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Old 11-08-2019, 07:22   #1
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Single handed docking help

I would love some advice on single handed docking my sailboat.

See the attached image as a reference.

I've shown the boat as we currently park it, stern to, and with the lines leading to the various cleats on the dock. Our slip is at the end of the pier.

As you can see the prevailing wind is generally not helpful and will be pushing the boat away from the dock most of the time. When it is mild this is not an much of an issue, but in stronger winds it presents some challenges.

My current technique, is to approach from the left in the channel, coming in at maybe an angle of 30deg to the long part of the dock, and then as stern passes the end of the small outcropping, throw it in hard reverse (also turning a bit so bow doesn't clip end of dock), so that the prop walk moves the stern to port and close to the rear dock cleat, where if done perfectly, I can toss a looped dock line (connected to my port stern cleat and rear port jib winch which is set pretty far back) over that rear dock cleat (near corner of the "L" shaped dock) from my position at near the helm. In light winds, then I can power forward and try to bring in the bow a bit, when boat is stable in forward, jump off boat and attach other lines.

Problems: Getting stern of boat close to that rear dock cleat (so that I can toss a looped line over it) is a bit hard even in light winds. In stronger winds, even if successful, the bow is pushed off so that I can't reasonably depart the boat.

Note: generally If there is a way to get that forward spring line (from my midship cleat going forward), attached, then I can power the boat in reverse and even in most winds that will bring entire boat pretty close to the pier. When crew is aboard, we can hang that spring line on pole at end of dock and as I come in a person on our bow can typically grab that (as well as hanging bow lines) and attach. But doing solo, I can't quite figure out.

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Old 11-08-2019, 07:40   #2
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Re: Single handed docking help

That's an interesting challenge. The main issue is that you're going to need two lines on for control (unlike the usual case where a midship spring is enough; here you don't have room to power against a midship spring). And whatever you do, with the wind coming from the direction you've show, your bow is going to be blowing off. Interesting challenge indeed.



When you're being blown off the dock, you have no choice but to come in with some way on.


I think I might try to do this in two goes --


1. Reverse in directly against the wind, turn away to keep from bashing your stern into the pontoon, grab the forward spring. Then pay it off as the bow blows off.



2. Then reverse in again until you can get the stern line on. Then haul the forward spring in to bring the bow back in.



Conceivably if you come in smartly enough and get the forward spring on fast enough, you might even be able to lasso the cleat with the stern line before you blow off too much.



Single handing in situations where I'm being blown off, I will power onto a midship spring if there's room. If there is no room, like in your case, I will get a midship spring on and haul the boat up with a big electric winch.


You might also try something like that as an alternative to the above -- loop around the midship cleat, cast the bight around the dock cleat, bring the other end through your boat's midship cleat and to a winch. Crank her in.


Held by the middle, the bow won't blow off and you can get the other lines on at your leisure, then take off the temporary midship line.


Good luck and let us know how you finally solve this. We all love these challenges.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:45   #3
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Re: Single handed docking help

Dont reverse in, come in bow first with starb spring on dock end cleat securing bow, powering up only after spring is taught in order to maintain control.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:57   #4
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Re: Single handed docking help

If that's your own home dock, why are you throwing lines over cleats rather than leaving your own dock lines on the cleats and just picking them up with a boat hook?
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:01   #5
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Re: Single handed docking help

Quote:
Originally Posted by RKsailsolo View Post
Dont reverse in, come in bow first with starb spring on dock end cleat securing bow, powering up only after spring is taught in order to maintain control.

That could work, but it would require a quite acute angle coming in (bash the bow?), and you'd have to be awfully careful not to bash the port quarter into the dock. Meanwhile the bow will be getting blown off as you slow down approaching the dock.


If you take Stu's excellent advice and leave lines in place, I guess you could precisely regulate the length of the after spring line which will be rigged to the bow, to prevent the quarter-bashing, but it will be a trick getting the spring line before the bow blows off, and meanwhile precisely controlling the speed -- being single handed. You can't be on the bow grabbing the line and controlling the throttle at the same time, unfortunately.


