I'm in a slip with fixed docks, with a finger pier on my left if you stand on the dock looking out. There are pilings on both sides about 30' out from the main dock, and I have "cheater lines" stretched between the pilings parallel to the boat.
The best aid I've found for single handing docking is a short line (3-4') tied to the end of the finger pier with a bowline at the end. When I back in, the first thing I do is slip that bowline over a winch, and that holds the boat close to the finger pier, which is lined with fenders so I don't have to worry about bumping against it. I then run forward and grab the windward bow line off of whichever outer pier it might be, and do a quick-n-dirty tie-off on the bow cleat on that side.
Now I've got the boat secured tight to the finger pier and protected by fenders, and the bow is centered in the slip by the windward line. After that, it's a simple matter to go around the boat and get the rest of the lines secured.
I'm on a creek where current is not an issue; usually it's the wind that makes the difference, and keeping the boat tight to the finger pier means only one other line needs to be dealt with ASAP.
That little line has made single handed docking a piece of cake. I routinely back her in, bring her to a dead stop a couple of feet from the main dock, cut the engine and put that line over the winch without hardly thinking of it.
I have more difficulty getting her out of the slip, as the wind usually blows the bow over before I can get back to the controls and I almost always engage the rub rail on one of the outer pilings on the way out. But that what it's there for, right?
I had an interesting variation on backing into the slip this past Wednesday: my jib downhaul leaves about three feet of the jib up at the bow, and the breeze was straight out of the slip at about 3-4. My usual maneuver is to motor up to the slip with the opening on the starboard side, stop with the stern right at the slip opening and about 20' out. Then when I put her into reverse, the prop walk takes me in a big circle to the right (looking out the stern) and I make a 270-degree loop right into the slip.
This time was different: I put her into reverse, she sat there for a moment as the prop bit into the water.. and then started turning immediately to the left! I made a 90-degree left turn from a dead stop right into the slip.
The only thing I can come up with is that the bit of jib sticking up at the bow acted as enough of a windvane to keep the prop walk from taking me around as usual, and the force on it let the rudder bite immediately so that we turned left instead of making our big circle to the right, as usual.
Funny things boats do, sometimes!
S/V Free Spirit
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