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Old 01-08-2016, 20:08   #1
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PNW bull rail docking

We're cruising SE Alaska and the marinas north of the San Juans for some reason haven't discovered dock cleats yet. They all use 4x4 or 6x6 wooden rails that will give you a splinter just by looking at them.

Anyway, we can tie onto them if someone on shore assists or if I get the boat close enough and long enough for my mate to step off. But if the wind is coming off the dock at all, it can be VERY difficult to perform that latter maneuver.

Anybody come up with a good technique?

Bob
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Old 01-08-2016, 20:16   #2
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

They are a little rough around the edges but hold up great. Attach a short line to your midship cleat. Long enough to feed under the rail and secure back on your midship cleat. Then you have time to sort proper lines.
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Old 01-08-2016, 21:56   #3
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

But Andrew, in order to feed the line around the bull rail, a person on shore is required.
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Old 01-08-2016, 22:02   #4
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
We're cruising SE Alaska and the marinas north of the San Juans for some reason haven't discovered dock cleats yet. They all use 4x4 or 6x6 wooden rails that will give you a splinter just by looking at them.

Anyway, we can tie onto them if someone on shore assists or if I get the boat close enough and long enough for my mate to step off. But if the wind is coming off the dock at all, it can be VERY difficult to perform that latter maneuver.

Anybody come up with a good technique?

Bob
There's two parts to your question -- the first one is about approaching the dock and getting there can be tough. I'll discuss that in a separate post.

You mean like this one I'm looking over at Swanson Harbor in SE AK? link to blog post with this pic.



God Alaska is just beautiful. If you haven't gone there and you're on the west coast--figure it out and go. Swanson Harbor is just a state float in the middle of nowhere: Bull rails in place for sure




The thing we did in AK was have a pretty long midships cleated line (note we have 2 midships cleats one slightly aft of mid, one slightly forward and both those lines are long) we could toss down over the top of the bull rail.

There are just 2 of us, the engine person gets the boat alongside, the other person, with both the midships lines in hand (recall one slightly forward, one slightly aft--they're about 14 feet apart from each other, the boat 54 ft on deck) steps onto the top of the bull rail from the boat, then down to the dock and wraps a bight of the forward one of the long midships lines under the bull rail. Then they walk aft and wrap a bight of the aft one around. This is loose and yeah, it could come off but it doesn't because the engine person is keeping the boat stationary as possible.

Then the deck person goes back to the forward midships line and gives it a half hitch, then back to the aft midships line and gives it a half hitch. Then, forward to the bow line which was led back outside the shrouds to pick up midships too and is easy to grab anywhere along the boat. It is the first line that is actually wrapped around the bull rail securely with a complete wrap (similar to what you see in the pic above which is the stern line of our boat). Then, back to the stern line which the engine person tosses or hands over to the deck person. At this point, when the stern line is tied off, the two midships lines can be properly secured--they've been just lazy wrapped around the bull rail with a loose half hitch or no hitch at all.

We usually made a mess of it all. LOL Like look at the wrap on the forward midships line in the pic below:



Unlike our messes--the fishing boats in Petersburg AK here show you the elegant way to do it, a simple loop coming back up to the boat. They can cast off and leave with all aboard and no help on the dock. Of course, they had to do the runaround bit with a bight I described to get situated before they can run the loop back up to the boat once they're in place.

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Old 01-08-2016, 22:12   #5
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
We're cruising SE Alaska and the marinas north of the San Juans for some reason haven't discovered dock cleats yet. They all use 4x4 or 6x6 wooden rails that will give you a splinter just by looking at them.

Anyway, we can tie onto them if someone on shore assists or if I get the boat close enough and long enough for my mate to step off. But if the wind is coming off the dock at all, it can be VERY difficult to perform that latter maneuver.

Anybody come up with a good technique?

Bob
this is if you're going to one of the state floats --very long and not a slip--

I'm the helms-woman aboard. My husband is the deck monkey when we dock. He's stronger and more agile than me so that's the way we do it. When the wind is blowing off the dock, you approach it perpendicular to the dock--like you're going to hit it with your bow. Keep some way on, but of course not so much that you're in danger of hitting hard. Then at the very last possible moment when you think you're going to hit it, you turn the wheel in the direction to take advantage of your prop walk, reverse the power to slow and use the prop walk to advantage to turn the boat. Now forward and back until you're turned and snugging up to the dock. With our boat, 30T 54' on deck, 58' with bowsprit up, 69' with bowsprit down, I can usually do this maneuver so that midships is within 20' of that initial target on the dock. Usually the target is aft of midships by that 20'.