Approaching stern-first into the wind has a very great advantage in that the boat will not be rotated by the wind as you stop at the dock. That may be crucial to giving you time to get from the helm (where you've just cut the power) to the side in time to grab a line. In strong wind, this rotating force will be quite strong, and the bow will likely be GONE before you can get out of the cockpit.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:09   #6
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Re: Single handed docking help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
If that's your own home dock, why are you throwing lines over cleats rather than leaving your own dock lines on the cleats and just picking them up with a boat hook?
We do leave dock lines on the cleats, but coming in solo, it can be easier to throw a looped line over a cleat rather than to maneuver a boat hook from behind the wheel, through bimini braces, etc.

I'm open to trying with a boat hook though, it may make it easier in that I don't have to be quite as precise.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:17   #7
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Re: Single handed docking help

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...Approaching stern-first into the wind has a very great advantage...

I tried this a bit the other day but it didn't work that well. The boat doesn't seem that maneuverable in reverse with wind behind. I'd have to give it some more practice.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:38   #8
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Re: Single handed docking help

The pole is not in the right place .
You need to make a longer mooring line that is attached to your cleat in the corner of the L. Create a small pole (or other pickup point) at the RH tip of the L for this line (bottom of drawing).

When you come in from the left, pickup this line, throw over your port winch, then stabilise the boat with rudder and engine as usual. Winch or pull in this line to get the boat in position. Rest as you usually do.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:50   #9
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Re: Single handed docking help

You may indeed find that maneuverability is weak in this posture, and prop walk may favor turning in one direction vs the other. But this is the ONLY posture in which the bow won't be spinning off in a strong wind when the way comes off as you reach the dock. Single handed, it is essential that you are able to get the boat to lie still for a moment while you get yourself out from behind the wheel to grab the lines. This may be your best hope for that, so may be worth expementing.
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Originally Posted by paulg222 View Post
I tried this a bit the other day but it didn't work that well. The boat doesn't seem that maneuverable in reverse with wind behind. I'd have to give it some more practice.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:15   #10
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Re: Single handed docking help

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulg222 View Post
I would love some advice on single handed docking my sailboat.

See the attached image as a reference.

I've shown the boat as we currently park it, stern to, and with the lines leading to the various cleats on the dock. Our slip is at the end of the pier.

As you can see the prevailing wind is generally not helpful and will be pushing the boat away from the dock most of the time. When it is mild this is not an much of an issue, but in stronger winds it presents some challenges.

My current technique, is to approach from the left in the channel, coming in at maybe an angle of 30deg to the long part of the dock, and then as stern passes the end of the small outcropping, throw it in hard reverse (also turning a bit so bow doesn't clip end of dock), so that the prop walk moves the stern to port and close to the rear dock cleat, where if done perfectly, I can toss a looped dock line (connected to my port stern cleat and rear port jib winch which is set pretty far back) over that rear dock cleat (near corner of the "L" shaped dock) from my position at near the helm. In light winds, then I can power forward and try to bring in the bow a bit, when boat is stable in forward, jump off boat and attach other lines.

Problems: Getting stern of boat close to that rear dock cleat (so that I can toss a looped line over it) is a bit hard even in light winds. In stronger winds, even if successful, the bow is pushed off so that I can't reasonably depart the boat.

Note: generally If there is a way to get that forward spring line (from my midship cleat going forward), attached, then I can power the boat in reverse and even in most winds that will bring entire boat pretty close to the pier. When crew is aboard, we can hang that spring line on pole at end of dock and as I come in a person on our bow can typically grab that (as well as hanging bow lines) and attach. But doing solo, I can't quite figure out.

You shouldn't try to tie up perfectly the first time. Come in from the left (looking at the picture) have a long spring, with a big bowline tied on on the dock end, led from your midship cleat to a winch with a couple of wraps. You will be able to pay or pull in line this way. Have the bowline come under your lifelines aft and rested on top of the lifeline where you sit in the cockpit. Steer the boat towards the pole, but not a crash course, at an angle that puts you clear of the end dock corner. When your stern clears the corner put the engine in reverse with enough RPM to get you to prop walk to port and slow you down. This should bring your stern to the long dock to which you place the big bowline on the middle cleat. Your boat should just about be stopped at this point. If the wind has you it's OK. Just snug up on the spring and hold it and put the engine in forward, whatever RPM you need to pin the boat to the dock(I don't know your engine or boat response). This will tighten up the spring, use your rudder to keep your boat straight (it controls you where your bow moves) and this will bring you next to/alongside the dock. When your pinned to the dock, lock your wheel or tiller where it keeps your boat parallel to and alongside the dock. Then cleat off the spring, remember you're still in forward gear. Step off the boat tie the remaining lines up where the boat side cleats can be adjusted. Once that is done, take her out of gear and move your spring back to the left most cleat and use your winch to grind the boat back, adjusting lines as you do.

