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post #1 of 27 Old 12-01-2006 Thread Starter
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Docking while single-handing

Hey, tomorrow I plan on single handing for the first time. I'm wondering, how do I get off the dock with my boat? Uusually I have the crew guide the boat while he's standing on the dock, then take hold of the shroud and get on while the boat is pulling away. Also, how do I dock the boat? Again, I usually have someone step off the boat and guide it into place.
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post #2 of 27 Old 12-01-2006
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I'm not sure what size boat you're dealing with, however, if you have a motor or engine you can push yourself off from the dock and motor away once you're free.

Getting back in can be a bit more of a problem. I use a long line attached to the forward cleat and run it back to myself in the cockpit. As I slowly approach the dock, I loop the line over the dock cleat and the boat stops in very short order. Once you're out of the boat you can tie it up in any way that suits the boat and the conditions, but this slow moving approach with a line in my hand amounts to a dock line from the dock near the stern of the boat attached to the bow and the boat will stop.

I've used this system on my 25 and, later on my 31 with great results. Just keep it "dead slow" and the long line will hold the boat next to the dock.
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-01-2006
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Dean's advise is good, whether single-handing or with crew. The forward spring line, led aft, and secured to the dock with the motor at dead slow ahead will pull you along side. If the stern drifts out you can shift your rudder so the prop wash flowing over it pushes it in. Having a breast line ready aft is all you need to initially secure the vessel. A breast line is one that runs perpendicular to the hull of the vessel, or straight out to the dock. Then you can walk forward and put out a breast line at the bow.
Undocking you can reverse the procedure. "Single up" to a forward spring line and an aft breast line. Ease off the aft breast line, shift your rudder so as to turn the bow into the dock, motor ahead dead slow to walk the stern off the dock. Let the breast line go when the manoeuver appears to be going succesfully and back down releasing the spring line last. If you do not have anyone on the dock to let go your lines, you can put out a bight on each of the two lines. That is, both ends of the line will be on the boat. Then you can release one end and pull it around the piling or bollard on the dock and back to the boat. Be leary of trying this if your securing point on the dock is a cleat. Invariably, the line will foul on the cleat as you're pulling it in necessitating dropping the whole thing over the side. Or hanging up your boat at the most inauspicious moment. Run those two lines around a piling or bollard before undocking and they will render around much better.
Remember, your spring line and any forward motion will control the bow towards bringing it alongside. Your propulsion with the rudder hard over will bring the stern in-this works even though you think that the rudder is going to cause the bow to come out.
Adding wind to the equation complicates matters, or makes it much easier.
The best way to become adept is to have crew standing by but not helping unless in extremis.
It's a good challenge and very satisfying when you "get it".
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post #4 of 27 Old 12-01-2006
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I find that a mid ships line works best for me. Speed is determined by just how and where the wind is blowing. The best approach is a SLOW approach. If you have a mid ships line pre rigged you can control the boat with the engine at idle. Hook the line at the end of the dock and let it run until you want to stop. Snug up the line to stop the boat,cleat it off, leave it at idle, and the boat will snug up to the dock. Just set your tiller or wheel to keep it there. You can even get off the boat and take care of your other lines without worrying about the boat being blown off. Safest way to single hand into a dock in my experience.

Thank you Captain Jack from Quantum Sails for this one.
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post #5 of 27 Old 12-02-2006
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The best system I have come-up with is a large loop of line run thru plastic tubing (acts as chaffe protection and holds the loop open) attached to the boat near the cockpit (can we the winch cleat, midship cleat, etc...)within reach of the helm. Line w/loop MUST be short enough to prevent boat from reaching forward end of slip. As I enter the slip slowly I place the loop over the post, piling, or cleat closest to the end of the slip. This acts as a dockline/brake. After the loop is in place (even if boat is still slightly moving), the stern is secure and I can step off the boat and grab the bow line that I left attached to the bow and laying outside the stantions on the sidedeck. With stern secured and bowline in hand, I can then make fast as need.
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post #6 of 27 Old 12-06-2006
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Originally Posted by goldingds
Hey, tomorrow I plan on single handing for the first time. . . . .
OK, so how did you go??

