Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem - SailNet Community

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Old 08-15-2012
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Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

I had planned to stay at Knapp’s Narrows overnight in Tilghman Island for the first time over the weekend. The channel entrance is notoriously shallow and there is always a strong current. I had a nice and pleasant 6 hours sail up from Back Creek and navigated the narrow and shallow channel successfully. I had called the marina in advance and I was told I should dock at the first spot at their floating dock. When I arrived I noticed the first spot is not as big as I would have liked but thunderstorms were going through the area and I wanted to tie up ASAP. As I approached the dock, I noticed the dockhand was jumping up and down and gesturing things I couldn't understand. My engine is loud so I pointed to my radio but he didn't have one. Considering the current was swift and storms were going through, I decided that I would dock and tie up first and then I can discuss if I need to move the boat somewhere else. I got closer to the dock (going with the current and wind was pushing me toward the dock) I tossed my lines to the dockhand but he refused to pick them up and was continuing jump up and down. When I realized what was going on, I got back to the cockpit and tried to fight the current but my 35 years old yanmar 2QM15 doesn't have much oomph left and there was no way it could do much. There was a metal dredger with sharp edges at the end of the floating dock and wind and current was pushing me toward it. I narrowly missed it but unfortunately I now had grounded my boat about 30 feet away from the dock! I tried heeling the boat without success and kedging off didn’t do much. After an hour of trying to set myself free, I had to declare defeat and call Boat Us. Meanwhile, the dockhand who didn’t pick my lines, was shouting encouraging and helpful remarks from the shore: “Captain! Do something, you’re in trouble!” was one of them. He shortly left. Later, we saw him drunk and shirtless in St. Michaels bothering restaurant patrons.

At the end, no one got hurt and the boat didn’t sustain any damage but it was an ordeal nonetheless. I’m taking total responsibility for what happened. I should have had a backup plan and should not have solely trusted the dockhand. I would really like to know, what would be the best method of approaching the dock in this situation? I was thinking I should have pinched the bow against the dock and left the engine idling in forward while trying to tie up. Perhaps that would have countered the effect of wind and current somewhat. As embarrassing this was, I would still like to learn from it so any help and/or criticism would be greatly appreciated.

Last edited by flyingjib; 08-15-2012 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

You were hung out to dry, my friend. I'm sorry that happened to you, and I would have pounded the dockhand into the pavement while he was drunk and shirtless.

You avoided the dredge, which is good. Backup plan? Next time, identify more than one place to tie up to, in case you have to abandon your first choice.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

Yeah, that really sucks. Sorry the deck hand proved useless.
If there was room to turn I would suggest facing into the wind/current or whichever one is controlling if they are counter to one another. With a strong current passing your keel, and your boat facing up current, you may find that you can position your boat parallel to the dock and slowly "walk" the boat sideways over to it using a little forward gear-neutral-forward action.

I have gotten myself into enough ugly docking situations that I have finally (started to at least) develop a sense of when to ditch the idea of going forward and stand off in a safe area until I can figure out what is going on, not always easy to do for sure, but sometimes it is better to pull a 180 and head back out of the marina all together and regroup.

The few times that I have had to approach a floating dock down wind and/or down current I try to get either a mid line on something or from the cockpit (if I have someone on deck to help) or if alone I try to get close enough to catch a dock cleat with an aft dock line that is already fixed to my boat. The aft line will lay your boat against the dock in the scenario that you have diagramed above, no need for engine with current and wind from behind.

Trying to tie the bow first in your diagram will likely lead to the boat pivoting around the bow and can quickly become an expensive pulpit repair job. If ther was enough room for the boat to pivot when nosed into the dock and end up facing into the wind/current there should be enough room for a tight turn upwind.

Live and learn right?

Glad it worked out without harm in the end.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

Approaching a dock with the wind & current behind you is always problematic. Is there a reason why you could not approach the dock heading into the wind and current?
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

Going downwind in a situation like that makes it harder to control the boat and nearly impossible to escape if you miss. If you could have swung around into the current and then crabbed slowly across, it may have helped. I have found that you cannot depend on dock people to be of any help. Just assume there's no one there. Hey, we've all been there, don't feel bad. Getting sailboats in tight spots with wind and current is not easy and there are no sure things. Just plan ahead and have lines ready so you can jump off quickly on touchdown.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

I have nothing to add. Just want to say that I'm glad there were no injuries and no damage done.

I'm very interested to read some strategies that others have for this kind of docking situation.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

I agree with all. Heading out until you figure out what all the hubbub is would be my first choice. If you are into stunt sailing, you could head in as you did, and start reversing. If the current is strong enough you can steer in toward the dock (water going over rudder from the stern), while the boat remains stationary relative to the dock.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

In my opinion, your first mistake was attempting to put in at Knapps Narrows Marina. I've never had a postive experience with this place.
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Old 08-15-2012
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I would have turned and come bow into the wind tying up on my port.
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Old 08-15-2012
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Re: Knapps Narrows Incident - Post Mortem

How bad did the thunderstorms look as you approached the channel leading into Knapps Narrows?

Perhaps you should have stood off in the Bay until you could safely navigate the narrows without that additional pressure, or go around Blackwalnut Point and approach from the Choptank side - at least there are some safe open anchorages on that side, if all else fails, such as Dun Cove.
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