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Old 17-06-2013, 01:04   #16
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Here's another thought. Could you rig a short pole on the dock with a saddle on top to loop the dock line over at deck level so when you come in you can grab your loop off the saddle and thread your line through without needing a boathook to fetch the dock line and then try to put the boathook down without throwing it overboard in yoiu hurry to do the connecting. In fact, if the looped dockline is already at deck level, you may be able to drop that directly over the midship cleat. Admittedly tricky with a moving boat and no slack. - OK, scrap that idea! Maybe a tail spliced into the dockline at the chosen position instead of a loop? - Grab it off the saddle and take a turn around the midship cleat.

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Old 17-06-2013, 02:37   #17
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Re: Single-handed docking help

My wheel is a long way from the dock where I normally berth, so berthing singlehanded could become a nightmare very easily.

I have a midships cleat, and attach a line from that to the Bosco Boat Hook. This has a wire strop at the end, and fits on the end of my 12 ft boathook. once the strop is over the pontoon cleat, a bit of power on the engines, and the boat sits alongside while I leisurely secure my boat.

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Old 17-06-2013, 03:20   #18
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Originally Posted by monte View Post
lots of fenders, don't look at your neighbor as you bounce along his hull if he is on board, pretend you are busy with something on the starboard side..
Loudly abuse your crew or someone nearby on the dock
This. I was thinking that it wouldn't make sense to loudly abuse your crew, since you're single handed and all, but really, shouting obscenities at an imaginary crew might be just about right. When in doubt, go for crazy. Maybe wear a bicycle or army helmet for added effect.
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Old 17-06-2013, 04:25   #19
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Hi Tenedos

This is something I've struggled with as a single-hander and I know a lot of other people do too, even when not single-handed. For a long time after getting the boat, I was afraid to take the boat out because of the difficulty of getting it back in safely. So it is something I've thought a lot about.

Ideally, you want a system that will work in any marina so you are not dependant on pre-set systems in your home berth.
However, having said that, for your home berth, there is a guaranteed way to successfully berth irrespective of wind. Put some fenders permanently on the dock ahead where your bow goes.
Then drive in against these fenders (gently). Once the bow is against the dock, motor gently ahead in forward while turning your rudder hard to port (for a starboard berth), ie tiller pushed to starboard (or wheel turned to port). The effect of the propwash against the rudder will push the stern in to the dock and the boat will just sit there allowing you all the time in the world to set/pick up your mooring lines.
You can also use a U type fender hanging from your bow and measured for the height of your home berth. You can't guarantee this bow fender will be set at the right height if you are visiting a different marina. Permanent fenders are more ideal and there is no reason why you can't use both.

To make you independent of pre-set solutions, my choice is to have a nylon rope (doesn't have to be as thick as your permanent lines but should be nylon for shock absorption) with a loop fixed in the end with something to hold loop open (I use a bit of wire but plastic tubing will do the job). This line runs outboard through a point (I use a block but it doesn't have to be) slightly aft of amidships (it must be aft to get correct turning moment on boat) and is then brought back to a winch. This line is hung over the cleat as you enter the berth and then you go back & do two things tack up the slack off the line around the winch &, again, turn the rudder (not tiller) hard to port for a starboard berth. This will have same effect as driving against the dock (above). You can then ease out the rope to position your boat exactly where you want it.

In order to make sure you can reach the cleat the loop, use a long stick (cane, old vhf antenna lying around the marina yard, etc) attached to the loop.

I have a very difficult turning angle coming into my berth so I don't always get the loop on the cleat so I have my fallback of going in against the permanently rigged fenders on the pontoon.

This probably sounds all very complicated, but think it through and if there is something unclear come back to me. It will take a bit of practice.
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Old 17-06-2013, 04:35   #20
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Don't forget the VHF to help with docking:

"Hello Harbormaster, may I use the end tie until the weather passes or help shows up?"
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Old 17-06-2013, 04:49   #21
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Fenders - both sides!