The advice given above is all good, and yes, coming into the dock is the tricky bit. Some other pointers: use the prevailing conditions to your advantage as much as you can - wind, current etc. and go SLOW. Also, use your boat's charateristics like prop walk to advantage if you can.

A challenge I have is that there are no cleats, piles or poles on the dock finger! The marina supplies the mooring lines and they are spliced onto metal rings on the dock; you pick them up as you go in, which is not easy single handed. I can now slowly edge into a position where I stop within 10' of the final position, with the fenders just off the finger edge. I then step off with one of my own lines attached to a midships stanchion so I can hold the boat in position while attaching the marina fitted lines.


Take Care

Hakuna Matata
(No worries mate!)
Western Port Marina
Hastings, Vic, Australia
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post #7 of 27 Old 12-06-2006
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The slip I am presently in is near the seawall and I back in. There isn't much room for manuvering. What I do, is coast down the last half of the dock to take as much weigh of as possible, once I get to my pier, I turn towards the middle of the channel, as near to even with my pier as possible. I already have it in reverse (at idle) at this point, so I give it some juice to get it going backwards and bring it in at a slight angle towards the pier. Once I get past the end of the pier, I turn away from the dock, with the engine in neutral, step off the boat and walk it back. (I also have a dinghy float at the back of the slip.) Since the lines are on the dock, it's then a simple matter to put them on.

When leaving, if there is wind on either beam, I'll have the engine warmed up, then walk it to the end of the pier before getting on.

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post #8 of 27 Old 12-06-2006
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John, your approach sounds very similar to my mooring arrangement in our marina. I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind:

1) As you are going in reverse and turning into your slip, how do you minimize prop walk so that you can actually end up where you want?

2) How do you counteract current--I have wind and current on the port beam, and I dock port side, so as I'm coming in slowly, the wind/current are moving me away from the slip, so that even if I have docked beautifully, by the time I try to get off the boat to tie up, I'm already 3 feet away from the dock and drifting further

Thanks for any replies.

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post #9 of 27 Old 12-06-2006
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If you have to ask that question you should not singlehand. Every time is different and you need to evaluate the situation quickly and make a decision. Be prepared to bang the boat up a bit because you will. Make sure your insurance is up to date.
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post #10 of 27 Old 12-06-2006
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Goldings, the answer is probably in seamanship and line handling. Depending on wind conditions, as long as you can get one line from the boat to the dock, you can find a way to warp the boat in and finish securing it. Similarly to the way you can get off the dock, by using one spring line to help you rotate or guide the boat out as needed.
I'd expect you could find good information on line handling in Chapman's and other sources, online as well. As long as there are horn cleats on your dock, you an always throw a line over a cleat, and with that one connection you've got a start on docking control. (I never jump from a boat to a dock, I throw a line and only step down once there's little relative motion. "Fall down go boom" can ruin your day.)
Part of this all is learning how to handle the boat, learning how much engine and rudder it takes and when neither will help and how the wind takes the hull. The only way to learn that is by practice. It helps if you practice that at the dock with a couple of fenders & friends on board, to intercede only at the last minute only if needed. But if you'd rather practice in private, you can also take a couple of 2x4's or some PVC pipe and make a "practice dock" float that you can practice docking with, in open water. Drop an 8-10' length of 2x4 or pipe in ten feet of water (easy to anchor with plain weights) put a flag or whip at each end of it, practice docking alongside. If you bump big deal.
Some folks get flustered and panicked during real docking because the stakes are much higher. The damages or embarassment. Well...that's a problem in itself, and if you are prone to flustering, you need to plan around that too. There's no time for it when you are docking, you have to just deal with the boat until it has been secured. (Or use that practice float instead.)
The first time I had to dock alongside was at the end of a long day, at a fuel dock between two expensive boats, very much like parallel parking a car. About a hundred feet out, I realized I'd never done that in a sailboat before...I'd only moored or docked bow-to. Ancestral memories and the fear of making a spectacle are the only things that guided me in. Well, OK, helped by one line and one horn cleat on the dock.
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