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Old 12-13-2012
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Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current.

The vast majority of time, close quarters maneuvering at low speed is fine. But the strong currents in Beaufort South Carolina can greatly reduce the margin for error. We recently got a great lesson and saw an example of exactly what can happen if you are not experienced with river sailing. My sailing partner Jim got to the marina early and packed and readied the boat for our afternoon departure. He de-berthed her and repositioned her on the face dock. The problem was the direction she was faced put her back to the wind and her stern in the current. A new moon phase that weekend made for especially swift currents.
Here’s where we got into trouble. I was at the helm. Jim was at the ready on the dock, ready with the lines. I fired the trusty 2gm Yanmar diesel and warmed it up. I checked my position. I was nervous. I had an instinctive feeling this departure was not right. He untied the bow first, at my command and shoved it out a few feet, then the stern and jumped on board. I yelled wait Jim!!! Were not right I yelled! Jim, get the boat hook, I screamed! I had no steerage at all. We began to pick up speed with the incoming tide. I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach. We have 4 boats down the dock and we are now cross ways of the dock moving sideways to the dock with our bow toward the dock. We were now headed straight, well “sideways” for the other docked boats. I have a folding prop on the boat and this prop gives almost no reverse propulsion. In desperation, I threw in into reverse and gave it my best shot. Jim could not find the boat hook so he sat down on the bow with his feet hanging over in the hopes to push off the oncoming boats with his feet and we all know this is against the rules. His instinct kicked in to at least try and stop a collision. With what seemed a lifetime and after pushing off 2 moored boats, we were able to finally get the bow into the current and find some steerage. It was so dangerous... We had no less than 5 possible insurance claims that day. Not to mention the near heart attack I had. I learned. Oh yes. I learned the hard way just how volatile a situation can become when you have no experience in close quarter maneuvering in a swift current with a large vessel. I know a lot more today about Close quarter maneuvering; in fact I have been practicing on the face dock over, and over again. I spend a considerable amount of time studying the tides and wind next to the marinas dock. For now on, before I unhitch the boat, I know just what the boat is going to do. Just thought I would share my near miss in the hopes that someone might read and get inspired to practice in close quarters with your boat before something bad happens. I read and read and practice. I’m doing the best I can, not to get hurt or hurt anybody. I take full responsibility for this near miss. I was at the helm. I knew better. I knew it was wrong when the stern line was taken off. Won’t happen again under my watch.

Happy Sailing, be safe. Capt. Curt 07/07/2012
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Old 12-13-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

use spring line to point front of boat across the current
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

I have a 45 footer and my neighbors a 42 foot trimaran with a 20 foot beam. In a space barely big enough to to turn around with one boat in. We always use the spring lines to maneuver out. We tie one opposite side of the stern. Go ahead with a hard over rudder. The boat spins around in its own length. All nice and easy. When the bow clears 180 degrees from start. We let the line go and we are off.

I learned this from being on a submarine that sometimes didn't have the best port support. Old man would hang a hurricane line off the back end go forward with a strain and let it rubber band around. full stop long enough(about 15 seconds) to retrieve the line with out fouling the screw and then go.
That always carried over to everything else. He never let his last line over until he or the tug had control of the boat.
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Old 12-13-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Turning a boat with lines is a good option. It can also be a good option when returning.

There are docking situations you simply should not try. If a strong tide is pushing you into a corner, it can be wiser to ask for a different slip or anchor out. I can think of a few where no amount of rope work makes them safe at peak flood; the moment you draw beam on you get slammed into the dock, and there is nothing outboard to get a line on.

Practice. Learn in small steps. OFten it is smart to practice a docking manuever several times in a row, even if it looks odd.
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Old 12-13-2012
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Smile Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Quote:
Originally Posted by ltgoshen View Post
Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current.

