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Old 07-06-2012, 11:37   #1
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How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

My second season with the boat and I could greatly benefit with some advice on docking. I can pull up to a fuel dock, no problem. I can get into the slip in my home marina. It's not always pretty, but no one has gotten hurt. (Just my pride. Fortunately, my boat has hefty rub rails!)

Coming into a slip at a strange marina is a whole lot harder. And I'm not even talking about wind or current. Just the physical set up.

As a typical example of slips all over the Chesapeake Bay...the transient slip I was recently assigned to could have accommodated a MUCH bigger boat. (My sailboat is 26' long with a beam of 10'6".) Coming in bow first, there were two outside pilings. Off the starboard side there was a half finger pier that ended in a mid-side piling. Off the port side there was no finger pier and no mid-side piling. The pilings are MUCH farther (or is it further, I never can remember) away than in my home slip. Oh yeah, I'm single handing the boat. The marina does have a helper standing by to catch lines, but he's on shore and I still have to deal with the outside pilings.

Got it done, but it was ugly and very, very frustrating. Thought about it and tried to come up with a solution for next time. My FIRST solution was to suggest to my wife that I buy a bigger boat. However, since I want to continue coming home to my first wife, my SECOND solution is described below.

Would something like the following be a better approach?

Rig some fenders off the starboard bow. Come in bow first, favoring the starboard side of the slip. Have a dock line cleated to the starboard stern cleat with a loop on the end. Drop that loop over the outside starboard piling as I come in slowly. Turn the wheel so that the bow fenders kiss the half finger pier. Engage forward gear and use the engine to keep it there, if necessary, while I hop off and set the bow lines. (The line I dropped plus the boats attemps to move forward and to starboard should hold it against the starboard finger pier, right?) Then, with all lines secured, but left long, motor back and secure a line to the outside port piling. Finally, set the lines to center the boat.

Seems complicated, but sounds logical to me. Would it work or would you do something different when entering a transient slip?

Also, if you can guide me to any past postings, books, video, or other resources to help me in this area I would be grateful!


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Old 07-06-2012, 11:52   #2
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Re: How would you dock in a big slip?

Jim, singlehanding my 28' boat, I run into the same problem and solved it pretty much the way you intend to, by having a spring line ready on the finger pier side that I can drop over a dock cleat or piling, preventing the bow from hitting the dock. Using power + the helm to hold it in place against the finger pier. Now the boat will stay put until I get a bow line on a dock cleat and a stern line on the dockside piling. Then I put it in reverse to ease closer the the final rear piling, toss a line over it, adjust the lines and I'm set. The large slips can be a challenge with a small boat, sometimes need to use a boat hook to drop a loop over the farthest pliing. You'll get more comfortable with practice.

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Old 07-06-2012, 12:06   #3
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

First thing I always do is get her stopped in the corner closest to the wind...

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Old 07-06-2012, 13:26   #4
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

Originally Posted by JiminVA View Post
The pilings are MUCH farther (or is it further, I never can remember) away than in my home slip.
Farther is correct.

Using a spring is also correct.
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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Old 07-06-2012, 13:42   #5
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

Certainly read what you can about docking, but here' what I do in a strange slip.

Let's just assume we're not dealing with much wind or current. Do you have an inboard? With prop walk? I always ask for a bow-in, portside tie-up. That way I can just steer to the dock, not the middle of the slip. I tend to approach at about a 10 degree angle to the dock. Slow, of course. When my bow is maybe 2 or 3 feet from the dock, and my stern is maybe 6 feet from the dock, I shift into reverse and goose it a little. That causes the stern to slide over to the dock, leaving the boat close to the dock, maybe touching, and parallel to it. Return to neutral. Then all I need is for the person on the dock to QUICKLY grab the bow line I rigged and fasten it to a cleat forward of the boat WITH ALL THE SLACK OUT OF IT. The very second it's attached, I can put the boat in reverse, either at idle or just a little extra, and the boat is pretty much stuck to the dock.

My boat has a nice rubrail all around it, and I seldom rig fenders before going in, assuming I've already cruised by and checked the slip for any nasty spots.

I use pretty much the same technique for a starboard tie-up, but in that case, I can't use prop walk, so I'll just do my best to bring the boat parallel to the dock. When you put it in reverse to halt the boat, it'll tend to swing your stern to port, so it's important to get the bow tied, so you can immediately get to work on securing the stern.

This is an easy technique that works under a lot of conditions, but it can easily go wrong if the person on the dock screws up. Don't let them take the line around a piling before it goes to the cleat, as that'll screw up the geometry. And like I said, they need to get the slack out. Be VERY VERY clear with them, and point to the cleat you want. "That cleat right there, take the slack out...slack out...fasten it." Some of these guys are stupid, and some just want to do it their own way...or both. Take charge.

I make it loud, clear, and polite, and I make sure we do it MY WAY. Here's the deal....if he does it HIS way and screws up your docking and damages your boat, is he going to hand you a wad of cash? Nope. Your fault.

Again, this if for mild to medium, conditions with no additional complications.
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Old 07-06-2012, 13:56   #6
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

Ooops, wrong thread
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Old 07-06-2012, 14:27   #7
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

I find it easiest to come in port side to, if possible... just the way my brain works, and SLOWLY. Short reverse burst to stop forward motion.
Secure temporary mid point line, often just from a stanchion, to a cleat on shore, and pull in close.
Hop ashore, secure bow and stern and springer. Order doesn't matter, usually the most misbehaving end first. Release the midpoint line.
Works great.
Size of slip doesn't matter, you're only tying to one side.
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Old 07-06-2012, 17:30   #8
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Re: How Would You Dock in a Big Slip?

Great advice so far. Steve W., I'm glad to hear that someone else uses this technique with success. I have learned that I need to have really long dock lines on board and a long boat hook.

Siamese-Yes I have a diesel inboard with some propwalk. I use it when I back into my home slip. Not sure I could use it to advantage in this situation going bow in no matter what side the finger pier was on. The half finger piers I encounter are very short...maybe 10 or 12 feet long. Therefore, there is nothing for the stern to snug up to unless I back in. (And then only if the slip had the half finger pier on the port side as I backed in.) But maybe I am misunderstanding your instructions. I completely agree with your advice for taking charge with the dock helpers.

Virtual Vagabond--Because of the very short finger piers (which exist only one one side), I cannot just tie up to one side like I would if I were coming to a fuel dock. The boat has to be tied off to both sides. That's the challenge. Getting the lines to those pilings. I wish I could just tie up to a T-head, but those are typically reserved for the extra big boats.

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