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post #1 of 19 Old 09-04-2012 Thread Starter
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Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

I am new to this forum and new to sailing. I took a beginner sailing course through my local park district earlier this summer. The park district also rents 14 foot catalina's with a swing centerboard at two lakes in our town. At one lake you take off and return to a beach, at the other you take off and return to a dock with small slips. I have been to the lake with the return to the dock twice and both times had bad experiences with returning to the docks (i.e. trouble controlling speeds, and needing to be towed in the other time). 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.

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? How did you ovecome it? Practice, practice, practice?

Thanks.
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post #2 of 19 Old 09-04-2012
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Practice. Just takes a while to get the hang of it.
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

It takes practice...and dependant upon how tight a quarters the dock is in and which way the wind is blowing it could almost be impossible sometimes, under sail alone.

If there's no wind or wind from the wrong direction a 14 foot boat shouldn't be too difficult to paddle in at a certain point or if its shallow enough..pole yourself in.

You can rock the boat from side to side to with the keel down to propel yourself forward too..you'd probably want to practice that, away from the docks though.

My marina folks move sailboats in and out of slips all the time without raising sails or starting the engine...they push off of poles with a boat pole...use lines etc..and scull...

Getting the speed right under sail, could mean you just need to drop the sails sooner and coast in or tighten and loosen them so that they aren't drawing...

Just go slow..

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Last edited by Tempest; 09-04-2012 at 02:14 PM.
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post #4 of 19 Old 09-04-2012
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Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

If you can't come head to wind consider coming in under jib alone.
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post #5 of 19 Old 09-04-2012
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bombay View Post
I am new to this forum and new to sailing...
Welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bombay View Post
...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.

My suggestions:

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.

Quote:
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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.

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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.

Good luck!
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post #6 of 19 Old 09-04-2012
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Probably the main thing is recognizing when you can and can't dock under sail.

It's easy when the wind is blowing away from your dock or slip, medium demanding when it's parallel, and downright difficult when it's blowing toward it. ('dock' means a long flat surface, and 'slip' means a short box at right angles to the main 'dock")

Why so? Cause it's easy to stop a sailboat by turnng into the wind, medium when reaching, and downright impossible when heading downwind.

Yeah, practice practice.

Practice first when wind's blowing off the dock and/or slip. use a buoy or something out in clear water to gauge how long it takes the boat to lose speed when you round up into the wind. Play with backing the jib, or pushing the main boom out to backwind the main briefly, as a way to stop or reduce speed if you're coming in too fast. You approach straight-in, ready to toss your bow line ashore. then lower your sails and you can swing her parallel. Or turn slowly parallel with sails way out so they're luffing.

Then do it when the wind's parallel to *dock*, this is actually the easiest. You head up into the wind, you're now parallel to the dock, coast to a stop, like this:

*Very* difficult to do in a slip though, for obvious reasons with the wind blowing across the slip, your luffing-way-out main boom will make you too wide. So,round up and land her on the outer piling head-to-wind, then pull or muscle her in after lowering sails.

Downwind? Consider docking elswhere if you can, if it's windy. Less wind? Get upwind of the slip a couple of boatlenghts off, turn her upwind, drop the main. Drop most of the jib, leaving a little up to turn your bow back towards the slip. Then lower it as you get closer. You'll drift in, hopefully slowly enough to stop the boat with your hands or by grabbing a line off the outer pilings.

This is all in books, with illustrations. Sailing into and out of a dock is "usually" fun.

Try it in light air, gain confidence, then try it in moderate air. Also catamarans are kind of wide (duh) but also lightweight. Monohulls opposite. Just make allowances for size and intertia accordingly.

Last edited by nolatom; 09-04-2012 at 02:35 PM.
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post #7 of 19 Old 09-04-2012
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Practice, practice, practice. Remember that even pros will have docking mishaps and in all likely hood you will also have a mishap. Just go slow and the damage will be minimal.

I hired an instructor to work with me for a couple of hours on three different days. I was learning to dock my 44 boat and didn't want to cause damage to slip neighbors. The perceptual narrowing will lessen the more you practice and you'll realize that if you are correctly prepared docking is very slow and deliberate and that you actually have tons of time before anything happens. If people can't calmly step of the boat or easily hand someone on the slip a line then that docking attempt was a failure.

If you work with an instructor you'll also discover that once you try without him/her the wind/current will be different. But if you spend enough time getting to know your boat and what it takes to turn it and what it takes to reverse direction you'll be comfortable to reattempt any failed docking attempt.
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Try to make the approach to the dock close hauled, then it's a matter of timing when you luff the sails by dumping the sheets, or heading up, and hopefully stop right at the dock. You look really cool when you get it just right! Worst case is a downwind approach, a guaranteed disaster.

Why you don't do it downwind - no way to stop!

How not to do it :


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Last edited by MarkSF; 09-04-2012 at 02:28 PM.
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Thank you for your responses. In my case, the boats do not have motors, so bringing them in under sail is the only option. The dock & slips are in a narrow man-made cove of the lake. Probably not the best scenerio for a bunch of hacks renting these boats! Yesterday I thought that I had it, the wind was blowing toward the docks, lightly, I came in on a reach several boat lenghts downwind of the docks, turned the boat to the wing, started slowing down, began to feel good about it, and then due to low water levels in the lake the swing centerboard got caught in the sand. Got out of that with a paddle, then the centerboard got stuck in the up position, had no control, blah, blah, blah. I will continue to practice using the techniques that you have described above.
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Re: Docking Troubles Causing Doubt

Consider this: once you've halfway gotten docking down under these conditions, anything else should be a piece of cake.
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