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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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Senior Moment
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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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Discussion Starter #4
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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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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Discussion Starter #6
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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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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Mr. Bill
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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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Discussion Starter #9
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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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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All these suggestions are needed when going in and out of a slip...which I use to have...but if you singlehand as I do on my Apache 37 sloop with hank on sails, you cannot beat the simplicity (and pleasure) of being on a mooring.

Sail on, sail off. When on the mooring, the boat is head to wind and you can lower all sails at a leisurely pace. Even if the cost were equivalent, I would not go back to a slip.

Moe (originally from Marblehead, now on the Ches Bay)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hi

I can see how a mooring has alot of advantages over a slip. I also see that being in a slip has advantages over a mooring. Things I think I would miss like shore power and water. Access to move my stores aboard. Access to my boat without a dinghy. It''s the power and water I would miss most.
 

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One of the most useful lines you can have while docking in any situation is a breast line. You can control the boat at the dock with just this one line. Have it attached at a mid point on the rail or midship cleat. Run it outboard of everything and back to the cockpit. Step off onto the dock with the breast line in hand and spring the boat to the dock. With properly placed fenders, you can now walk forward and tie the breast line strait from the midship cleat to the dock. Your boat is now safely secured and you may take you seaman like time to tie the perminate mooring lines. I used to use this method with a tartan 30 and now use it all the time with my 28 ft Maxi Fenix. I even do it with guests aboard. There are certain responders to your message whos advice you can take to the bank. Mine is only one suggestion that works well for me....
Good luck and happy sailing. P.S. there is nothing that will give you a feeling of satisfaction like single handing your own vessel well......
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Methods vary greatly depending on boat design, fins, full keels, light heavy, etc. A Cal 27 should be an easy one except for the wind in SF. Practice your docking maneuvers first in open water around a buoy or marker jug.

Nobody mentioned this but it is important. Have a big anchor ready to drop over the side if it looks like you are going to ram the dock. Secure it from the bow with the minimum depth rode that will hook the anchor up at your location. Bring it back to the cockpit area so you can get it overboard quickly. Timing is everything but you will learn the threshold on when it''s time to drop the anchor instead of raming the dock.
 

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Sailor Dance
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I have not tried to singlehand into and out of our slip yet. Our slip has a 5.5 tidal range between tides. We dock bow in, the floating finger pier is about 2/3''s the length of our 35 LOA boat. The bowsprit usually overhangs the main dock by about 16". The finger pier is to port and usually this is the windward side. When my wife and I come into our slip we come up the narrow channel and turn to port into our slip. We have lines and fenders rigged. I steer the boat in and my wife stands just forward of amidships with a spring line attached to midship cleat. The other end of this line she ties off to the toerail so she has a loop which she throws over the cleat at the end of our finger pier. While she''s taking in the slack I at this point have the engine in reverse to stop the boat. Once she has that line cleated we secure the rest of the lines. Since we have no outer piling only the one at the end of the floating finger (It would be hard to get a line over at low tide) pier singlehanding into would be a nerve racking experience. Did I mention that the there are no pilings that separate us from the boat in the next slip. His finger pier is on his starboard side. We rig fenders on both side. We are usually dealing with a crosswind across the port side when coming in.

John
S/V Sailor Dance
 

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wow that situation sounds very familiar to ours. We have a 36 ft boat and setup almost exactly the same (except we have a finger pier on starboard side also). We have 4 lines permanently rigged to the pier which we drop when we leave. The two on the bow prevent the boat from going forward, two on the stern attach forward to the end of the finger (only 2/3 of the way out the boat also) and prevent the boat from going backward. As you may guess its the two on the bow that we worry about most when pulling in. However when its windy from the stern - which is often and a pain in the &^%$ to manage, my wife will pick up the line at the end of the pier first and use it on the middle cleat to slow the boat on the way by or pull us tight if there is a cross wind pushing the stern sideways.
I have never single handed into the slip but have thought about it. How about using a permanent long line on the end of the finger, come out of the cockpit when the center of the boat passes, take the line over the port side middle cleat and carry it back to rear cleat then into the cockpit. you then have a spring line in your hand and can pull the boat tight to the pier as needed or stop it all together while still at the helm.
ps - we have a bowthruster also which is nice when the wind kicks up.
 

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Wow, lots of great suggestions, yet I am with Moe. Nothing beats a mooring in my mind. But, that's why both are available.

Two additions, a comment and a question:
1) If the conditions were troublesome, I used to bring my boat in to the main fuel dock then find someone to help me get into the finger pier .
2) Does it ever stop being a heart stopper?
 

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I don't know how it would work on a tidal area, but on the lake, many people set up a "catcher". They run 1/2" line from the rear pole of the pier, to the main pier, tie it off in the center, about a foot out from the pier, then run it back to the rear pole on the other side. We have 25 and 26 footers, so I don't know how well that would work on a larger boat.
 

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joni duncan
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hey i single hand my 25 hughes ...but some prep work was necessary for personal preferances but docking is a breeze except that mine is in a tidal pool so i just have to wait but waiting is nothing new i used to drive a truck
 

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I don't know how it would work on a tidal area, but on the lake, many people set up a "catcher". They run 1/2" line from the rear pole of the pier, to the main pier, tie it off in the center, about a foot out from the pier, then run it back to the rear pole on the other side. We have 25 and 26 footers, so I don't know how well that would work on a larger boat.
I love this idea

In the event of me ever returning to the UK though [unlikely] AND sitting in a marina [really unlikely] it is likely that I would be faced with a shared slip with a single finger mooring to tie up to, no poles so your idea then is a non starter. :mad:

But I really love this idea:confused:

I wonder if this would work. Instead of a pole use a permanent anchor in centre of the double slip running in to the midpoint of your side then back.some weights towards the anchor and a float close to the dock should keep things safe. :)

<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/GicsRyqV7_x0mHU5i5Z7Zg?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="http://lh3.ggpht.com/_9elhins-MYc/TFHzRC15RLI/AAAAAAAAC78/zRen_7DNWLQ/s144/BOAT%20CATCHER.jpg" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/john.duncker/HootMon?feat=embedwebsite">Hoot Mon</a></td></tr></table>

If anybody tries this out I would love to know if it works. Nose in to the the padding, leave the engine ticking over in forward with a little starboard helm on, amble forward take the lines ashore and cleat off, return to boat and say "Finished with engines skipper".
 
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