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NCC320 06-15-2011 02:31 PM

How Would You Dock?....This boat, this slip, these conditions
In advance, sorry for the length, but if I don't cover the details, your advice might not fit the situation.

Edit: A "to scale" sketch to aid you as you work through the words is here:

C320FIGA001.jpg picture by pboatppp - Photobucket

The slip has port and starboard outer pilings. Inboard end is a fixed pier. Windward side has a buddy line between piling and pier. Leeward side has a finger pier extending 40% down the length of the slip from pier, with a support piling (rising above the finger pier), and a buddy line between leeward outer piling and finger pier end piling. There is a boat in leeward adjacent slip, and depending on angle of contact with buddy line, contact with this boat is possible. Slip is 34' long, boat is 32'. Outer pilings are 14' apart, boat is 12' wide. Dock lines are pre-placed on pilings. You may specify additional lines on board the boat as you desire. Outer pilings have bumper pads and leeward pilings will flex some, taking some shock loading. Boat has wheel, inboard diesel, 3 blade fixed prop, aft cockpit.

Wind speed is 15-25 kts, with higher gusts from SW. Marina fairway is WE, with approach required from W, so it is a downwind/crosswind approach. Slip is oriented NS, and is on S side of fairway, midway down fairway, so there will be a crosswind component blowing boat down onto the partial finger pier and adjacent boat. Approach will be bow first (boat cannot be controlled in reverse under these conditions) and single handed. Fairway width is 1.5x boat length, so there is room to turn into the slip. The boat pulpit extends over the side of the boat, and boat must be stopped before pulpit is adjacent to finger pier piling, or must pass this piling successfully to avoid damage. There will be 2' short, choppy waves from the NW. There is no current to contend with. Once starting down the fairway, you will be committed and you do not have room to turn around to abort a bad approach. The boat's rub rail is lightly constructed and we cannot allow the boat to bounce up and down against the pilings, or there will be damage...merely laying against the piling is no problem, but up and down motion is bad. Boat has amidships cleats and spring line use is possible, except that if you don't get boat in far enough before coming in contact with pilings, spring line use might not be possible. Once contact is made with pilings, forward motion must be stopped or there will be damage to life lines/stanchions. There will be no one on the dock to assist.

How would you dock?

Let me describe how I attempt it (have done it just below this range, but not in the range where waves become a factor). Critique me, or tell me a better way. (p.s. what do others in this marina do locally?...they don't go out). Switching marinas or slips is not an option.

I know that under these conditions, I will not be able to get the boat completely in the slip (it takes only seconds to move 2 ft. downwind). I must not get too far into the slip or the pulpit will crash the finger pier piling. If I don't get far enough in, the boat will pivot about the outer piling and be swept out of the slip down on other boats/slips. Also, I have to take care that my bow doesn't get swept down on my neighbor's boat. There absolutely is not enough time to leave the helm station to go elsewhere on the boat until after contact is made with the pilings. Since I know that I am going down on the leeward outer piling, I try to ease down on it and stabilize the boat just aft of it's pivot point. That means to stop the boat precisely at one point. If there were no waves, I would not be writing this post, because it is the waves that I don't know how to deal with because they are going to be bashing the boat up and down against the outer leeward piling until I can get it off that piling. With the narrow distance and forces involved getting a fender in place is problematic, and it still wouldn't accommodate the 2 ft. up and down. Rig it before I come down the slip and it's going to hang on the piling and pivot the bow quickly down on my neighbor. After I make contact with the leeward piling, I have to deal with getting lines secured so the boat isn't swept out of the slip.

Before making my approach, I pre-rig fore and aft lines on deck on leeward side so they are there if I need them. Additionally, the regular dock lines are available on both outer pilings, just pick them up. On the windward side, I pre-rig a bow line that I can clip onto the buddy line with a carabineer hook and that I can tend from the stern. I can also prepare a spring line from the amidships cleat.

Going downwind down the fairway, I use reverse as necessary to check the speed. Since I have to stop the boat in one spot, I cannot approach too hot. I make my turn into the slip, keeping the bow as close to the windward piling as possible, using the rudder and engine to get me sufficiently far into the slip. Between the rudder and crosswind, the stern is being swept down onto the leeward piling. Rudder is then shifted to try to pick up the stern for a bit more distance as I keep an eye on the critical pivot point location. As it is approached, I move the rudder as necessary to ease boat at the pivot point down on the leeward piling. At the same time, I go to reverse, adding power as necessary to check the forward motion of the boat. Once I stop the boat and contact is made with the leeward piling, I go to neutral, step to windward side at a point slightly behind amidships, clip on the bow line carabineer, grab one of the normal dock lines and secure it to either amidships cleat or stern cleat, and try to get the boat stabilized off the leeward piling. Depending where the bow is going, I will either take up the slack in the bow line before or after dealing with the stern. It gets real busy and use of winches (I have two on each side) is required to deal with the situation. Once I get the bow secured to the windward buddy line and the stern off the leeward piling, the crisis is over and I can now use the engine and various lines to get into the slip in proper position and leisurely adjust lines.

