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Old 14-04-2010, 14:03   #1
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Docking Single-Handed

Haven't gone out solo but working my drills and techniques when shorthanded in prep.
Stopping and securing at the berth are the biggest challenge in my mind.
We use a brake line and stern line upon arrival and I'm pretty sure I can manage this solo.
Opinions and ideas on how best to do this appreciated.

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Old 14-04-2010, 15:30   #2
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Minimum controllable speed. Lots of fenders. The handiest line is one tied amidships, near the max beam. Three reasons: Neither the bow line or stern line is really good at controlling the boat. Second, if some bozo on the dock grabs it and cleats it early the result is not as unmanagable as the same with the bow or stern line. Third, it's quicker to manage when you jump off, after fully stopping.

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Old 14-04-2010, 15:30   #3
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I'm in the same boat with you. I used to single hand my 26ft sloop all the time but when I stepped up to the 31 it was an entirely different deal. Took a while to get used to. One of the problems I have with her is that the lifelines have no gate in them and I'm getting less spry so getting her in the slot, stopped and then getting my carcass over the lines fast so she won't drift is critical. I ended up removing the lifelines on the port side so I can just step over the toerail. I also use a snubbing line amidship, (brake line) and stern line. This works very well. Its just a matter of gettin on the dock fast.

For the 38 ft, man, I swear its like docking the USS Nimitz. I usually get help from dock walkers and have yet to go out solo with her. Until I get used to her it will be done with a crew of 2.

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Old 14-04-2010, 16:24   #4
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Yes... that's my biggest issue as well (44-footer, which I have occasionally described as "18 tons of angry steel"). I've been saved by a few Dock Angels, and refer to their accumulated help over the years as Docking Karma... which prompts me to hop out and be ready to assist any time I see someone coming in to the marina. My current plan is to have my homebrew Redneck Bow Thruster done before a docking maneuver gone awry ends up involving insurance companies.

I've seen a few gadgets that purport to catch cleats or lock into dock gaposis, but have yet to see any work well enough to trust while a boat is moving in tight conditions.

But yes on that midship line... nothing can ruin your day quicker than some helpful but naive person hauling hard on a bow line. My sweetie's boat only has bow and stern lines, but she's found that a long sternline can be looped around a stanchion base to have nearly the same effect. The load down there is pretty much pure shear on the bolts, which is safe for low-speed maneuvering... unlike the problem with people grabbing the TOPS of your stanchions and putting excessive load on the bases and surrounding fiberglass.

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Old 14-04-2010, 21:02   #5
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Big heavy through deck U bolt in the beamiest part with a spring line & eye on he dock end and led back to sheet winch so controllable from the helm, drop the eye over the cleat as you drift in and sheet in spring to desired length. We used this method on 50' charter boats going alongside up to 8 times a day and was very good. I'm not sure about marinas where you are but Z has an unfortunate habit of using rings dockside instead of cleats (lubberly lot those marina builders) which makes this method next to useless. If your docks use rings then learn to jump off a boat and tie a bowline really quickly.

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Old 14-04-2010, 21:48   #6
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For me, getting the anchor up in a blow is the hardest part of going solo. I rarely need to come to a dock, but anchoring is something I do most every night and I have to do it alone. The rare times I go to a marina, there's often someone around to lend a hand.

If my Autopilot goes out, then managing sails while trying to keep the boat on course becomes a major headache, again if it's windy, which it always seems to be.
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Old 14-04-2010, 21:56   #7
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As daddle says, a line cleated amidships is a good idea, if you get that on, nothing really bad is going to happen

Pay attention to where the wind is coming from - use it to your advantage if you can

Consider propwalk - use it to your advantage if you can

and practice, practice, practice
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Old 16-04-2010, 11:06   #8
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One more vote for the importance of a midship spring line.

I single handed my 12 ton 38 footer a lot, and although I didn't use marinas very often, I came up with a few tricks to help me dock. I'd decide which side I'd be hopping off from onto the dock. Then I'd bring the bow line all the way back to the lifeline gate, festooning it on the lifeline outside the shrouds, so it would be easy to grab and take ashore. I'd coil the midship spring line and hang it on the forward stanchion of the gate, and do the same with the stern line, hanging it on the aft stanchion of the gate. Three or four big fenders were already deployed.

