Boat Hooks.....I find it advantages to use have two boat hooks. I prefer the expanding length versions. I keep one boat hook on the seat by the helm station on the windward side for use while I am at the helm. Since, with bimini, wheel, backstays, pushpit, etc., the area is a little crowded and the version with adjustable length is very handy at the helm station. The second one is placed on/at the handrail on the cabin top about midway up the boat, ready to be used. It is easier to get to this second boat hook as opposed to carrying one forward, and often, when you find that you want it, you are already in the amidships or forward part of the boat.
Contact with Pier, Piling, Other Boat......If in docking, it doesn't go exactly as you planned and you come into contact with these items, you want to do three things: 1) immediately stop the motion of the boat, whether due to engine power or wind and current, 2) minimize the damage, and 3) gain time to figure out what you are going to do to get out of this mess. Often you can use your engine/transmission to stop the motion, but sometimes, that is not possible. In those cases, you need a line
or two to help stablize the situation. Usually, then between the engine and these temporary lines
tied to the piling or object that you are against, you can stop the boat's motion. At this point, if you can, insert a boat cushion (they are flat, thinner than a fender
) or a fender
in between the boat and the object that you are against. Generally, such an event will be on the downwind side of the boat, and if conditions are dicey, you can preplace lines
on the cleats
on that side just in case you need them. Once you make contact, there will be little time to go to the storage locker to get the lines
. Even if you don't place them, have at least two extra dock lines available in the cockpit whenever you are transiting a fairway, or entering a dock area or slip for such unplanned events.
Heaving Line......Sometimes you need the assistance of someone on the dock. But often, they are on the dock, you are on the boat, and the lines aren't long enough to reach, or you can't quite reach them by throwing the line. A simple heaving line will help here. This is a small line, generally weighted on one end, that can be thrown further to someone on the dock. The other end is tied to your heavier/larger dock line, and the person on the dock can now pull your heavier line to the dock piling or cleat
. One way to make such a line is to get 50+ feet of 3/16-1/4" polypropylene line (line floats) from the hardware store, and tie to a tennis ball (drill a hole in the ball so you can tie the line, and insert a few fishing weights to give it a little weight). You don't want too much weight, just enough to help carry the line to the pier. Just keep this in you cockpit locker for when you need it.
Quick Turns in Fairway...Use with Caution...... One of the good techniques in maneuvering your boat in tight spaces is what is commonly called a "quick turn". This technique will allow you to turn your boat 360 degrees within just a little more than your boat length (especially with fin keels). In this turn, you do it in the direction where your prop wall will help you make the turn. If you boat walks to port, this will be a starboard turn. Start the turn by putting the rudder hard over to starboard and use the engine in forward to start the turn. When the boat starts to move forward, shift to reverse and the prop wall will continue the turn. Just before the boat starts to move astern, shift back to forward. Always keep the rudder hard to starboard, and go alternately between forward and reverse until you have completed your turn. Now the caution: While you are turning the boat using this or any other technique, the wind and current are still working on your boat and you are being pushed somewhere that you don't want to go. In a narrow fairway, you can get into a position that you are trapped in that you can neither go ahead or back out without hitting something. I have been in this position a couple of times, both of which, there was fortunately an empty slip nearby and I made an immediate, unscheduled docking in that slip. Once with no lines on deck (see the item above). So take care in dockings that require you to go down the slip, turn around and head back up.
Float Line......If your undocking while single handed will require you to retreive a long line while maneuving the boat, there is a good chance that line is going into the water before you can get it on board (because you are occupied with turning and motoring), and the line could get tangled on your prop...not a good situation. Against this possibility, I keep a long float line to be used in such situations to help minimize the possiblity of the line getting tangled in the prop. I use 75' of Samson MFP 1/2" double braided polypropylene line. It has a soft hand and works like a nylon line, but has less strength and stretch. It is yellow, so you will not mix it with your regular lines. This type of line degrades in sunlight so don't use it for a permanent mooring line. It is rather expensive and has to be ordered on special order at most boat supply houses. If you want to go cheap, you can get three strand at the hardware store, but the MFP is worth the extra cost (I bought the cheap stuff first and quickly changed to the MFP).