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Arf!
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Discussion Starter #1
Our town dock strongly encourages boats to tie up stern to in their slips.

I have managed to master the art of backing into my slip when winds are moderate (less than 10-12 kts), but last weekend I tried several times to back into my slip with a 20 kt cross wind. Each time I slowed to make the turn into the slip, the wind caught my bow and whipped it around, changing my heading by 90 degrees (I have a fin keel). After 3 unsuccessful tries I spent the night on our club's mooring, until the wind died down in the early morning hours. :mad:

I would be grateful for suggestions on dealing with this situation. Is it possible to back into a slip with a strong crosswind? Do I have to go in bow first when these conditions exist?
 

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Why do they insist you dock stern in? I think you should dock whatever way is the easiest and safest. In my boat (and my understanding is most sailboats are similar) I have very little control moving slowly in reverse so I park her bow-in.

I'm still trying to understand the insistence some people have with backing into the slip ... I've seen several people in my marina this year try again and again and again to back in, failing and getting damn close to running into something when it seems to me they could just go bow-first and save a lot of trouble.
 

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Backing in is often easier, if the slip is upwind and your bow tends to get blown downwind (often the case for me). The other nice thing about backing in, is that, as opposed to backing out, you tend to have steerageway earlier (again, on my boat: backing out is pretty nerve-wracking since I often can't steer until I'm already out of the slip, and there's not much room to turn after that).

Still, that doesn't explain why they would "strongly encourage" it. What sort of dock is it, and what town (if you don't mind my prying)? In some berths I've seen, you get pylons and are expected to use a Mediterranean moor. How do you tie up?
 

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SaltwaterSuzi/CapnLarry
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I would suggest preparing beforehand by having lines tied to inner pilings and extended out to the outer pilings and tied loosely. That way you can pull up to your slip facing into the wind (if possible). Once the stern of the boat is in position in front of the slip, grab the line on the appropriate side and warp the boat into the slip. The wind should help swing the bow out. It helps to have crew and a couple of boat hooks handy.

This may take some practice. One thing you have to watch out for is a boat sticking out beyond the pilings in an adjacent slip.

I work in a marina and we frequently have to move boats around and into their slips. We have to tow them rather than motor them and we don't have the benefit of being able to stop quickly. We usually prepare lines so we can do whatever becomes necessary.
 

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Are we talking about piled slips, or a finger float or dock? If it's a finger float/dock are you on the upwind or downwind side?

In the past we've had better luck backing in with speed from downwind (docking on the windward side of the finger) The turn tends to swing the bow upwind, of course, and then once in the slip you should have good "brakes" in fwd gear and the wind holds you on the dock. Often all you need do is quickly secure a sternline and the wind will do the rest.

If you're docking on the leeward side the same technique works but you need to get lines on in a hurry. I've seen people use a modified grapple hook to snag a bullrail or a cleat to help attach to the dock more quickly.

But you have to be a bit bold and do this with speed and good steerageway. It helps a lot if your boat backs well and predictably (which many do not)
 

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I normally back into my slip because it puts me in position to tend the lines when the boat first enters the slip when I am single handing, because the boat fits better in the slip that way, and because it's easier boarding from the pier. My boat is also a fin keel, and if in significant cross wind, the bow falls off uncontrollablely if I'm backing at low speed. So it's simple....back in when I can, but if cross winds prevent good control of boat, then dock bow first until wind subsides. Then, redock with the stern in when the wind permits this.

Additionally, I like to start the backing before I enter the fairway to the slip. This allows me to see what the cross wind is going to do to the boat, and I get good control of the boat backing before trying to enter the slip, and just drive in reverse between the pilings...you can normally hit it just right almost every time. Looks a little strange if you have a long fairway, and not all boats will do this, but it takes lots of frustration away for me. And if the cross wind is sufficient to blow off the bow uncontrollablely, you are away from other boats so there will never be risk of damage. And if bow does fall off too severely, simply turn around and make the temporary bow first landing where you have more control of the bow.
 

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I had one of those rare moments this weekend when the wind was coming out of the perfect direction. For those of you who were out on the Northern Chesapeake Bay this past Saturday 7/18/09 - you know the wind was BLOWING. I had to back into a slip and spun the bow into the wind. Lo and behold the wind was hitting the bow dead center. I shut off the engine and drifted back dead-center between the pilings. A fellow walked up to me on the dock and said that I should give lessons on docking boats. I laughed and told him it was my lucky day.
 

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Why we back in

Why do they insist you dock stern in? I think you should dock whatever way is the easiest and safest. In my boat (and my understanding is most sailboats are similar) I have very little control moving slowly in reverse so I park her bow-in.