If going into a slip, I find it easier usually but yeah, sometimes I have to make a couple go's at it. We do not jump from the boat--a step off the boat is in the plan and the execution. OTOH, I have popped a fender on occasion.
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Old 01-08-2016, 23:04   #6
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Anybody who purports to claim that there is ANY valid reason for these bullhead moosehead dock thingies to have any reason is a lunatic.

I am moving from Northern California to the PNW, and have boated for 50 years.

I have carefully researched these stupid things they call "potential for docking" nonsense, find could find NO reasonable answer. Other than: "We've always done it that way."

I did find an "Under vs. Over" YouTube thing. Quite handsome, but inconclusive. The two presenters showed how both worked, so well, in different conditions. And neither worked when the wind was pushing onto the dock.

I think we have two choices:

1. Bring your own cleats and drill and install them before you get to the dock


2. Get a big grapnel hook and use it

I am really open to suggestions here, but after thinking about moving North for over 20 years, doing a lot of boating while I spent time there, and doing a LOT of research I find it hard to

a) justify why they even thought about it

b) continue to use them when even weekend warriors have trouble with cleats

c) wonder why they don't put cleats in on TOP of the bullheads

Perhaps some of you more experienced Northwest boaters can attest to their superior attributes.

I believe that ANYTHING that requires a crew member to LEAVE the boat before it is stopped is nonsense.


I'm all ears.
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Old 01-08-2016, 23:44   #7
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
Anybody who purports to claim that there is ANY valid reason for these bullhead moosehead dock thingies to have any reason is a lunatic.
.....
I believe that ANYTHING that requires a crew member to LEAVE the boat before it is stopped is nonsense.

I'm all ears.
Stu, I don't understand what you're getting at. We see very little difference between the bull rails and cleats regarding WHEN the deck person steps off the boat. For a moment, sure, there he's standing with two midships lines and he's got to do something with them. LOL, there's quick work required on his part to get a bight quazi-secured...but...it's not that bad. Really. Now having said that--I'm all comfy in the cockpit with the helm, I am not agile (see the cane in the pic of me above?) and while I HAVE been the deck person, it's always a bit dicey for me. But I'm a clutz like few others.

PS the biggest benefit I see to these bull rails is that any size boat can tie up and fairlead a line exactly where that boat needs it. 15 feet to 150 feet on the same dock. We saw that at Glacier Bay National Park, as a matter of fact. Seaplane, small boats, and a mini-cruise ship all on one big long pier with large (seemed like they were 12x12) bull rails.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:43   #8
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

There are many small dinghy anchors that are like grapnels. I would toss one and pull snug before stepping off to secure my dock lines. Before cruising this area I would make sure I had at least 2 grapnels. Unless the wind/tide is cooperating I would never step off an unsecured boat. It is just too easy to use a boat hook to drop a loop over a pile.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:54   #9
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
We're cruising SE Alaska and the marinas north of the San Juans for some reason haven't discovered dock cleats yet. They all use 4x4 or 6x6 wooden rails that will give you a splinter just by looking at them.

Anyway, we can tie onto them if someone on shore assists or if I get the boat close enough and long enough for my mate to step off. But if the wind is coming off the dock at all, it can be VERY difficult to perform that latter maneuver.

Anybody come up with a good technique?

Bob
Get rid of your Yacht Braid and use three strand lines. Cheeper and will not pickup the level of splinters. Ii quit on Yacht Braid years ago. Peter
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:18   #10
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
We're cruising SE Alaska and the marinas north of the San Juans for some reason haven't discovered dock cleats yet. They all use 4x4 or 6x6 wooden rails that will give you a splinter just by looking at them.

Anyway, we can tie onto them if someone on shore assists or if I get the boat close enough and long enough for my mate to step off. But if the wind is coming off the dock at all, it can be VERY difficult to perform that latter maneuver.

Anybody come up with a good technique?

Bob
Hi Bob,

We boat in Alaska and have only seen bull rails in marinas and floating docs. I suspect that may be for several reasons: Cheaper [I'm not trusting my vessel to a lag bolted cleat, so they must be through bolted... I have seen lots of loose cleats over time, but few loose bull rails...] stronger, less line chafe, and the cleat size required for the 1+" line we and commercial fishing vessels use requires a sizable cleat.

How do we do it? Just as Andrew SC described: A temporary, short line to midship cleat; step off and around bull rail back to cleat. Takes about 5 seconds the first time you do it... The boat isn't going anywhere, and no helpers on the dock are pulling your bow or stern line making you go cockeyed at the dock... [This is not a difficult maneuver with a little practice- even if single handing in the wind...]

