For Crew: How to Handle Docklines - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 55 Old 12-18-2016 Thread Starter
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For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

Everything your skipper wants you to know about docking compressed into one 12 minute video.


More information: SavvySalt's Ultimate Guide to Dockline Handling!

If you have any suggestions for the follow up please share them; I'll make a follow up video once next season rolls around and I can film without snow threatening
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Last edited by SavvySalt; 12-18-2016 at 07:14 PM.
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post #2 of 55 Old 12-18-2016
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

Good video thanks for sharing.
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post #3 of 55 Old 12-20-2016
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

Overall a good video. A solid B.

They mentioned making sure lines are outboard. This needs real emphasis as getting it wrong can hurt people and break boats.

The video shows people jumping from the boat. Perhaps I'm being pedantic or my standards are too high. Jumping from a boat whether because it is too far from the dock or moving (or both) is a real risk. My friend Diana Doyle says "if I can't step off in high heels Mark (her husband) didn't do it right." I agree. Diana doesn't wear heels but the point is a good one.

The discussion on cleat hitches is well done. I agree. Too bad the example between minutes 8 and 9 don't do it correctly.

The discussion of cleat management is poor. It doesn't address the use of eyes, and the reference of doubling lines back to the boat is unclear about why it is so very important. It's for so very much more than the last line.

They spent time on superficial vocabulary that would have been better spent on other things, and that is from someone that pounds on vocabulary all the time.

Some of that time should have been spent on coiling lines (which they did poorly) and throwing lines.

The repeated emphasis on the skipper being in charge and the ability of a hand to really mess things up was good. The only thing they missed was to emphasize that the dockhand on the dock yelling for a line is not in charge. Do not pass a line ashore until the skipper says so no matter what the dockhand says.

Final nit - the discussion of sweating and jumping lines between minutes 9 and 10 misses stepping on a line. This is an important technique for those of us who are getting older (and fat) and may have back issues.

The discussion throughout on using friction to manage the boat is excellent.
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

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Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
Overall a good video. A solid B.
Thank you.

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Originally Posted by SVAuspicious View Post
The discussion on cleat hitches is well done. I agree. Too bad the example between minutes 8 and 9 don't do it correctly.
Wow. Good eye. You're absolutely right, while I'm discussing sweating and surging the cleat on the boat end has a wrap of more than 270 degrees.

That's what I get for rushing; most of this was filmed between getting out of work and my crew showing up for sailing. In my haste I didn't notice the slightly incorrect cleat tied on by the last member (or one of their crew) to put the boat away.

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The only thing they missed was to emphasize that the dockhand on the dock yelling for a line is not in charge. Do not pass a line ashore until the skipper says so no matter what the dockhand says.
Another good point. I'll have to think about how to un-omit this...

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Final nit - the discussion of sweating and jumping lines between minutes 9 and 10 misses stepping on a line. This is an important technique for those of us who are getting older (and fat) and may have back issues.
Stepping on lines for the purposes of sweating and re-organizing lines on cleats is something that I filmed video for but decided to cut from this video in favor of inclusion in a Part II follow up. It may only be a 12 minute video but, to me, it feels like a really dense 12 minutes. But it's coming

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Some of that time should have been spent on coiling lines (which they did poorly) and throwing lines.
Throwing lines is another topic for Part II. Do you have a good reference for coiling lines? Something authoritative? I'm hesitant to jump into that fray because I've had so many different skippers insist on so many different things...

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The video shows people jumping from the boat. Perhaps I'm being pedantic or my standards are too high. Jumping from a boat whether because it is too far from the dock or moving (or both) is a real risk. My friend Diana Doyle says "if I can't step off in high heels Mark (her husband) didn't do it right." I agree. Diana doesn't wear heels but the point is a good one.
I read "don't jump from the boat" all over the internet and official docking curricula. But I've never seen it well defined let alone practiced. What differentiates stepping 2 feet down and one fender width across from the topsides to the dock from "jumping"? Especially on boats race boats where you have to get over the lifelines too? If "stepping" ashore is defined by having one foot on the boat and one on the dock at some point that seems like "stepping" ashore would require more agility than "jumping" ashore.

If my crew are going dockside with a line I tell them to "step off the boat onto the dock when you're comfortable". If they're inexperienced I tell them exactly where to stand as we come alongside so that they'll be about a fender-width from the dock at some point. They almost always "jump" before the easiest instant but they've never scared me.

Seems to me that the only way to keep inexperienced crew from "jumping" would be to tell them to sit on the rail and put their feet on the dock and then stand up dockside. That seems like a terrible idea.

Anybody have tips for how to keep crew from "jumping"? Or a definition of "jumping" that lends itself for making a precise "no jumping" rule? I'm sure I sound skeptical here but I hope I don't come off as sarcastic; I'd truly like to add tips like this to my toolbox.


Finally, thank you again @SVAuspicious for taking the time to share all of this valuable information. I wish I had the opportunity to get this feedback before I published the video on YouTube.
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post #5 of 55 Old 12-20-2016
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

Cynical Denise here :P

All this assumes allot. Some skippers don't know how to communicate so, assuming they even know how to handle lines. the whole "crew" is usually a SO or spouse floundering with knowledge they gleaned alone and because the "skipper" ain't about to leave the wheel helm.

Sadly.. some "skippers" think the "crew" will control the boat when the skipper comes in hot. (don't tell me this isn't true we all see it all the time)

Seeing vids with people jumping off a moving boat at any speed is not going to get my good comments


who is "Savy Salt? The title should not be "everything" it should be " helpful" ways to dock and use lines with a big disclaimer. suggestions for how "crew" can learn more about lines despite the "expert" at the helm.