This may take you longer but it's what I do when I'm single on our 47' Kaufman. The key is the spring line leading aft that allows your engine and rudder to control the boat. Also don't be afraid to get on the engine if you need to.

Also, if you miss the cleat, you can always bail and try again by just stopping the boat and letting the wind push you back into the channel.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:40   #11
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Re: Single handed docking help

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Originally Posted by SailRedemption View Post
...This should bring your stern to the long dock to which you place the big bowline on the middle cleat...
You mean something like this image, as first step ?

I agree that using the middle cleat of the dock, as the first attachment, does some easier.
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:56   #12
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Re: Single handed docking help

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Originally Posted by sailormed View Post
The pole is not in the right place .
You need to make a longer mooring line that is attached to your cleat in the corner of the L. Create a small pole (or other pickup point) at the RH tip of the L for this line (bottom of drawing).

When you come in from the left, pickup this line, throw over your port winch, then stabilise the boat with rudder and engine as usual. Winch or pull in this line to get the boat in position. Rest as you usually do.
You mean something like in this image? , (although perhaps boat would be more at an angle than as I've shown it here)

Yes this is possible. There is actually a pole there we can use to hang a line. I saw this done once by someone else (who was trying to help me). It seems a bit tricky cause you have to reach through the bimini supports (perhaps we had it too high), but otherwise may be possible, and it seems I would really have to stop the boat there to grab it (although the other guy was able to do it while boat was moving).

It doesn't completely solve the problem because in wind bow will be pushed off, and reeling in tight on this line will risk back of my boat touching short part of L, where 2 large dock poles stick up with ugly rusted rings around them.

But it indeed, it may make getting something attached easier.
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:56   #13
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Re: Single handed docking help

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Originally Posted by paulg222 View Post
You mean something like this image, as first step ?

I agree that using the middle cleat of the dock, as the first attachment, does some easier.
It sounds like what SailRedemption is describing is the "stern bridle" method. If so, I'd amend your drawing to have the line attached at the midship cleat rather than the bow. (I'm not sure why "bowline" was used so much in the description.)

As to maneuvering in reverse, I would consider having the wind astern an the ideal case (aside from no wind at all). How much distance are you allowing to gain steerage? If you're just having trouble holding a straight course (e.g. bow swings from side to side), try looking mostly forward and aligning the bow with a fixed point.
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Old 11-08-2019, 12:56   #14
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Re: Single handed docking help

paulg222: "It doesn't completely solve the problem because in wind bow will be pushed off, and reeling in tight on this line will risk back of my boat touching short part of L, where 2 large dock poles stick up with ugly rusted rings around them."

Once you have the line attached to the port cleat/winch you put rudder to port and slowly increase rpm. Your bow will come to port depending on rpm and rudder angle ( do not go over 45°). Once the boat is held you have all the time for all other mooring actions.
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Old 11-08-2019, 17:50   #15
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Re: Single handed docking help

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulg222 View Post
You mean something like this image, as first step ?

I agree that using the middle cleat of the dock, as the first attachment, does some easier.
No, the spring should go from your winch through your midship cleat to the middle dock cleat. I used the term "bowline" to describe the knot. Make a big loop bowline so it's easy to loop over the dock cleat. So in your drawing the line wouldn't go to the bow, it would go through the midship cleat.
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Originally Posted by requiem View Post
It sounds like what SailRedemption is describing is the "stern bridle" method. If so, I'd amend your drawing to have the line attached at the midship cleat rather than the bow. (I'm not sure why "bowline" was used so much in the description.)

As to maneuvering in reverse, I would consider having the wind astern an the ideal case (aside from no wind at all). How much distance are you allowing to gain steerage? If you're just having trouble holding a straight course (e.g. bow swings from side to side), try looking mostly forward and aligning the bow with a fixed point.
No, not a "stern bridle method", which I'm not sure what that is. It's a aft leading spring line led from a fairlead near midship. The ideal place for this fairlead (which the OP has a cleat instead, but can be used as fairlead) is aft of midship, around a 3rd fwd from stern. This makes a pivot point using engine and rudder to also bring you alongside.
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