I'm still trying to understand the insistence some people have with backing into the slip ... I've seen several people in my marina this year try again and again and again to back in, failing and getting damn close to running into something when it seems to me they could just go bow-first and save a lot of trouble.
If I came in bow first I'd have a very hard time getting off my boat. Aside from moving the lifeline gates I'd have to jump except when the tide was out. Problem is that the finger pier is only about a third of my boat length.
But, to be honest, even if this weren't the case, we like being stern-to where we can sit in our cockpit and socialize with the rest of our dockmates. When you're bow-to you really are cut off from every one

:D
 

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My situation may not be a good example, since the (or at least my) Bene31 backs very nicely with the factory prop. In fact, I dock stern-to because it is easier in my boat than bow-to. But in case it helps (I almost always have a cross-wind):

I try to already be in reverse when I make the turn into the slip. That is, rather than approaching the slip in forward, turning away from the slip and backing in, I usually make a U turn in the alley, then back towards my slip and turn in. This allows me to get some water moving over the rudder in reverse well before I get crosswise to the wind. I give it a good burst of reverse thrust to get moving backwards, then once I have rudder response, I drop it off to cut down on the prop walk.

I do this so that my approach is stern into the wind. As I said, usually this means making a U-turn with our typical prevailing wind, but if the wind is reversed it means going past the slip and then backing back.

Whether this will work for another boat depends on how well you can steer it backwards once you get it moving.

The other thing I've leaned, at least in my boat, is that when you are moving in reverse, you can stop really fast. The prop is optimized for forward thrust, and it makes a _really_ good brake when you are moving backwards. The practical effect is, you can approach a little faster in reverse than in forward and still stop safely. This gives you more water over the rudder, and therefore more control. (But please, make sure you have a good feel for how fast you can stop your own boat before backing fast towards a dock!)
 

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Arf!
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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Why do they insist you dock stern in? I think you should dock whatever way is the easiest and safest. In my boat (and my understanding is most sailboats are similar) I have very little control moving slowly in reverse so I park her bow-in.

I'm still trying to understand the insistence some people have with backing into the slip ... I've seen several people in my marina this year try again and again and again to back in, failing and getting damn close to running into something when it seems to me they could just go bow-first and save a lot of trouble.
Guys,

Thanks for all the replies.

The dock I use is the Mt Sinai marina on Long Island, operated by Brookhaven Town. Each slip has outer pilings. Most slip holders (me included) have rigged lines from the dock to the pilings, which have spliced eyes to act as spring lines. The piling end of the lines are attached to rings which slide up and down on poles with the tides. These rings are shared by neighboring slips. There have been a number of incidents of boat damage due to the ring getting snagged on the bottom of the pole and not coming up with the rising tide. My previous boat had a winch ripped off the coaming during such an incident. The harbormaster claims that boats which dock stern to have never been damaged like this due to the bow being a foot or two higher than the stern. So, even at low tide, the ring doesn't get to drop that low. That is the basis for their "encouragement."

It is certainly easier for me and my occasional passengers to get on and off the boat from the stern. But that is another matter.

My approach starts out in the channel. I get some RPMs up in reverse. During this process the boat behaves much like a reluctant cow with the bull approaching rapidly from the rear -- the stern moves from side to side until finally I get some way and it actually begins to move backward. by the time I am in the fairway this awkward stage has passed and I have mastery of the vessel. Until I turn in a stiff cross breeze and the wind grabs the bow, and the mastery quickly disappears. With my boat this does not occur until the cross wind is approaching 20 kts.

I will try some of the remedies proposed, but the easiest is to come in bow first when the wind requires it.

Thanks again.
 

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My advice for the strong crosswind situation would be to enter the slip bow first and focus on getting an "after bow spring" line onto a windward cleat or piliing situated about half way into the slip.

Leaving the engine in gear with rudder to leeward will keep the boat to the windward side of the slip, and you can attach additional lines at your convenince, no need to hurry. You cannot do this manuover stern-first.
 

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Guys,

I will try some of the remedies proposed, but the easiest is to come in bow first when the wind requires it.

Thanks again.
My boat acts similarly, in a crosswind the bow can whip to leeward fairly fast ... moving forward I seem to be able to control the bow swing more at slow speed using little bursts of power and the propwash over the rudder to keep control, then using reverse as a brake more or less. Maybe it just seems easier because this is what I'm used to I dunno. I rig an aft-leading spring line that is put on a cleat first like previous poster said to control bow swing once in dock.

Ultimately though every boat/skipper is different, if conditions are such that you feel stern-in will be dicey and bow-in is easiest then I'd definitely say do it bow-in temporarily. Once there you can relax and wait for more favorable winds or come up with a plan for flipping boat around/set up lines/get people on dock to assist with move.
 

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If you have a crew of 1 or more, you can use a spring line: bow to pile to aftship. Pull up into the wind next to the pile that is on the windward side of the slip (the pile should be at a point near the stern that will allow the stern to swing into the slip without hitting the lee pile or pier). Put a fender board btw boat and pile. Rig the spring line and rig a long bowline. Put her in reverse and adjust the spring as she backs and turns. Once you are part way in the slip, use the bow line to keep the bow in shape and continue to adjust the spring.

