I am new to this forum and new to sailing...
...This has rattled my (and my family's) confidence. I have been considering purchasing a Precision 165, but I have it in my mind that if I can't sucessfully return to a dock, I have no business buying a sailboat. I have really enjoyed the sailing, but am losing confidence quickly with these mishaps.
Only twice? Goodness, there are people who never learn how to dock without rattling their teeth and denting boat and dock.
Go slow. Slower than whatever speed you went in at those first two times. Go at the speed at which you want to hit the dock. Think lightly touch not bounce off the wood. There is no hurry unless you have a medical emergency or something like it.
From what I have read, docking under sail, with no motor to bring you in is challenging. Does anyone have any advice? Has anyone had these same frustrations?
Frustrations, anxiety? Every time. Because no docking situation is like the last, even if you return to the same dock. Winds, current are different each time. Each time we go to a new marina it's different all over again. You just have to resign yourself to it and use that apprehension to maintain a bit of caution and hopefully safety.
And why are you docking under sail if you don't have to? Knowing how is a great skill for emergencies and I have a slip neighbor who enters and leaves his slip under sail each time. It was five years before I even realized he had a motor.
How did you ovecome it? Practice, practice, practice?
Yes. And practice some more. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Learn how to use your lines to help get you into the slip. If entering stern first, figure out how to ease up to the piling, get a line around the piling then a round turn around a mid-ship cleat and then use the line to pivot into the slip (motor in neutral). Or some combination of line and cleat depending on the configuration of your boat and the slip. Depending on the size of your boat, make the line handler the one who has enough strength to pivot the boat around the piling. We take turns. Sometimes I'm at the wheel, sometimes I'm handling lines.
If bow first in calm conditions, we attach one stern line first then deal with the spring and bow lines and the second stern line. That changes slightly depending on how the wind is pushing the boat.
Approach to just size up the situation first. We like to sidle up to the piling, see what the wind and current are doing, then plan from there. Or, have a rough plan that can be amended once we get closer. We've also aborted many an approach to reconsider. No harm done.
When you start going to different marinas with different configurations, one suggestion is to see if you can see the dock set up before you leave. We use marina websites (they usually have pictures), Google earth, the charts. Anything to give us an idea of the conditions ahead of time so there's less surprise once we get there. Then we plan our approach and make changes based on actual conditions.
Thinking about docking sometimes helps put me to sleep, too. I will visualize coming into our slip under various conditions. When I do it in reality, it's almost like I'd been there before. Also, it helps to talk it out with your wife. Set up scenarios using increasingly tricky situations: high wind, strong current or strong current and no wind, whatever, and talk it through between the two of you. One may think of something the other didn't.
I also recommend spending an off-day practicing. Go to the boat when the marina is not busy. Usually mid-week. That way you'll have fewer dockwatchers to add to your anxiety.
And finally, no yelling. It won't get the boat into the slip any easier.