So what am I doing wrong, how can I do things better, and most of all, how to I keep the wave action from damaging the boat? I can afford the boat, but I can't afford damage.

Silvio 06-15-2011 04:27 PM

If I am reading this correctly you can get a mid cleated line onto an windward piling to stop contact anywhere else but the problem then becomes the wave action? If that is the case take a 4 foot piece of 2x8 or pvc pipe and lash it to two fendrs, hang over the windward side of your boat with the fenders against your hull and the 2x8 riding the waves up and down against the piling. This should allow you to securely pull your boat against the center piling (or finger pier) to windward without worrying about the waves. Your boat should not pivot with a line lead from a center cleat around a piling and back to the helm and secured.

Good description but man would a picture be nice :-)

NCC320 06-15-2011 07:11 PM

C320FIGA001.jpg picture by pboatppp - Photobucket

Not sure how to post the picture directly, but this link should show the situation. The slip dimensions are approximately to scale, so you can see it is tight.

The issue is on the downwind side towards the finger pier. Contact will be made with the outer piling on the finger pier side, i.e. downwind. It is here that I am concerned. You can see that I cannot put fenders or fender board over before I enter the slip. Otherwise, they are going to trip up the boat and cause it to swing towards the adjacent slip. It is the up and down wave motion on this piling that I am concerned primarily about. However, getting further into the slip once I get the boat off the piling may be done in several ways. Depending on the exact direction of the wind and which lines I work with, I generally can stay off the windward piling.

Hope this clarifies the situation. I really would like to work this one out because our wind is primarily from the SW and I (and all the people at this marina) miss out on some good sailing conditions. If the wind is from the N or E, then we don't have a problem as we are sheltered from the shore. W and especially SW, which is towards open water, give a problem.

It's a package deal, a nice marina, clubhouse/pool, great view, nice townhome, and wind that sometimes gives problems docking. So I have to figure out how to do it without messing up the boat.

If I have crew, it'll go easier, but we still are going to get blown down on that downwind outer piling no matter what if the wind is high. Most of the time I singlehand, or am sailing with people not well versed in sailing and docking techniques.

NCC320 06-16-2011 08:20 AM


Originally Posted by Silvio (Post 740852)
If that is the case take a 4 foot piece of 2x8 or pvc pipe and lash it to two fendrs, hang over the ... side of your boat with the fenders against your hull and the 2x8 riding the waves up and down against the piling.

Good description but man would a picture be nice :-)


Per your suggestion, I added a sketch on photobucket. I should have done that in the beginning.

I've been thinking about your suggestion to use a fender board. Because I have only 2 ft. gap between the boat and pilings when entering, and crosswind eats this up quickly, a conventional fender board would be 6-8" thick at least, thus giving even less room for maneuvering, and to be effective against the downwind piling that I am coming against, it has to be predeployed. Once I am on the piling, it is too late. If I am to use this technique successfully, I will need a super thin fender board. I don't know of one, so I'm setting about to make (invent) one. If anyone knows of one commercially available please let me know.

I will take a 1" or5/4" x ~6" board, ~4-5 ft. long. On one side, I will apply either closed cell foam backing ~1" thick, or alternately (or in combination with foam), line that side top and bottom with "P" shaped vinyl dock edging. This side will go against the boat. Depending on curvature of the hull in this area, I will probably insert a ~1/2" -1" thick block on the extreme ends of the board under the foam or edging so that there are two contact points against the hull. Since the hull side has foam or edging along its entire length, if the board flexes or bends under the load of boat against piling, the boat will still be protected. At either end of the board, I will have a support line, which can be connected to the amidhsips "track" cleat on that side and another track slide on the genoa track. This way the board can be postioned in proper place where contact will come, and will not have to be tied to stanchions or lifelines. On the ends of the board, I will taper the outer edges at ends (on the piling side) to minimize the chance of the board hanging up and tripping the boat against the piling as I come into the slip. I don't want the board working up and down on the boat because it is likely to damage the hull stripe. To make sure that all movement under load is taken between piling and piling side of fender board, I will line that side with low friction plastic slider blocks like those used on some bunk style boat trailers. i.e. High friction of foam/vinyl against the hull and extremely low friction between piling and fender board low friction blocks should assure the movement takes place at the piling side.

I am open to comment and if anyone has other ideas or comments as to how to deal with this docking issue, please let me have them. Thanks.

Silvio 06-16-2011 08:40 AM

Nice drawing, that does help explain a lot. I make a similar approach in a similar boat. The difference is I usually have wind off my aft quarter and I have a large fairway that I can turn around in if I need to. Are you able to toss a line over the outer piling, starbord side as you bring the bow in? That looks to me like the key to keeping you off the finger pier and your neighbor. Possibly even leave a line on the outer starbord pier that you can grab as you get the bow in. For me that is the key to getting in and under control. I leave the cockpit and quickly toss a line on that pier, that allows me to snug the middle of my boat against that piling without pivoting around it. I keep this line cleated to the mid cleat (or the shroud base in my case as I don't have a mid cleat) and wrapped loosely around the cockpit winch. As soon as this line is over the piling I can winch in and the boat doesn't move or pivot. To handle the wave action you can stay a few inches off the piling and the boat should remain stationary without pivoting long enough to grab your dock lines.

