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Old 11-07-2000
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Docking in a Slip

What is the best way to dock a sailboat in a slip, single-handed?

Mark Matthews responds:

Thanks for the question. There are bound to be a number of different techniques depending on the kind of boat you are docking, whether big or small, whether traveling with the current or against it, whether sailing into the dock or motoring to it, whether you are docking on a finger pier, tying up to pilons, or docking side-to, so I may not be offering an answer specific to your situation.

I find that when single-handing and bringing a boat into the dock there are certain things you want to have in place regardless of whether you are sailing to the dock or motoring to it: Have all docking lines and fenders in place well in advance. Have a bow line, stern line, and a line amidships ready to go. Keep the boat moving slowly, but not so slow that you lose your steering capabliity.

Avoid tachometer-breaking blasts of reverse to stop the boat. Securing the midship line first will ensure that the two most important objectives are met: the boat is no longer moving forward, and it is secured to the dock. Getting the bow and the stern attached are next, but by then your disaster potential is considerably reduced.

For more helpful information on docking, take a look at the articles in our Learning to Sail and Seamanship sections.

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