At the moment I work as a dock
master on a marina and before that I worked in a yacht charter
business handling charter
yachts. I learnt a lot about handling sail boats from 26ft to 57ft in tight berthing situations and onto moorings in very windy conditions. All done solo.
It is not so hard as you might think and just needs basic common sense as well as a basic understanding of physics. I could go on for pages but to be brief when mooring
always aim to overshoot just a wee bit so that you have a little more time as the boat drifts backwards, to grab the mooring
buoy or line before it goes tight. Never overshoot so far that you loose sight of the buoy or it might go aft near the propellor. If you do abort and try again.
Line up the buoy to be to one or other side of the bow preferably the favoured side where attaching it will be easier. If possible use the boat hook on the line from the buoy to the attachment loop rather than the buoy itself. Make sure your boat hook is long enough if you have a high bow otherwise you will be struggling and leaning dangerously over the side.
If it is windy place the favoured side of the bow upwind of the boat so that you are blown on to not away from the buoy. If you have foredeck crew work out some hand signals as you will most likely not be able to hear each other over the engine noise
and distance. I get the anchorman to point the boat hook at the boy and use fingers for distance off!
Most of us avoid marinas
but ultimately we need to use them some time or other, certainly to come alongside to refuel. Often this means slotting in between other boats and leaving that spot when the wind
or tide is pushing you on can be quite daunting. Everyone should know how to use spring lines to assist the boat to point outwards before dropping the last line. But, which one to use. Think carefully about what your propellor does. Which way the prop wash affects your steering
and what happens if you have the rudder
one way or the other and the prop wash is hitting and deflecting the rudder
and then of course the boat. Use it!
So often I see so called experienced sailors ignore my suggestions only to get pushed onto a nearby protruding pile after I warned them that would happen. Listen to the dock
staff. They know about boats! Sometimes it might be good to spring from the aft in reverse so the bow goes outwards, then go forward until the stern is well clear, then go backwards to exit the marina. Sometimes it might be better to spring from the bow going forwards until the stern is well out then go backwards and exit the marina. Plan ahead the best strategy! Allow sufficient room for whatever your turning circle is and know how much that is in advance. It differs on one direction to the other due to prop wash effect.
Think about what the wind
will do to YOUR boat! Don't assume that your will behave like another boat you just watched depart before you. In general with sailing boats the bow blows off down wind and with motor
boats the stern blows off down wind. But, consider where the most windage is on your boat and where the keel
is in relation to it!
Many yachtsmen and power boaters rely too much on the bow thrusters especially power boaters. They all fail at sometime or other and nearly always when you least want it to. I have seen so many boats with joystick controls and the skipper
away from the helm
relying entirely on his toy joystick to control the boat. Last week I saw a 100ft Super yacht loose all joystick control at a vital moment. The skipper
knew how to manoeuvre his boat without it and had stayed near to his bridge doorway and was able to park the boat by engines alone.
Aim to manoeuvre your boat using just the engine/s. A single
prop is different to twin engines that can be used opposingly to spin the boat around. Stern drive legs on a power boat
should be used as if one engine
like an outboard
unless well spaced apart, Use the thrusters intermittently as they draw lots of power and can overheat quickly. Use them to correct rather than as part of the actual docking
process. In most cases a bow thruster will not override a strong gust of wind. You need to consider rudder direction and prop wash as well.
Catamarans handle well opposing the engines i.e. one forward one in reverse to line the boat up but consider whether it is best to reverse in until the stern is near the dock then spin the bow inwards or the other way around. Usually it will be best to come stern into the wind with windy conditions. At the yacht charter business we used the rudders to steer until we were near the dock then changed to using engines only to steer.
Often with a monohull
especially one with a long keel
(they hate going backwards) it is better to come in bow on at a sharp angle then flick the stern in with a burst of reverse. Make sure you favour your prop wash to do this but if stern into the wind also means your prop wash turns the stern outwards, when you hit reverse to stop the boat, try to not use reverse much. Line up to arrive at the berth stationary steering
the bow out at the last moment so the boat ends up square on right adjacent to the dock and get the stern line on first. Once that is done you can power slowly forwards on a tight stern line and it will bring the bow back inwards until you can pass a bow line to the dock.
Always have all lines ready and make sure they are long enough. Have a bow and stern line and spring lines ready. Don't forget to have the fenders all ready down, on the side that you intend to come alongside.
If you have tried everything and it all goes pear shape then either abort and go back out straight away to safe waters or take the boat out of gear
and prepare to fend off. Less damage or no damage will occur if you hit something lightly rather than try to power out of your situation and hit harder. Be careful when you crew do fend off. The forces can be large and a broken arm, dislocated shoulder or worse can happen easily. Last Saturday in gusty conditions a power boater with a small boat got his hand caught between the mooring line and a cleat. In just a fraction of a second he ended up with a seriously broken finger.
Hope these few hints are of some help to some of you. Feel free to PM me if you want the best advice for a specific situation. I am not an instructor but I have owned a lot of boats and and everyday I witness new methods for handling boats. Some work and some don't. Above all never panic. It is just a boat and boats can be fixed!