The vast majority of time, close quarters maneuvering at low speed is fine. But the strong currents in Beaufort South Carolina can greatly reduce the margin for error. We recently got a great lesson and saw an example of exactly what can happen if you are not experienced with river sailing. My sailing partner Jim got to the marina early and packed and readied the boat for our afternoon departure. He de-berthed her and repositioned her on the face dock. The problem was the direction she was faced put her back to the wind and her stern in the current. A new moon phase that weekend made for especially swift currents.
Here’s where we got into trouble. I was at the helm. Jim was at the ready on the dock, ready with the lines. I fired the trusty 2gm Yanmar diesel and warmed it up. I checked my position. I was nervous. I had an instinctive feeling this departure was not right. He untied the bow first, at my command and shoved it out a few feet, then the stern and jumped on board. I yelled wait Jim!!! Were not right I yelled! Jim, get the boat hook, I screamed! I had no steerage at all. We began to pick up speed with the incoming tide. I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach. We have 4 boats down the dock and we are now cross ways of the dock moving sideways to the dock with our bow toward the dock. We were now headed straight, well “sideways” for the other docked boats. I have a folding prop on the boat and this prop gives almost no reverse propulsion. In desperation, I threw in into reverse and gave it my best shot. Jim could not find the boat hook so he sat down on the bow with his feet hanging over in the hopes to push off the oncoming boats with his feet and we all know this is against the rules. His instinct kicked in to at least try and stop a collision. With what seemed a lifetime and after pushing off 2 moored boats, we were able to finally get the bow into the current and find some steerage. It was so dangerous... We had no less than 5 possible insurance claims that day. Not to mention the near heart attack I had. I learned. Oh yes. I learned the hard way just how volatile a situation can become when you have no experience in close quarter maneuvering in a swift current with a large vessel. I know a lot more today about Close quarter maneuvering; in fact I have been practicing on the face dock over, and over again. I spend a considerable amount of time studying the tides and wind next to the marinas dock. For now on, before I unhitch the boat, I know just what the boat is going to do. Just thought I would share my near miss in the hopes that someone might read and get inspired to practice in close quarters with your boat before something bad happens. I read and read and practice. I’m doing the best I can, not to get hurt or hurt anybody. I take full responsibility for this near miss. I was at the helm. I knew better. I knew it was wrong when the stern line was taken off. Won’t happen again under my watch.

Happy Sailing, be safe. Capt. Curt 07/07/2012


Drhoward is correct. you needed to use what is called a "watermans" spring line. I do a lot of docking in river currrents. I am an instructor and also teach people to dock in river currents. Here are some tips you should always think about. Remember the five forces:

1) Propeller Wash
2 Propeller Walk
3) Rudder
4) Wind
5) Current


The idea is always get at least 3 of the 5 forces working in your favor. Remember current is always stronger than wind. So you want to try and get your bow into the current at all times. Once you do that, you can use a spring or bow line if the wind is not where you need it to be. Now if there is minimal or no current, then wind becomes the controlling factor--usually. If the wind and/or current make it difficult for you to use prop wash/walk, then a spring or pivot line is essential (unless you have bow thrusters). Of course always talk with your crew about docking and undocking before you actually do it so everyone knows how to handle the prevailing circumstances.

Thank you for sharing your story! It is a good learning tool and don't worry--we have all been there. Anybody who says otherwise is either inexperienced or a liar.
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Last edited by Yamsailor; 12-13-2012 at 11:19 PM.
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Old 12-13-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

Oi yoi yoi! We've had similar experiences in the Swinomish Channel. The channel runs between 1.5 and 2 knots on big tides. First one way, then the other. We always try and put the bow into the current, which works most of the time, but sometimes the wind and the current are contrary, and that's when it gets interesting. Head into a light current and as you slow down to approach the dock, the wind behind you starts exerting more influence and then you just start reacting, because the plan has just gone to h3ll.

When we leave the dock, if the current is behind us, it's off with the stern line, pull in on the bow line, which swings the stern away from the dock and then back away from the dock in reverse. But we had a close call just like you were describing when I was going down the end of an alleyway slip looking for an open spot and I when I found there wasn't one and started to swing the boat around in a three point turn, the current really started pushing us into the end of the dead end faster than I anticipated. I ended up getting pretty aggressive on the throttle to get out of that bind, and that was either going to save us, or cost us more money. It saved us fortunately.

JRD22 has a float near his place that surprised us once or twice because the dock is in a back eddy that is doing something different than the main current. I hope my insurance agent isn't on sailnet.
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Last edited by erps; 12-13-2012 at 07:14 PM.
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Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

To me the goal is to get the bow into the current. Line handling at the dock is the key.
Last year on the Conneticut River we had a choice....mooring bouy or slip. Same $25 cost. 4 knot curent at the 95 bridge. I took the booring as I knew if i got pinned into a slip with the current pointing at the stern I would be a " tourist attraction" leaving.

That night sleeping in the bow it was so loud with the current gurgling buy we moved to the salon.

You had a "teaching moment"

Dave
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Old 12-15-2012
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Re: Close quarter maneuvering in a swift current

the Delaware has a very quick current but it's very deceptive to most that don't know it. I've read 6 mph ground speed with my gps just going with the flow and no motor.
I'm slowly learning to use spring lines.. seems like few people ever think of them as a tool.
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