When we tie up the rest of the [permanent] dock lines, we usually run them around the supports under the bull rail. [Typically 4" diameter round pipe. We don't do this if they are just 1" bolts or whatever...] to further reduce chafe potential. Bow and stern lines will run from the cleat on the boat around the bull rail support [or rail itself and back to the boat] so we can slip them from deck when departing...

Spring lines originate on a breast [midship] cleat and are lead around the bull rail or [preferred] its support, then back to itself where a couple of rolling hitches allow for quick spring line adjustments. This holds extremely well in any blow, and still allows you to safely tension the springs when stretched by those 70 kt gusts without the danger of re-cleating in such conditions.

Splinters? Absolutely. Therefore soft braided dock lines won't work well with bull rails [they don't stretch anyway and are therefore a poor choice for dock lines up here where you might get some wind...] They snag like silk stockings... We use good hard 3-strand line of appropriate size for our vessel [1"] with no snagging problems.

Grappling hooks help, but the potential for causing damage to you, the dock, or other individuals or vessels is pronounced.

A while back I found Easy Docker which looks like it would be worthwhile for lassoing cleats, bollards, or bull rails, . [A close look reveals it isn't just a simple hook, but has well thought out 3 dimensional geometry that makes sense... but I haven't used one...]

I wish you fun on your journey, and hope you don't get too psyched out by the influence of commercial vessels on dock and marina design during your visit. [At least they are floating docs... try cement piers with rebar sticking out here and there...]

Cheers!

Bill
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Old 02-08-2016, 09:22   #11
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Been doing it for 50 yrs..its not hard. Yes someone has to leave the boat. Even singlehanding which i do. The midship line is your best friend. The only situation that gets dicey is when you're blown off. Also my fore/aft lines are 50' 5/8 three strand. I tie the boat up and usethe long tail for spring. That way i only have to keep track of two lines and i have long stretchy springs. When i and admiral approach, the whole coil (fore/aft) is thrown onto the dock and then work the mid. When solo. The first thing i do is throw the stern coil and then tend to mid. Yes, I'm off the boat but theres a lot of line on that dock. And I have question of the converse. How does one get a line around a cleat from the boat? Do you hang on to two ends and heave the rest at the cleat and hope for a wrap?
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:19   #12
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
Anybody who purports to claim that there is ANY valid reason for these bullhead moosehead dock thingies to have any reason is a lunatic.

I am moving from Northern California to the PNW, and have boated for 50 years.

I have carefully researched these stupid things they call "potential for docking" nonsense, find could find NO reasonable answer. Other than: "We've always done it that way."

I did find an "Under vs. Over" YouTube thing. Quite handsome, but inconclusive. The two presenters showed how both worked, so well, in different conditions. And neither worked when the wind was pushing onto the dock.

I think we have two choices:

1. Bring your own cleats and drill and install them before you get to the dock


2. Get a big grapnel hook and use it

I am really open to suggestions here, but after thinking about moving North for over 20 years, doing a lot of boating while I spent time there, and doing a LOT of research I find it hard to

a) justify why they even thought about it

b) continue to use them when even weekend warriors have trouble with cleats

c) wonder why they don't put cleats in on TOP of the bullheads

Perhaps some of you more experienced Northwest boaters can attest to their superior attributes.

I believe that ANYTHING that requires a crew member to LEAVE the boat before it is stopped is nonsense.


I'm all ears.
When in Rome - go with the flow. Theses rails are one step better than the rings that are typically found on Kiwi floating docks.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:25   #13
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
Anybody who purports to claim that there is ANY valid reason for these bullhead moosehead dock thingies to have any reason is a lunatic.

I am really open to suggestions here, ...

b) continue to use them when even weekend warriors have trouble with cleats

c) wonder why they don't put cleats in on TOP of the bullheads

Perhaps some of you more experienced Northwest boaters can attest to their superior attributes...

I'm all ears.
I'd guess it is cheaper and less maintenance...
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:43   #14
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

Dave nailed it. Have a grapnel.
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:47   #15
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Re: PNW bull rail docking

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Originally Posted by mickelsen View Post
Get rid of your Yacht Braid and use three strand lines. Cheeper and will not pickup the level of splinters. Ii quit on Yacht Braid years ago. Peter
Yep. The da-n braid chafes fast. Go to a fisherman supply & ask for Medium Lay 3 strand nylon. Don't bother with the soft lay 3 strand sold in yacht shops-it chafes too. /Len
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