I'd ease into the slip, compensating for wind and current, and jump onto the dock as soon as the boat lost all way, pitching the stern line toward the aft dock cleat and carrying the ends of the spring and bow line with me. I'd tie off the spring first, and then either the bow or stern line, depending on which end of the boat the wind or current was pushing away from the finger pier or the main dock.

The first couple of times was a bit tense, but after a bit of practice it just comes naturally.
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Old 16-04-2010, 12:27   #9
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In my home berth, I have a permanent spring with rubber snubbers and a shackle which attaches to a U bolt on the toe rail. I just slide in, bring it to a stop, throw the lines on the dock, step over and clip the spring and then deal with the other lines. Works well for me At other docks, have your lines ready and lead to the gate, lose all way and step off with lines in hand.
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Old 16-04-2010, 13:55   #10
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cowboy method

(Assuming a RH prop--in which case this maneuver best performed on the port side)

Prior to docking, set up a spring line on the port midship cleat with the eye on the bitter end. Cleat this off so that the loop can't quite reach your prop, should you drop it. All fenders on the port side. Now, when coming into the slip, slightly hot, pulse the engine in reverse a couple times to swing the stern to port via prop walk. When you come alongside the outer dock cleat, slip the spring's loop onto the cleat. Now gently shift into forward, putting the wheel over hard right. HARD right. The spring will suck the boat to the dock, port side to, and the prop will keep it snugged to the dock. lock the wheel and leave the boat in gear while you leisurely put the other dock lines in place.
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Old 16-04-2010, 15:21   #11
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Lots of good advice! Eventually, you will come up with a method which works best for you and your vessel. Unfortunately, this is one of those boating skills you'll just have to figure out yourself. Practice does make perfect. Sorry, I meant to say practice will save your dignity! Very few dockings qualify as "perfect".

I always though of docking as as another form of controlled crashing. Point your boat in the right direction. If all looks good, kill your speed and get ready with a midship line. Tie this bad boy down and your bow and stern will be under control, much to the delight of your neighbors in the adjoining slip.

Carrying too much speed into a slip is where most folks get into trouble. When that happens, it's natural to slam the transmission into reverse and goose the throttle. Now you've introduced a whole new set of factors called "prop walk" into the equation. Suddenly you boat is moving in directions you never thought possible.

As you gain experience, you will learn to use the wind and current to your advantage. Let Mother Nature do all the hard work is my motto. When she's being a pain, have a plan in mind before you start the manouveur. Think about what you are about to do before you have to do it.

My most stellar docking moment comes to mind.

I was tied to a dock in Nassau, facing east. The tide was changing and the current as also running east, hard. After thinking about it for a while, I told the dock guy to release the stern line. The current caught the stern and pulled it around, away from the dock Then I told him to release the bowline and I just motored out, into the current, as slick as could be. I know I impressed him, but it amazed me!

Enjoy the learning curve! We all can share stories about the "do's and don't" we've learned along the way/
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Old 16-04-2010, 20:06   #12
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A member here, Evans Starzinger, wrote a good article with digrams and photos for Cruising World a few years ago. Perhaps its on their website?

Or he perhaps can point to it?
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Old 16-04-2010, 20:11   #13
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Originally Posted by Alan Brown View Post
Very few dockings qualify as "perfect".
Except the ones that have no witnesses. <sigh>
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Old 16-04-2010, 20:43   #14
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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
A member here, Evans Starzinger, wrote a good article with digrams and photos for Cruising World a few years ago. Perhaps its on their website?

Or he perhaps can point to it?

I think the article you mean is "Short-handed Docking Made Easier" in Cruising World, July 2007, pp. 82-84.

But I couldn't find it on-line anywhere.
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Old 16-04-2010, 21:35   #15
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Returning I pull past my slip (it will be on the port side) and back in. Honeysuckle will prop walk in quite nicely. She's almost 19 ton and broad of beam but I can pul the starboard transom close to forward end of the slip and curl in until I can step off the beam with spring lines in hand without threatening my neighbors boat in with a moderate wind threatening to blow me down on him and then control it reasonably well. I go very slow and and put the trannie in forward to stop her up when I'm ready to step off. I can pull it in and control her fairly well with spring lines then tie up and fiddle with the rest of the lines until she's in the right position. I actually run into more problems when I have someone on and pull out under power trusting them to keep me off my neighbors boat. I'm best off walking it out even when someone is with me.

Microship: If you're reading this, I'd love to hear about your "Redneck Bow Thruster".

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Docking, singlehanding

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