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post #6 of 55 Old 12-20-2016
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

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If my crew are going dockside with a line I tell them to "step off the boat onto the dock when you're comfortable". If they're inexperienced I tell them exactly where to stand as we come alongside so that they'll be about a fender-width from the dock at some point. They almost always "jump" before the easiest instant but they've never scared me.

Seems to me that the only way to keep inexperienced crew from "jumping" would be to tell them to sit on the rail and put their feet on the dock and then stand up dockside. That seems like a terrible idea.

Anybody have tips for how to keep crew from "jumping"? Or a definition of "jumping" that lends itself for making a precise "no jumping" rule? I'm sure I sound skeptical here but I hope I don't come off as sarcastic; I'd truly like to add tips like this to my toolbox.
I think the important part is not "preventing" people from jumping, but ensuring they know that jumping, hopping or "extraordinary effort" is never necessary (or safe). They need to fully internalize that if they can't reach the shore safely then the problem is the skipper's and not theirs.

I casually said "hop" to an inexperienced crewmember one day when we were on a canalboat and coming on to a sloped, grassy bank. She believed if she didn't do as I said then somehow disaster would ensue. This resulted in a mildly sprained ankle. I still feel bad about that and now always take extra care to make my self clear.

We have a lot of bull rails in the PNW. I don't know if add ing a bit about them might be appropriate; it's a whole different set of techniques.


Pretty good video all in all. As others have mentioned there is a lot of extra stuff to cover but it's a good intro. Maybe put Part I in the title or at the beginning of the video so people know there is more coming...
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

Hi Cynical Denise. SavvySalt here (I really should figure out how to change my SailNet user name; this SailNet account predates the blog.)

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Originally Posted by deniseO30 View Post
All this assumes allot. Some skippers don't know how to communicate so, assuming they even know how to handle lines. the whole "crew" is usually a SO or spouse floundering with knowledge they gleaned alone and because the "skipper" ain't about to leave the wheel helm.
This video was made to help out these crew you mention. Hopefully it succeeds.

The video is focused on the most helpful material for crew when they're docking with an experienced skipper at the helm. Personally, I sympathize with inexperienced crew having to dock with an inexperienced skipper because it hasn't been that long since I was both. I've been bailed out of bad docking attempt by experienced crew and been the crew bounding over the bow pulpit to save the gelcoat. Nobody is born an expert at either docking or dockline handling so there's always going to be folks learning and putting a line on the wrong cleat or coming in way too slow; hopefully this video helps some aspiring line handlers along the way.

I wish I had something like this when I was learning.
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

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I read "don't jump from the boat" all over the internet and official docking curricula. But I've never seen it well defined let alone practiced. What differentiates stepping 2 feet down and one fender width across from the topsides to the dock from "jumping"? Especially on boats race boats where you have to get over the lifelines too? If "stepping" ashore is defined by having one foot on the boat and one on the dock at some point that seems like "stepping" ashore would require more agility than "jumping" ashore.
The definition of "jump" that I would use is "push oneself off a surface and into the air by using the muscles in one's legs and feet."

The definition of "step" that I would use is "to move, go, etc., by lifting the foot and setting it down again in a new position, or by using the feet alternately in this manner: to step forward."

When you step off a boat that has lifelines, you should always step over the lifelines, first with one foot and then with the other, so that both feet are standing on the gunwale, outside the lifelines. Then step down onto the dock or finger pier, one foot at a time. When you do that, you won't trip on the lifelines, you can hold onto the lifeline or other convenient handhold with one hand for security, and you will be in complete control. If you jump onto the dock with both feet in the air, you aren't in control. You'll come down hard with all your weight, and you'll often be off balance.
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Last edited by Sailormon6; 12-20-2016 at 02:31 PM.
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post #9 of 55 Old 12-20-2016
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

With regards to jumping vs stepping, I have a few thoughts.

First, I will describe my boat to provide context. 35', double ender, relatively high freeboard, centre cockpit with canvas enclosure, so a bit of a scramble to get out to handle lines, I have bulwarks, which means all lines are lead through fairleads.

My crew is generally single handed or any combination of me plus any or all of me, my wife, my two 1/2 year old and my dog. Sometimes I drive, sometimes my wife drives, she insists on getting docking opportunities, I think mostly because she enjoys it.

My rules are any one outside the cockpit wears a life jacket (myself included), children and dogs wear life jackets even inside the cockpit. Nobody steps off the boat until at least one line is secured, usually by means of lassoing a cleat and doubling the line back, or in the case of a ring, fence or railing, reaching around the ring and feeding the line back to the boat. We are able to follow this rule probably %95, of the time, occasionally we are forced to break our own rule.

As mentioned, my boat is centre cockpit, double ender, so bringing the stern to the dock first isn't effective. I solve this issue, by landing (bringing the boat to the dock) just aft of midships, since I'm usually single handed, this is kind of a must, I don't like being far from my engine controls.

If somebody must step off, I would say it comes down to body mechanics. The skipper brings the boat to the dock, the crew steps off. By stepping I would say, at no time should their centre of gravity be fully over the water. As mentioned above, if you are pushing off with enough force to become airborne, you aren't stepping.

Hopefully this makes sense.

Last edited by Arcb; 12-20-2016 at 03:52 PM.
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Re: For Crew: How to Handle Docklines

@Arcb that is very impressive! The only experience I have on a full keeled double ender was a docking class I took; the thing was a bear to dock with experienced crew!
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