was with.

This pic (oriented north-up) shows both my new slip and the one from last year:

TakeFive 05-29-2011 10:25 PM

I should not have mentioned the unpleasant neighbor. The reason I'm moving is really because of the better protection from weather and debris deeper in the fairway. I've dealt with unpleasant neighbors before and that's not really a factor here - I was just venting a bit.

Now that I'm going back to my old slip with only a half-length finger dock on one side, backing in will be a requirement. My boat has no side decks and a high freeboard, so boarding into the cockpit is the only viable option. Hence the need to back in so that the finger docks reach the boarding point.

joethecobbler 05-31-2011 06:15 PM

ASA,boat us,and your local power squadron offer good basic docking instruction and classes.
I might suggest you look into this option. The issues your describing here are covered in great detail and the exerienced instructors would be glad to help, I'm sure.
Also, it is suggested that spouses take the classes separately.

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