Alternatively, if what you are doing currently works for you then you can always pad up the leeward pilings, add an additional downwind buddy line with a fender or two threaded onto it, and go for it.

Hope this helps or at least gives you something to ponder. Good luck!

Silvio 06-16-2011 08:55 AM

One final thought then I will step aside and be quiet. Have you ever seen someone rig a cradle in their dock? You can tie a line securely to your dock midway the width of your slip. Run this line to both outer pilings forming a "V" in your slip. Tie a fender in the crook of this "V" to keep your pulpit off the dock, and a fender on each leg of the "V" to keep the lines from beating up your sides. Spend a little time adjusting it to get it just right and you should be able to pull right in and leave your boat idling in forawrd while you get dock lines attached. I considered doing this at my last marina but the D@mned finger pier was too short for me to reach bow first.


NCC320 06-16-2011 10:32 AM


Thanks for your input. This is why I posted this item in the first place. It's a problem that I haven't been able to deal with at higher wind speeds, and I appreciate your suggestions and ideas.....hope others will present some thoughts also.

I agree with you, that if I could get a line over that windward outer piling before we make contact on the downwind piling, we would have control over the whole issue. I think I could do it if the approach was upwind/crosswind instead of downwind/crosswind. In lesser winds, I have tried to go past the slip and turn around and approach upwind. I have abandoned that idea after wind trapped me a couple of times. Worked out ok, but really got dicey.

The fairway approach width is 1.5 times boat length, so there is room to make the turn, but to get in, I have to be at the wheel to first turn rudder to starboard and then to reduce rudder, moving it more back towards centered. In that instant, I am on that downwind piling...I hear people say their boat will stay in place a few minutes in crosswinds, but mine just doesn't. The outer windward piling is still forward of the area where I'm at. And, it is the first or second line I grab (depending what is happening with bow). All this is in seconds.

I tried a harness arrangement for downwind side similar to one you suggested. But with high crosswind, I can't really get far enough into the pier for it to be effective, and I don't need it in lesser wind situations since I can get a line (or pick up a line) on the windward outer piling.

Actually, the boat doesn't fit well in the slip going bow first because given the slip dimensions and boat geometry, I can't get crossed stern lines on the stern to accommodate the wind tides. I only use bow first when winds are high since I have more control over the boat going forward. If I back in (my normal method), the boat fits really well inthe slip.

MSN2Travelers 06-16-2011 01:58 PM

Get creative in padding the leeward piling ...
My marina, my slip and the prevailing winds are almost identical to yours. The primary difference is my finger pier extends all the way out to the leeward piling. From a boat handling standpoint, I don't think you can do anything better/different. I use the bridle `n bumper setup that 'silvio' suggsted.

People that have the slips on either side of me have the same issue that you do and they have tried to mitigate damage from hitting the piling in a number of ways. A good number have used a plastic culvert section (like those pictured below) to "sleeve" the piling.

They use a halyard to install the pipe section in the spring and to remove it again in the fall. Works well for them.

Others have used post/piling bumpers like these -

The truly cost consious use swimming pool "noodles" in place of the fancy post bumpers.

One other item, if you plan on being there a while & the marina allows it, would involve spanning the space between the two leeward pilings with a length of 2 x 12 lumber. You would pad the 2 x 12 with carpet and/or small fenders permenantly attached.

puddinlegs 06-16-2011 02:09 PM

Does your boat turn quickly enough, or is the fairway wide enough to motor past your slip, turn 180 in the fairway, then approach with the bow into the wind?

NCC320 06-16-2011 02:39 PM


Originally Posted by puddinlegs (Post 741154)
Does your boat turn quickly enough, or is the fairway wide enough to motor past your slip, turn 180 in the fairway, then approach with the bow into the wind?

Yes, it is possible (boat is 32 ft. long and maneuverable, fairway is 50 ft. wide), but I have abandoned that approach, especially if winds are very high. Using the "quick turn" technique where you turn in a tight circle by alternating between going ahead with full rudder and backing down to use prop walk to spin you around, I can/have done it. Problem comes in that some boats are sticking out into the fairway, and fairway is dead ended with some nasty sharp edges on the pier. If you misjudge impact of wind, or get an serious gust or wind direction shift while turning the boat 180 degrees, you can quickly get into a trapped position where you can't complete the turn and can't back away to recover. It's happened to me twice, so I don't go there any more. Both times, I was able to immediately drive ahead into a vacant slip and temporarily dock there, and come back later when wind had died down to move the boat to its own slip. In the future, that empty escape slip might not be available.

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