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Old 06-06-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I have been sailing for a few years and am looking forward to a great deal of singlehanding this summer. While I feel reasonably confident in open water, approaching and departing the dock at the marina are tense moments. Does anyone have any sage advice to offer?

I have a Cal 27 with an outboard on the San Francisco Bay.

Thanks, J
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Old 06-07-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I single-hand my boat quite often as well. I agree with you that docking is the hardest part. I have been lucky in that I don''t keep my boat in a marina so that I have lots of manuevering room. A couple quick thoughts here:

Set up in clear water; In other words, have a boat hook and any other docking asists ready in advance.

When in doubt make a practice run of sorts to test wind and current direction and stopping distance before entering the convines of your marina.

Practice in the open and then with crew on board who are their to protect but not assist you until you feel confident.

Have your docklines made up with loops at the right length so that you can quickly drop them on a cleat and keep moving.

I usually find it easier to back into the slip.

In a cross breeze I use the Halpern Mk III docker. The Halpern MK III Docker consists of an old wire halyard run the length of the boat outboard of everything. Riding on that wire is a small Harken wire block. Tied through the shackle of the block is a loop of line slightly longer in length than the beam of the boat so that the loop when folded is slightly longer than roughly half the beam of the boat.

When the Halpern MK III Docker is deployed the old halyard is run tightly along the windward or up current side (which ever is stronger) of the boat, outboard of everything and is cleated at the bow cleat and stern cleats. The block is pulled aft to the helmsmen’s station and the loop is held in the helmsman’s hand. As the outer most windward or up current pile passes by the helmsman, the loop is dropped over the piling. As the boat continues to back in the block runs up the length of the wire. Meanwhile the helmsman focuses on steering towards and catching an aft dock line. The loop of line prevents the bow from paying off to leeward. Once the stern is tied off you can rig the remaining springs and breast lines as necessary.

Good luck,
Jeff
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Old 06-07-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I singlehand almost exclusively, formerly on my Pearson 27 and now on my Pearson 33. Some ideas to consider:

1) Advance preparation with docklines. When you leave the slip, leave the docklines neat and orderly on the pilings so that they are ready to grab when you come back in. Make sure they are easy to reach -- don''t just throw them at the dock when you leave or you''ll have nothing to grab when you come back in.

2) Install what I call cheater lines on both sides of the slip. This is a good way to use old lines you have no other use for. They give you something to work with if wind or current moves the boat in a direction you don''t want it to go.

3) Take it slow and easy coming and going. Be aware of the wind and current. Think ahead.

4) Put permanent protection on the dock and/or piers where the boat will hit. There will be times you simply can''t avoid hitting something, so put protection (fenders, old fire hose, the fancy dock guards, etc) out beforehand.
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Old 06-07-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

Good suggestions from both Jeff and Mitch; I''ve used a combination of their tricks (bumpers permanently installed on the floating dock at strategic spots, and a long spring line from the bow with a loop in it at just the right length so that, when placed over the outermost cleat on the dock as I nose into the slip, it will stop the boat short of ramming the dock and snug it up against bumpers on the dock next to the boat). You know the layout of your slip best, along with potential current and wind directions likely to affect your approach and departure. The outboard should make you more maneuverable than an IB boat. Figure out whatever helping lines on the boat or dock similar to those suggested will work best in your situation, then think through all the possible wind directions/situations (blowing hard across the slip, or across the narrow lane leading past all those big expensive yachts) and think through/practice with crew how to deal with these using steering/motor/centerboard. Think about "bailout" maneuvers you can reliably perform if you come in too slow, too fast, aren''t able to turn sharply enough, etc. Make extra sure on windy/strong current days that you don''t overlook something obvious that will deprive you of power when you least expect it (like opening the gas can vent, make sure the engine is warmed up, etc.). Much of the nervousness will disappear after you have followed Jeff''s suggestion of practicing with helpers on board, because you need to teach yourself to react subconciously to unfolding situations so that you don''t have to think about which way to move the throttle/gearshift/tiller when things get dicey.

