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L124C 06-13-2013 05:49 PM

Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
I was at a public dock last weekend. A sailboat (probably around 40 feet with a fair amount of freeboard) was docked behind me. We were both pointed in the same direction, with the dock on Starboard and a stiff breeze coming from Port. The "Skipper" first got my attention, when he started removing his fenders before leaving the dock. He cast off, got aboard, put the boat in gear and started rubbing along the dock (towards my boat!). I don't know if he ever realized the wind was keeping him against the dock, but after several feet, he spun the wheel more to port, and the boat finally responded, with the bow veering to Port and the stern cantilevering over the dock. He soon realized the stern was going to hit a dock piling, so he gave the boat more throttle. Fortunately, the boat had impressive acceleration and the stern missed the piling by about a foot! As he passed me, I yelled; "Been a Skipper long?". He stared blankly at me and asked "What?".:laugher

I'm no Master Mariner, but it absolutely stuns me how many "Skippers" give little or no consideration to the effects the forces of nature are having on the operation of their vessel. I would think all "Sailors" would at least have some awareness, and plan accordingly (as they have chosen wind driven craft). I would be WRONG!

In his situation, I would have left the fenders on, powered gently forward or backward to see if the boat would respond. After all, the current could have been helping. If not, I would have run a stern line though a dock cleat and doubled it back to the helm, holding the boat while powering the bow away from the dock, then releasing it, and waving to the nice man in the boat docked in front of me as I passed! Sound right?
This is a excellent video on docking under various conditions, and addresses the conditions mentioned above 37 minutes in.

Other stories of the lack of situational awareness are most welcome. I have several! The most common are skippers turning into their slips too early or late to accommodate wind conditions, and refusing to abort and try again, based on what they should have just learned!

paulk 06-13-2013 06:21 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
Skippers like the one you describe above are invaluable to the sailing community. They get tired of the repair bills and sell their scratched-up boats at a huge discount shortly after they run aground for the tenth time. This provides the savvy guy with gelcoat expertise a great way to obtain a reasonably solid, not-too-old vessel for next to nothing. The trick is to avoid being on the receiving end of him coming in to the dock.

Minnewaska 06-13-2013 06:37 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
Our slip is on a long side pier, with perpendicular finger slips across from us. Skippers are either backing past us for their side slip spot or hugging next to us, to make the turn into their finger slip. Most do a fine job. Some scare the crap out of me. Occasionally, even the good skippers get in a bind and botch one up. So far, no impact. Fingers crossed, throws salt over shoulder, etc.

Donna_F 06-13-2013 06:50 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
I've made my share of Youtube-worthy bloopers. I'm sure I'll make more. We were all new at one time. This thread could be a good way for everyone, new and old, to learn something new. Hopefully it won't turn into a way to simply make fun of people.

So far (knock on wood), our most egregious lapse in situational awareness involved the Naked Lightning Dance but, we're still young (ish) and there's plenty of time for something truly dangerous/costly/embarrassing.

rugosa 06-13-2013 06:50 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
One of our race crew was a professional (so I am told) race car driver. Once the owner let him dock the boat, survived the experience & banned him from the helm, restricting all docking to himself, my wife and me. I recently experienced his car driving, last time I will be in a car with him behind the wheel.

sailak 06-13-2013 08:54 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!

Originally Posted by L124C (Post 1043653)

I'm no Master Mariner, but it absolutely stuns me how many "Skippers" give little or no consideration to the effects the forces of nature are having on the operation of their vessel.

This is the tidbit I'm having the hardest time getting through to the Admiral. That wind and current effect the boat at ALL times, if you aren't tied to the dock you ARE moving.

I screwed the pooch coming out of the slip on Tuesday. We are port side to the finger, bow in. The boat has considerable prop walk to the left in reverse, wind about 6-10 from the starboard beam. We need to back out to the right, then exit left.

My plan was have my wife drive, ease back in reverse with me walking the boat out, at end of slip give a shove to get the stern moving to the right and step on. Worked fine up to that point but I came out to slow and/or needed to shove the bow out as well. Ended up the bow blew left before we cleared the end pile, little creosote on the bow pulpit, face crimson. Haven't always been the smoothest in and out of the slip but that's the first time I bumped into something. Inexpensive lesson, probably won't happen again. :D

bljones 06-13-2013 09:29 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
dale, you need to run a "bannister" line between the dock and the end piling. a line looped around the bannister will allow you to control the nose of the boat, and an aft line looped around the end piling can be used to turn the stern. rig the lines right, and you don't have to either jump on the boat as it is leaving, or jump on the dock as you are docking.

GOB covered this a while back:
Employ virtual dock hands to control your boat's bow. The pier banister, a bow walker for the soloist.

Article Number: 4763
Issue: 73 - July/August 2010
Page No: 62-63"

sailak 06-13-2013 09:38 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
We have that issue, I'll take a look. This was more a case of me not thinking it through, and it's only the 3rd time I've taken the boat out of the slip.

The piling is right at the end of the float, float has a large metal ring at end around the pile, not sure if the bannister line would help in that case.

Will take a look at the article, thanks for the info.

FSMike 06-13-2013 09:40 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
L124C -
It's a shame your neighbor didn't know how to spring his boat off the dock. As a matter of interest I usually remove my fenders before departing unless I need one to spring off of.
Fenders are no substitute for a good rub rail.

downeast450 06-13-2013 10:29 PM

Re: Don't "drive" your boat like it's a car!
I was the only crew on a delivery of a beautiful, brand new, 50 footer to New Port RI from Mt. Desert Island, ME. The owner of the company that built the boat was skipper. He backed into the slip at a speed that had me cringing and trying to anticipate the impacts. It all happened quite fast. I braced for impact a couple of times as he calmly throttled and spun the wheel. Without even a bump the yacht gently came to rest against the fenders in the slip. It was a brand new boat that cost about 1.5 million. Its Endeavor Blue Awlgrip finish never even got scuffed. When you really know what you are doing it is automatic. Can you tell I was impressed?


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