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Old 21-04-2009, 20:53   #1
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Can't win at dock etiquette

I was remembering something that happened last year. Perfectly calm day, at least 100' of dock space open, sailboat comes motoring up to the dock with the crew midships with a midships line and lots of fenders out. I'm sitting on the far side of the dock with my daughter's fishing reel trying to spew out a million miles of line the second I let go of anything. A few feet from the dock the bow thruster comes on and the boat ends up perfectly parallel stopped against the dock, the crew steps off and she mutters loudly enough to make sure I can hear, something about people not knowing proper etiquette to help someone coming in to dock. I said being a bit miffed, well when I heard your bow thruster I knew you wouldn't need help.

Next day, the wind is blowing fairly hard and another boat is coming into the dock and now there is barely enough room to squeeze in between two boats already on the dock. I walk across the dock to them and as the woman reaches out to hand me the line, her husband says, don't you dare hand him that line. I said nice way to talk and went back to my boat. After they tied up, he came over and said sorry I didn't mean you, I said I meant nice way to talk to your wife. Got a smile out of his wife on that one.

Anyway I tend to not automatically go over and help everyone coming into or leaving a dock, unless it looks like it could be a tricky situation. Maybe it's because I prefer to not be helped in normal situations because it seems most of the time people snub or release the lines at the wrong time. If I help someone I don't pull on or release the line until the captain says to, unless it's the last couple of inches before the crash into the next boat.

Also I think it makes it lot more clear if you think you need help to ask for it, rather than make the poor guy on the dock try to figure out if you need it or want it.


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Old 21-04-2009, 21:12   #2
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You are right, some people expect help and others are adamant about not accepting any or offended if it is offered, if I see or hear a boat approaching I'll walk over and ask if they want some help, if they do I want them to tell me just how and where they want their lines fixed, if they don't want help that's fine by me too.
If I feel I need some help I don't mind asking who ever is around for a hand.

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Old 22-04-2009, 00:40   #3
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Yeah I know how you feel, John.

We try to do it ourselves because I can rely on Nicolle but I can't rely on some dude walking the dock.

Many times when we have given a mooring line the guy just stands there and holds it! Try holding a 7.5 tonne boat! Morons!!!!

Nicolle has become very well practised at looking people directly in the eye and saying loudly, slowly and clearly "Please drop this bowline over that cleat quickly".

But better she just tells dock helpers: "Go aft and Mark will give you his line"

All in all we find it better to do all the line handling ourselves unless the situation is tricky. The run-of-the-mill situations we want to practise jumping and securing so we have it so down pat that we can do it in a storm with the wind/tide/current all in different directions...

As for being on the dock catching lines, I think a bemused expression can be hidden until back in safety.
I don't mind taking and securing anyone’s line.... but I'm not there to supervise and organise his docking! I cleat off a thrown line ASAP - if they want more they can ask politely

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Old 22-04-2009, 01:19   #4
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I would have to say that it sounds like a weekender sort of thing. It was (a few of) the weekenders that made my life living aboard in a marina,... less fun. I can only speculate that they built up ideas of what boating should be like and tried to make sure it really looked like that when they got down to the water. The boaters with more hours coming and going generally appreaciate any help.

If your hands weren't full of fishing gear and if you were close enough, I would "expect" the dock etiquette the female crewman mentioned to come into play. But another bit of common etiquette is to keep your mouth shut when someone does not OWE you the help.

Sounds like she was demanding someting not owed to her. One thing you said about the crew being midship makes it sound really demanding. No crewman up forward with a line to hand off to the "expected" dochhand?

I'm afraid I would have used fewer words than you did, and there would have been no mention of the bow thruster in my miffed response.
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Old 22-04-2009, 01:47   #5
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I don't usually offer - but if someone appears to want a hand I am happy to help. My MO is basically to catch / take a line and either hold it / hitch it around a bollard (depending on size of vessel / weather conditions / how the docking is going ) and then await the onshore arrival of the crew to actually tie off themselves.......sometimes crew can appear slightly exasperated that I have not done so for them (and perhaps think I don't know how? ) but I figure a) I am not their skivvy b) not being tied off means I still have some control if the other part of the docking operation needs some help and c) as Skipper I always want to set my own lines / make the adjustments that I know suit my boat.......and I assume the Skipper will want to do the same (not always true, but I assume this out of politeness ).

If someone offers me help depending on conditions and crew onboard I either say thanks, but no thanks or take their help (with a degree of nervousness about their competency)......but my pet hate is folk who take the line and and try and yank it right in (so bow or stern is away from easy reach of the dock or immediately make permanently fast to a cleat onshore before the vessel has settled - invariably have to untie and adjust (sometimes quickly helps).

