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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 06-10-2010
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docking procedures

Hi, I am as beginner as it gets!! I have NEVER been a water person. I've been dating a fellow for the past 2+ years and he has sailed before. He currently owns a 32' Cooper Pilothouse.
Last Sunday we took the boat out for the first time and I was given instructions on docking, etc.
I think I did 'okay' but we didn't get very far out when he realized that the GPS/depth sounder was not working so we had to go back to the dock.
Things did not go very well on my part...although it was not disastrous. But can anyone tell me the proper docking procedures? Leaving the dock and coming back in to it? I want to be better prepared for our next outing. Thanks!
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Old 06-10-2010
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Try this: Anchors-Docking
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Old 06-10-2010
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Thanks for the link!
Looks like a lot of information there....is it really that difficult??
Cuz now I'm even more worried.
I know there is a ton to learn but....
What other 'basic' things do I need to know about as a complete novice????
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Old 06-10-2010
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There are entirely too many variables to even begin to tell you the step by step; instead that is the province of the skipper, your boyfriend, to explain and teach.

Every boat is different, every dock is different, every bit of the wind and current is different, and every skipper most assuredly has his/her way of docking.

Ask, listen, if you don't understand, ask again.
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Old 06-10-2010
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Yeah like you said...there will be different situations each time.
I'm not entirely sure what I could have (should have) done better (differently) last time.
But I was in tears afterwards!! : (
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Old 06-10-2010
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Too bad about the tears... generally that's not necessary (were you yelled at? - also not necessary)

A couple of things to keep in mind.. never approach a dock faster than you're prepared to hit it and keep in mind that boats tend to pivot around their keels. The Cooper, with it's skeg will be slower to turn than some, and has some heft to it so you'll have some momentum. But expect the stern to swing out in the opposite direction of your turn, and leave room for that.

Were you asked to steer the boat into the slip or were you handling lines?

If you're in the Vancouver area you could PM me if you like and maybe I could spend some time giving you pointers - or meet for some practice. It's not rocket science and tears do not promote enjoyment.....
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Old 06-10-2010
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It sounds like the boat may have been new to both you and boyfriend. Until both of you learn (by practice and doing) how the new boat handles in the location/water that you dock in, it will be a bit stressful. Maybe some practice sessions when weather conditions are mild will help the situation. Just a thought, why did you do the docking...could he have done better? Not all docking is necessarily pretty, and if you don't tear up something, call it a success (we all frequently experience this). P.S., don't let the complexities that are described spook you...you'll understand and deal with these as you gain experience.
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Old 06-10-2010
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Have the fenders hung over the side and the lines ready before you land on the dock and make it clear to him that there will be no cuddling later on if there is yelling during the docking procedure.
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Old 06-10-2010
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I haven't been sailing for very long, and docking is still the most stressful part of sailing for me. I would ask your boyfriend to teach you stuff that involves being far from the hard, unforgiving shore. I would go in the following order (which is basically how I've been training my crew/wife).

1) Learn to steer the boat first under sail in open waters. It's way more fun and peaceful than motoring, and the rewards are somewhat more immediate. It's still a challenge, but if the weather is right, there's basically no chance of disaster.

2) If you've got some reasonably exposed dock-like targets---a mooring ball is a great example---practice motoring up to it and stopping next to it in very light winds. This will give you a feel for how the boat handles under power in a low-stress environment.

3) Have your boyfriend back the boat into the slip, and then you can try motoring to some other easily accessible dock in the marina, like a guest dock or fuel dock.

Basically start in the least restricted waters doing the most fun stuff, and then gradually add challenges as you get comfortable with maneuvering.

In all these things, have your boyfriend go over the procedure with you beforehand and repeat it back to him. If you do it more than once, he may give you a different procedure because the wind and current are different from last time, so make sure you walk through the procedure beforehand each time. Soon you'll get a feel for how the various forces work, and you'll be able to figure out the proper procedure for yourself. Once you get to that point, you know you're ready to try something harder.

Best of luck and don't lose heart!
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Don't even try to dock at this point. It would be stupid to let you so I presume you mean he had you handle a line. Even then many of us prefer to do all that by ourselves when with a newbie. Having someone who knows what they have to do is a big advantage, because sometimes things go wrong. The responsibility for that lies with the captain. But sometimes things get a bit tense at that point.
It really is his responsibility to show you and explain what to do beforehand. It is far better for you then to ask questions and rehearse it even mentally so you know exactly what to do and even better why you are doing it and why that way.
Many new skippers totally overestimate inexperienced peoples ability to pick up something new, when the whole environment and terms used are unfamiliar and panic can make the brain go awol.
To know what to do when things are happening and going wrong very quickly takes experience and practice.
What is important is to do just what you are asked to do exactly because the skipper is relying on you to do that. Repeat back to him what you think he has asked you to do and how you understand it so both of you know you have it right.
That said these things happen and are part of the learning curve for him and you not unlike learning to drive a car or hit a golf ball. Once the skills are mastered hopefully the fun makes up for the learning pains.
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