Plan A: Line on your cleat amidships, then hit neutral and walk amidships, pick up warp and step ashore........and tie line to the dock cleat also amidships.....boat won't lie perfectly, but only a temp situation - as boat now not going anywhere buys you all the time you need to mess around with bow and stern lines. Timing will of course be key, but should not need to rush and you do want to be stepping ashore before the wind catches her.

Plan B: tie up against neighbour and get out a longgg boathook to hook a line ashore (or hop off your bow or across his deck!).

Having a Plan B is always useful, mostly as a comfort blanket! Fenders serve the same role as well!
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Old 17-06-2013, 04:58   #22
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Re: Single-handed docking help

call the marina ahead iof time and arrange someone to help you. is easy...
i approach dead slow with a line from bow to waist of boat and one also from stern cleat to waist and a midships line handy....when i am close enough to step off boat i have it in neutral, i step off boat to tie midships line first then bow than stern. i have 40 ft of boat plus sprit to control. is t difficult. just remember to call marina/fuel dock before your arrival and make sure they send someone to help. isnt necessary but will help your self confidence.
i have docked both my ericson 35 and my formosa 41 sola. is not difficult.
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Old 17-06-2013, 06:14   #23
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Zee touches on another thing that works - having someone on the dock, albeit for practice (as your Plan B / for reassurance). In an afternoon you can do a year's worth of docking and try out various approaches just to see what happens. Appreciate that OP after a different technique to try, but nonetheless practice and hands on experience always works.

As does have a "Gallic Shrug" ready to deploy!
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Old 17-06-2013, 06:23   #24
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Fender up and lie to your neighbours boat. I find that brings help quickly!!

Check out my new blog on smart boat technology, networking and gadgets for the connected sailor! -
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Old 17-06-2013, 08:33   #25
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Re: Single-handed docking help

The technique I used was similar to other postings. I had a line of the correct length ready. Midship cleat to dock cleat. The line had a large loop on the dock end in a clear plastic tube, and a permanently attached stick, which I would just toss on the dock after lassoeing the mooring cleat, approaching at the lowest possible speed.
Keep power on ahead after line pulls tight, with enough rudder to counteract the stern's attempt to kick away from the dock.

This would hold me against the dock and allow me to step off and attach the real lines, which were also made up to the correct length. This was successful everytime, even with a strong crosswind.

I had the advantage of a center cockpit, I was level with the dock cleat sooner, but I did have to leave the wheel to get the loop over the cleat.

You can set this up in advance. With mooring lines attached set up the midship cleat line to the correct length, start the engine and engage forward to tension the line. Once happy with the length, slacken off the exiisting lines and play with rudder angle, just to get everything right.

Check that nothing (backstays radar etc) impedes your attempt to hook the dock cleat. Invest in some beer and inite a few friends to watch your first attempt, and fend the boat off if you miss first time. After a little practice, you will look so slick and confident,that people will be buying you beer to ask your advice on nautical matters.
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Old 17-06-2013, 09:21   #26
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Re: Single-handed docking help

