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post #1 of 9 Old 09-10-2006 Thread Starter
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Talking A docking challenge...any ideas?

My new slip for my new to me 30' sailboat (wheel steering, diesel engine, folding prop) presents a real docking challenge--I would appreciate any ideas, advice on how to enter/exit my slip safely. I have owned a 23 sailboat for about 12 years, and am generally fairly competent, but the new slip is a real challenge because of it's layout. Relevant details:
1) slip is in a marina, where my finger has the boat pointing east/west;
2) prevailing winds are from the northwest, occasionally from the
3) tide/current flows at up to 2 knots, generally north/south which can
blow me into the motor cruiser on my port/left side;
4) when I moor bow in/forward, the dock finger is on my starboard/right
5) on my port/left side, with about 5' between us is the neighbouring
boat, a new motor cruiser (no dock/finger between us);
6) when in my slip, there is about 30' of water in the channel behind me
before I hit the boat directly behind me on the next dock, so I can
back up some, but not too much;
7) there are only three boats moored on my port side before the channel
ends--ie. if I back out and bring my stern to port, I have about 2 boat
lengths, before my stern hits the end of the channel/docks;
8) there is an 8' pile (like a telephone pole), covered in tar/creosote, at
the end of my slip/finger at my starboard/right stern quarter;

The reasons that this is a challenge for me are:
1) When I come into the channel to reach my slip, I often have the wind
and current behind me, and it's hard to slow the boat down enough to
safely enter the slip;
2) I have to turn the bow in quite sharply to starboard to get into my slip
without hitting the motor cruiser on my port side when I swing in;
3) When I back out, the current/wind is driving me back as I turn to port,
but I only have about 2 boatlengths before I run out of channel/water;
4) If I try to back into the slip, I risk that the wind/current will force me
into the dock at the end of the channel before I can get underway in
5) the propwalk also makes it a challenge, as the boat won't back up
straight in time for me to control well in reverse--ie. it pulls to port,
then eventually straightens out, but by then I'm too close to
boats/dock, etc.
6) trying to lasoo the piling to slow myself or lever around it is
unappealing as it is covered in tar/creosote, I'm not a great cowboy , and I singlehand at times;other times my petite wife is along, but only of limited help in this challenging situation.

Unfortunately, changing slips is not an option at this time, as slips are extremely tight, and I only got this one after a significant wait and some good fortune.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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post #2 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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If I were in your topsiders I would opt for a hook/line on the piling along with a fender. The piling line/hook could be used as a brake if the going gets tough. Would also add a midship cleat, if you don't already have one, as a first attach on landing. I spent a year in "the slip from hell", the education was priceless. Learned to always have a plan B.
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post #3 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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Whenever presented with difficult winds and tides the best thing to do is think of a way to benefit from the forces rather than try to fight them. If it is possible to turn your boat by putting your nose into the slip then backing (using the prop walk and the current) out into the channel to port then approaching again from the opposite to usual direction that may be easier even if it doesn't seem graceful at first.

As to backing out, there should be a cleat at the end of your finger (or if not you can put one there) if you need help to keep from walking to port as you begin to back, a doubled line off your starboard quarter slipped as you go could help but comes with the risk of fouling the prop if you are innatentive to it. A better option may be to simply give the bow a little shove to port before you begin while keeping the starboard quarter tight to the finger. With any luck the propwalk and current will cause you to straighten as you begin to make steerage way.

Also, as far as spinning the boat in tight space goes, (try this somewhere with lots of room first!) Put the helm hard to starboard then alternate between using a pulse of port walking reverse and forward against the hard over rudder which also kicks the stern to port.

Lastly, I find that tight space manouevering is always easier if I picture the boat from above, including the rudder and the prop. It also may help to draw a diagram of your situation and the various forces at play.
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post #4 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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Frank...one thing you can also do is to "box" your slip in with lines between all the pilings and a V shaped boat "catcher" at the dock end of your slip. No matter where the boat is in the slip there will always be something you can grab and use for leverage. Rigging permanent lines to the outer pilings of your slip will make it easier to hook them and then drag the unwilling vessel where it belongs. Folding props are not real good for situations like yours and if you remain frustrated, you might try a 3 blade fixed prop at the next haulout to give you better control.
Finally...just keep practicing out in open water...pick a crab pot to pull in to and practice with the wind & current at different angles. You WILL get the hang of it!
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-10-2006 Thread Starter
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Thanks for the good suggestions so far. Any additional ideas or advice are welcome.
Thanks again.
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post #6 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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I don't know if you have enough room, but if so, I would carry on a bit past the slip and wide, then turn her so you're approaching the slip with the bow heading into the wind and current.

Does your boat have a fin or a full keel? A fin should spin around on a pretty tight space.
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post #7 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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Hey Frank

I'm assuming this is not the slip you were in in July when we were there....

The only thought I had was if (IF) your boat behaves well once reversing with speed, and will spin fast enough perhaps you can get the boat going in reverse out in Newcastle Channel, and back all the way into your slip with control. rather than trying to stop and turn between the rows of boats. With all the boathouses around I would think that the wind effects would be minimized somewhat. Then the mid-boat spring line could be helpful in stopping the boat or trapping the finger at the appropriate time. This may also have the added bonus of allowing you to drive out in forward gear when you leave the slip.

In any event, look at it as a learning experience - once you figure it out, everything will get easier.
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post #8 of 9 Old 09-10-2006 Thread Starter
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Thanks for your additional replies. The boat is a fin keel, so does turn fairly tightly going forward, but the prop walk makes it a real challenge until I get some "way" in reverse.
Faster, I am now in a new slip in the former Channelview Marina, which was recently taken over by the Townsite marina. I have considered backing in from Newcastle channel, but am concerned that when I finally back into the slip, the northwest winds/current will blow the bow so that I risk hitting the motor cruiser which will be on my starboard side if I back into the slip. But that may still be the best option. However, I would prefer to be bow in, as I prefer the view and the additional privacy in the cockpit when the boat is bow in, as opposed to stern in with the cockpit right by the main dock.
Thanks again for the additional ideas--any more are welcome.
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post #9 of 9 Old 09-10-2006
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Teach your wife to drive the boat. (I know, I know but you taught your kids how to drive a car and remember how you felt when you kicked them out on their first solo trip? They lived to come back)There are computer models out there to help out and since you are stronger you can run the bow. Get VOX walkie talkies for commo between you and her, that will save the shouting.


Part time PADI instructor, part time sailor. Full time having a blast.

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Last edited by jerryrlitton; 09-10-2006 at 11:55 PM.
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