Allen Flanigan
Alexandria, VA
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Old 06-07-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I single hand all the time in my International Folkboat. It has an inboard engine and aperture propeller and walks to left when backing. Going out, I simply back to the left. Coming back into my slip, which is a rather tight one, I wait until just before the bow approaches the end of the dock and then gun it into reverse. This throws the stern out to left as I''m making a right turn into the slip. The result is a soft docking. But whatever system you use, the important thing is to take your time. Don''t approach the dock at a speed any greater than that at which you''d want to hit it.
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Old 06-07-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

Great suggestions! I will definitely try them out, esp. the line from the bow to stop short of ramming the dock if I come in with too much speed.

Thanks again, J
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Old 06-08-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

Another habit I developed is to ensure that my reverse gear is fully functional LONG before I need it. This can be especially important if you have a non-fixed prop and you are relying on the prop mechanism to properly engage in reverse.

While it has never happened that reverse gear failed me, I feel better knowing that I would find out while I still had some good options available.
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Old 06-08-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I''d encourage you to SAIL in and out of your slip as much as possible, starting out on lite wind days with crew to build confidence. I sail in & out of my slip exclusvely, and it''s very rewarding- often get comlpiments from other sailors.
As the wind builds, you can start out with a reefed main, then raise the jib when you get in open water, reversing the process when you return to the dock. Oversheeting the main will keep your boat speed under control for the last 50-100 yards. You might also want to experment with only your headsail up. And a "Tiller Tamer" will help alot too.
You can also tie a line between your two dock bow cleats, to prevent ramming-kind of a spring line for the bow of your boat.

Best of luck.
Bill
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Old 06-09-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

I''ve single-handed our 36'' boat and agree with Jeff that docking is the most difficult part. Wind is the big issue, when calm it''s easy. Our piling are too tall to loop a line over. I drape the dock lines in big loops over the life lines for quick access from the dock. Having pre-set lengths with eye-spliced loops helps. We have a mid-ships cleat on the dock and the first line I go for is a mid-ships line to this cleat, snugged as short as possible. Once this is on you''re set as it can act as a spring in either direction. Having permanent bumpers along the dock as well as fenders out lets the boat pivot arond this line without damage while you get the bow and stern lines on.

We have sailed in and out but only when the landing is upwind.
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Old 06-09-2004
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Singlehanding to and from the dock

It is a lot of fun coming in under sail and it helps you develop a better sense of how your boat moves. I am not sure that you can do this in a crowded marina but I pretty routinely sail my 38 footer into and out of the dock. I have a routine where I can and do single-handed her in but it is easier with crew. As others have mentioned the key is to leave your lines where they are easy to retrieve.

Since my boat sits in the slip stern in, my standard landing is a ''deadstick'' approach. I typically will spin the boat upwind maybe 4 to 6 boat lengths directly upwind of my slip and drop my mainsail, which puts me moving upwind slowly with the sail on the deck. By the time the sail is on the deck, I am maybe 3 more boat lengths further upwind. I throw over the helm and then head dead downwind a boat length and a half or so to one side of my slip, flaking the sail as I go. As I get near the dock I throw over the helm hard over so as to slow the speed and judge the distance so that transom just misses the closest outboard piling of my slip. As the piling goes by I grab the bow line with a boat hook(while standing on the stern) and first pull the boat to a stop and then start pulling the boat aft. As the boat starts to move aft I reverse the wheel to guide the boat down the middle of the slip. I adjust course and speed with the angle and pressure on the bow line as I walk forward. I drop the bow line on the forward cleat and walk aft to grab the stern line. I typcally have my stern line in hand by the time that the bow line pulls up snug stopping the boat''s aft motion. A pull across the boat with the stern line keeps the bow from swinging into the next slip. I then move around the boat tying off the rest of the lines. With a little practice you develop a sense of timing that makes it really easier to do than it sounds.

Regards,
Jeff

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