After years of single handing and cruising with my ex, we came into the dock at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay where it is always blowing. With the Admiral (ex) on the helm, I assumed a salty position outside the pulpit on the bow of our ingrid 38 with the bow line in hand. As we approached the dock allowing for windage and cognizant of a gallery of spectators, I made the 'leap of faith' for the dock. The bow line was about 18" too short and I sank like a stone with the boat coming down on me to great applause from the gallery! My wife, at the time, was so convulsed with laughter that she could hardly control the boat but managed not to run me down to my great relief.
Just goes to show that even a lifetime of working commercially aboard a variety of boats and running my own delivery business did not stop me from making a complete fool of myself when the opportunity presented itself. Cheers, Phil
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Old 17-06-2013, 09:39   #27
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Tenedos with your 32 ft sailboat it would be a piece of cake for me to back in using the long bow stern line. When I step off with that line I would have three cleats to control boat . A three blade prop or good feathering prop would make backing better but not necessary. My 32 ft J/100 has a folding racing prop worse case still works well for me. Try practicing in an empty slip with light wind until you get the hang of it. Also bumpers are a good idea. Presently at home slip I do not use bumpers on boat I do have a few on dock none on neighbors side not needed since I stay close to my dock to step off and control boat with fore and aft line. Do not use separate lines unless you tie together too easy to drop one and create panic drill. If you tie long fore and aft lines together those lines become bow and stern when untied. Do not wait until your boat is all the way into slip to step off. boat should have very slow aft motion this allows for you to use line to control boat while still close to dock. The rest depends your understanding of how force on fore and aft lines affect your boat. Remember you have both ends of boat so you can pivot either way or balance pull in to dock or go forward or back. You can use the dock cleats to unload lines tension as needed. Basically its about understanding the lines forces and how your boat will react to them. Your boat is not that heavy and with a keel and no so much wind-age this method should work up to 25 knots of cross wind it may be a little hairy at 20+ but doable with experience. This method can be used at any dock. If you feel insecure try at side tie dock with no wind. Don't panic getting off boat and don't do any Olympic jumps if it does not look right just stay at helm abort and try again. The idea is to step step step off with line in hand all slow and under control. Hint if there is a prevailing cross wind get a slip where wind blows you on to dock much easier that way. If the wind is blowing you to your neighbor you need to arc into the dock stern first with bow swinging toward dock that gives you an extra 45 sec. to step off and control movement of the boat. There are many people who can get the hang of this sort of thing then there are many like my wife who probably will never get it and they would be better off with crew help or a dock situation that does not call for special skills. Good luck.
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Old 17-06-2013, 09:50   #28
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Re: Single-handed docking help

I use two systems:

1- $5 bill. I have yet to find a marina where someone won't promptly answer a cell or VHF call for docking help if they have reason to expect a $5 bill is available. I find this also gets the boat special attention when I'm not around.

2 - The docking stick. I've been using this for a little while and like it a lot. I let go of the wheel for just a second to snare a cleat. The line goes through a block (or around a smooth cleat/fairlead) midships to a cockpit winch. I winch the boat tight to the dock to control the bow blowing off. I then go forward and have a 2nd docking stick ready to snare a forward cleat.

Cruising Solutions | Docking Stick
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Old 17-06-2013, 09:53   #29
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Re: Single-handed docking help

Don't get off the boat.

Docking 101 DOCKING 101 -- Mid Ship Cleat and Aft Spring [includes a link in Reply #1 to a very good single handed topic]

Single Handing 101 single handing

The Dock-O-Matic is for you. Read the links in the links.
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Old 17-06-2013, 09:58   #30
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Re: Single-handed docking help

The san francisco winds can make docking singlehanded quite fun. Luckily I've always docked singlehanded, even if I have crew. I no longer put out fenders when docking, only after I'm docked do the fenders come out.

First I keep all lines tied to the boat. Then as I'm approching the upwind dock I don't stop forward momentum, but keep about 1/2 knot way on. Once the boat is along side but not stopped yet, I move to the side and hop off and grab a lifeline and stay and pull the boat in to a stop. Then tie up bow then then stern. No messing with lines while steering etc.

I also do all my steering from in front of the wheel, as this saves seconds trying to get around it. OH my instruments are on the cabin house so being in front of the wheel is not a problem.

I should note that my boat has a low freeboard and a short distance from wheel to lifelines. By not putting out fenders you can bring the boat closer to the finger, giving more time and distance before the bow swings off. I also try to angle the bow in just a little.

By keeping way on it gives me a few seconds to hop off the boat and grab the life lines. Even with the winds blowing 25 knots as is the case in San Francisco in the summer. Much easier then mucking about with spring lines.

Anyway that's how this crazy blonde lady does it.

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