If the boat windward of your slip sticks out, then you have to change it up a bit. Tie a line between the piles on the windward side before you leave to sail. I use my forward spring line for this. Then when I untie the spring that runs from the center pile to the stern, I hang it forward over the line tied between the piles. Put the windward bow line on the pile when you leave so it is easy to fetch on the way back. Now for the tricky part. Approach the slip as usual, and start backing in. Have crew near the back quarter ready to with a boat hook the catch the bow line ASAP and walk it forward with instructions to not let the bow fall to the lee. Grab the spring ASAP and connect it to the stern. while slowly backing (or pulling the spring by hand). It will be like springing in to the slip, but it is done with lines already on the piles and no fender rather than a long spring line and fender you rig on the boat.

When I single hand... I do the same setup, but I don't have the chance to catch the bow line. So the bow is going to blow to the lee. In this case I have a pad on the lee pile, and I cut the engine just as the bow blows (usually about 1/4 to 1/3 of the boat is in the slip at that time) and use the spring line to pull the boat by hand into the slip and grab the windward stern or midship line ASAP. Tidy up when those two are in place.

If you don't have a pile on the lee side, I don't know what you can do without crew. Maybe drop anchor to control the bow.
 

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Aspiring to be a Mexican
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Not to be a wise guy, but is there anyplace similar to practice? That's how we get good at things. The first time I drove a boat, an aluminum skiff, I had my wife (USCG) teach me how to dock. After a year or so my sailing buddy had me skippering his Columbia 21. As I pulled up to the dock, making a nice upwind down current landing that required no running, jumping, fending or yelling, he pushed me off to my surprise. He told me to put it in it's slip, and that I'd better back it in. We had no motor but I had seen him and helped him backwind the main by pushing out on the boom and back it in many times.
The pressure was on. Backing a tiller boat into a slip perpendicular to the current (2-3 kts) one way and the wind (solid 15) the other way and the sun was going down. One other thing, a rock seawall about 4-5 feet behind the rudder when the boat was slipped.
I practiced. I practiced a lot that day. After several aborted attempts a very nice German lady in the second story of the hotel above the slip too the time to tell me how to land on the dock as I had the first time. She was exactly right, but I had a hard time explaining to her that I was required to back it in. She yelled- "It's a sailboat, you can't back it up!"
I pointed to my friend and told her that it was his boat and he said that I can and must back it up. She was convinced that I was mentally unbalanced but continued to watch nonetheless.

A couple more tries and I had the current and the backwards speed figured out and I nailed the landing, to use figure skating terms.
No bent rudders, scratched paint or broken fiberglass at all.
A 21 is pretty easy but it is a keelboat.
Practice is good.
 

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The piling end of the lines are attached to rings which slide up and down on poles with the tides. These rings are shared by neighboring slips. There have been a number of incidents of boat damage due to the ring getting snagged on the bottom of the pole and not coming up with the rising tide.
Assuming you are describing a pole which is parallel to the piling and the ring getting caught at the bottom; a simple modification to prevent the ring getting within 1 diameter of the bottom (or top) of the pole, should solve the problem.

You could either tie a line between the ring and the midpoint of its desired travel or insert a block (of wood) or other obstruction to prevent the ring reaching the ends of the pole. Obviously any method chosen should not introduce new opportunities for snagging the ring.
 

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On the issue of the outer piling tie rings jamming on the piling...this is a real issue and can result in serious damage to stern of boat since lines are shorter (unless you can cross the stern lines, in which case it is less an issue than when the rings are connected to bow lines). The issue is the same with chains (with or without PVC pipe rollers) or lines simply looped around the piling. They can all slide down and then jam. For situations where I must go bow in and have extremely short stern lines as a result (can't cross the lines in my slip when bow in), I've treaded the lines through a piece of re-inforced flexible PVC pipe with the line going from boat cleat around the piling and back to the boat cleat to keep the line from jamming. I hold the pvc pipe in place by a small line to it's mid section tied of to the piling a few feet above the normal position of the stern dock line on the piling. Even so, this is only temporary bow first docking and I re-dock stern first as soon as the winds permit. As to the flexible PVC sliding up and down the piling to releave pressure, it seems to work reasonably well, but the soft surface of the PVC wants to still grab the piling. I have ordered a Pipe Viper bending tool (about $40...do a Google search) that will allow me to prebend a 3/4" hard PVC pipe in a semi circle to go around the piling...it is satisfactory to pass a 1/2" or 5/8" line through the opening. The hard surface against the piling will make this sleave slide more easily up and down the piling so you do not jam the short stern line attachments on the piling or damage the boat from such an event. I will make up a couple of lines (already have with flexible PVC) and keep them on the boat for when I need them. Just an idea that others might consider.
 
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