Sounds like I am a fussy bugger. Could be true. But "trained" from a child as foredeck crew Of course as skipper I still stuff things up - but I learnt long ago that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter

Shouting? that's for tossers . IMO
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Old 22-04-2009, 01:55   #6
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Hi John
IN the MED where I drop anchor & fenders 100 Ft before back in between 2 other yachts,half the time with a strong wind and sometimes current I can tell you it is expected and really appreacated -that you help-

Single handed- I get close to the dock I run forward to stop the anchor chain from going out - then back to get both stern lines on the dock then set both engines in gear forward then back to tighen up the anchor chain - praying the anchor holds as sometimes it does not and you have to do it all over-I do this single handed alot and it really helps when folks lend a hand- that said many times no one is there and thats one reason I m fixing scraches in the gel coat every time I haul out the boat! Sometimes if its really bad and Im alone I just drop anchor and take the dink in-
If im lucky to be able to come along side the dock I rarey need help -thats a cake walk -unless its blowing really hard - but will always take any help with a smile and a thank you, and i have no problum asking for help -or telling someone what i want done - I give help everytime I see that it could be needed- its a good way to get to know people and Ive made friends along the way doing this- its part of "Life" I love!
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Old 22-04-2009, 03:48   #7
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...reminds me of an encounter on a jetty with one of those "... don't tell me I know boats..." types. Refused help and in the hustle and bustle of tying up to the wharf proceeded to tie the bow of his boat to the stern with one spring and the outer end of the wharf to the inner end of the wharf with the other spring! Nothing more needed to be said.
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Old 22-04-2009, 03:59   #8
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Probably the proper thing is to offer help and if they toss you a line make it fast. I've had people offer to help who hadn't a clue so I have to make a judgement about how competent they look.

However, getting on and off a dock single and short handed is essential to me so I typically don't need help and don't ask for it. I don't know how much larger a boat I could say this for, but I have it pretty much down pat for my 36' 8 ton sloop. But when the conditions are nasty, a challenge presents.

It never ceases to amaze me how less than competent people on docks are at handling lines.
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Old 22-04-2009, 04:12   #9
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When offering to help, make no assumptions. A friend of my told me this story...

A motor yacht was approaching the fuel dock in a cross wind, wife on the bow with a coiled line. The dock attendant was ready, and caught the line as it was thrown to him. The bow began to drift away from the dock in the breeze, so the attendant took up slack and leaned back to stop the drift. And promptly tumbled off the other side of the dock, head over heels into the water! The bitter end of the line hadn't been cleated on the boat!

Boy was he p!$$3d--he was carrying a wallet, cellphone and handheld VHF.
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Old 22-04-2009, 04:32   #10
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My wife and I were sailing a small 17' motorless daysailor and the tide was out, so the dock was about 2 or 3 feet above us. There were about 3 or 4 guys just standing there watching as my wife asked if one of them would take the docking line since the cleat was above our head. Nope. They just looked at us and shook there heads. I managed to get it over the cleat and had to make a jump up onto the dock - all the while they just stood there in the way shaking their heads. I'm not quite sure what their purpose in life is. They probably are the same guys that if you ask them the time, they will tell you there is a clock down the hall.
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Old 22-04-2009, 06:39   #11
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I think communication will usually prevent etiquette issues and match your assistance with their expectation. I usually ask: "Would you like help?" If yes, then "Just tell me what to do."
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Old 22-04-2009, 07:30   #12
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Ya'll are scaring me! Since I don't know what I'm doing..I will just stand back and watch. lol

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Old 22-04-2009, 07:48   #13
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A few thoughts in my mind:

- an offer to help is usually welcomed. If you get waved off don't take it personally.

- if you accept help from someone, don't expect them to be old-salt dock hands. Be polite and ignore the fact that they tied a granny knot in your spring line. Be nice when you ask them to cleat off, slack down, etc. You'd be offended if some jerk spoke to you like he does to his wife (read the Yelling and Screaming thread for reference...)

- being nice usually yields the same in return. Unfortunately not everyone believes this to be true

In the big scheme of things, just being around the docks to experience these things beats the heck out of being stuck in an office cubicle

It's all good....
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Old 22-04-2009, 14:55   #14
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Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
The dock attendant was ready, and caught the line as it was thrown to him. The bow began to drift away from the dock in the breeze, so the attendant took up slack and leaned back to stop the drift. And promptly tumbled off the other side of the dock,
Its his own stupid fault for not cleating the line off!

If helping justcleate it off then the on board folk can adjust the lines they wa they want them.
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Old 22-04-2009, 16:25   #15
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Mark, the line they threw him wasn't cleated onto the BOAT!

I can see how someone aboard would have it free so they could adjust but they should've told him just to cleat off.

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