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Mudtimud 12-15-2012 06:49 AM

Now this is my 3rd failure in my attempt to pass my Powered Pleasure Craft Driving License, and it vexed me beyond measure that I failed at the berthing section yet again. I thought I had it, after a practice session the previous day with almost a 80% success rate, and I cursed my wretched luck as I felt a strong gust of wind during my approach, pushing the boat away from the finger. I left the assessment centre with a failure slip on my hands, while I watched the lucky ones who were assessed in calm conditions prancing out with the certificated in their hands.

However, the more I lingered on this experience, the more I realised that as an aspiring skipper, it is my responsibility to acquire the skill needed to handle the boat under all weather conditions. It is my duty to train myself to be proficient enough for my crew and property (the craft) to be 'in good hands' under my charge. So this failure is a blessing, really, to push me towards becoming a greater skipper than I could have been if the weather had been calm enough for me to pass the assessment with ease.

But still, I envy the talented who could waltz over such challenges without feeling the sting of failure.

As a result, since it's my vacation and I have one shot left at passing the assessment before my exchange overseas, I have resolved to doing everything I can to practice craft handling. I have arranged an appointment with the captain who runs the training programme, and I will ask if there's work for me to do such that I can have a few hours of practice sessions every week as my wage. (Those sessions are expensive mind you!)

It's a long shot, but what else can I do? Any suggestions on how I can work on my handling skills? Googling for boat simulators right now -.-

Andrew Burton 12-15-2012 07:11 AM

Re: Failure
Spring lines are your friend when docking. Learn how to use them and you can pull victory from the jaws of defeat when coming in (or going out). Also, don't be afraid to abort the approach if things aren't lining up right, and make another pass. You see very good boat handlers doing this pretty often. There are so many variables that no one gets it right every time.
Then the other best piece of advice I can give is "slow is pro." if you approach nice and slow, even if you completely screw it up, you won't do any significant damage to anything but your ego. As a friend puts it, never approach a dock faster than you're prepared to hit it. You'll see the best boat handlers will almost never give the engine more revs than idle as they dock.
Good luck!

b40Ibis 12-15-2012 08:04 AM

Re: Failure
Failure is a huge part of being successful. Didn't Issac Newton fail out of school a few times? Thomas Edison and the light bulb?
I think you are right, you need practice. But in some conditions, wind, current, the type of boat, it would be very difficult to dock a boat for anyone.

Minnewaska 12-15-2012 08:20 AM

Re: Failure
Its a vicious circle, as anxiety will reduce your ability to think clearly and react in a way you are capable of reacting. Try to focus on relaxing and keeping a clear mind.

Then, prepare well. You should never be processing the plan in the moment. Gust or not, the wind will almost never fully change direction, but might kick up. Current is not going to change in the minute you take to land. So what are you going to do? Hold off and let these factors push you into the dock, or do you have to get right up next to it, knowing they will push you off? These are always determinable long before you get to the slip.

Then, knowing what lines you intend to use, in what order is important. I agree, a spring line is your friend. Get one from mid-ship to a cleat on the dock and you can idle power against it to hold you there forever.

Good luck. I consider docking to be the real human consequence of Adam eating the apple from the poison tree. No matter how great the day was, this stress will always be how it ends. If he hadn't done that, no marina would ever have wind or current. :)

Lake Superior Sailor 12-15-2012 10:39 AM

Re: Failure
People tend to over think landings! It's not that hard; Know where you are going,line up in open water,slow to minimum steerage speed,and make small corrections,Do not over steer, wait for the boat to react! KISS...Dale

LarryandSusanMacDonald 12-16-2012 11:06 AM

Re: Failure
The quality of the landing is inversely proportional to the number of onlookers. If nobody is watching... perfect, every time. Anything over 10 onlookers insures lost gelcoat. I would imagine that being judged under test conditions would change that proportion by a large factor. :(

I always toss one of the onlookers a line, and make sure he misses. Then I can blame any mishaps on him. :laugher

Mudtimud 12-16-2012 11:31 AM

Re: Failure
Ahh that's the problem. To pass the assessment I'm not allowed to use any springlines. I don't know who came up with this criteria but I am required to get the boat parallel and stationary to the berth within an arms reach without any assistance from shore or onboard. I can normally pull this off under calm conditions but not on the leeward side of the finger during a gust, which would push me out before I can level it off parallel.

To make it worse, coming about for a re-approach is considered a failed attempt out of 2. On both my attempts that day I managed to berth at 20 degrees to the finger, and the lookout near the stern would have been able to hop off and pull me in. But due to the criteria of achieving a parallel berth, I failed.

Minnewaska 12-16-2012 11:37 AM

Re: Failure
Where in the world are those standards from?

I'm certain you've heard that any docking where all the passengers are safely placed ashore is a good docking. Any docking where you can use the boat again, is a great docking.

jrd22 12-16-2012 11:46 AM

Re: Failure
I admire your determination and resolve to become better at the most difficult part of boating. It really is just a matter of practice, and luck, and anyone that says they never mess up is lying. One gust of wind, or an unexpected lull, current against the wind, or with it, they can all turn a routine event into a do over, or worse. Stay at it and get some more practice, you'll get it. One more bit of advice; every time is different, dead slow may work one time but the next you may need some speed and lots of rpms, learn to "read" the conditions and adjust accordingly. Oh, and buy lots of fenders:-))

Flybyknight 12-16-2012 07:03 PM

Re: Failure
Practice, practice, practice.

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