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Old 23-02-2008, 10:40   #31
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The key to docking any boat single-handed is learning that boat's handling characteristics and then preparation before you actually try to pull into the slip. I typically spend time practicing away from the dock near some marker that I can use to gauge my position and speed. I do a series of manuevers to see how quickly the boat slows and speeds up, how she responds to reverse and how much leeway and propwalk to expect. I approach at different angles to the wind and current, both forward and backward, and so on.
In my home slip, I set up all of my docklines to the correct length so that I can simply place the eye splices on the cleats and have the chafe gear in the correct position. I have the slip arranged with hooks and hangers where I can hang my docklines in a position where I can easy retrieve them when returning to the slip. I always dock bow out which makes getting in and out much easier. I typically walk the boat out of the slip using the tension on the docklines to steer rather than standing back at the helm steering.

Coming back into the slip under power, I steer backward until the stern aligns with the outer most piling and walk the boat back into the slip using the bowline to steer. I have my lines set to allow me to quickly drop them over the cleats and as they tension they pull the boat to the center of the slip and stop the boat from going too far aft.

Under sail, I do a deadstick landing dropping the jib upwind of the dock, and then spinning back toward the dock turning parallel with the end of the dock perhaps 6 feet off of the outboard pilings. As the bow passes the leeward piling I throw the helm hard over away from the slip and I catch the windward bowline, and use that to stop the boat and start her moving aft. As soon as the boat starts moving aft, I reverse the wheel and get her swung into line with the slip. By nearly centering the wheel aimed slightly to weather, I am able to use the tension on the bowline to aim her down the windward center of the slip. At some point I drop the bowline on the cleat and grab the leeward bowline if easily done, then walk aft to grab the stern line and aft spring to drop them on the cleats. The boat usually stops in a good spot and typically I have plenty of time to make up the rest of the lines.

When I come into or leave a strange dock in a cross breeze, I would like to suggest a simple set up that I jokingly refer to as the Halpern Mk III Docker. The Halpern MK III Docker consists of an old retired wire halyard with a short rope tail at each end. The former halyard is run the length of the boat, outboard of everything. Riding on that wire is a small Harken ball-bearing, wire block. Tied through the shackle of the block is a loop of line slightly longer in length than the beam of the boat so that the loop when passed through the shackle and spliced is slightly longer than roughly half the beam of the boat.

When used for single-handed docking, the procedure is as follows:

Before starting into the slip, rig bow, stern and spring lines.

When the Halpern MK III Docker is deployed the former halyard is run tightly along the windward or up current side (which ever is stronger) of the boat, outboard of everything and the rope tails at the end of the former halyard are cleated to the bow cleat and stern cleats. The block is pulled aft to the helmsmen’s station and the loop is held in the helmsman’s hand. As the outer most windward or up current pile passes by the helmsman, the loop is dropped over the piling. As the boat continues to back in the block runs up the length of the wire. Meanwhile the helmsman focuses on steering towards and catching an aft piling or cleat with a stern line. The loop of line on the Docker prevents the bow from paying off to leeward (or down current). Once the stern is tied off you can rig the remaining springs and breast lines as necessary.

Good luck,

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Old 23-02-2008, 11:44   #32
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I always had a bow line, and stern line in hand as I kissed the dock. This is with a 30 footer, so not a lot of muscle is required. I would get on the dock while making the slightest headway, or non at all, and have control of bow, and stern at the same time. Using the dock cleat midship to stabilize the boat, and then make adjustments as needed.

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Old 23-02-2008, 12:24   #33
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I don't know if this has been written before but my technique is as follows. Conditions will vary and this includes whether you a lee dock, a windward dock, current running and the type of cleats of pilings you are going to tie off to, or whether is a float or fix dock or even if you going into a slip or a coming along side for tie up. This makes a matrix of variables to deal with so it's really not one system for single handed docking.

Of course you need to set up you lines well in advance and have then brought to mid ship which is where you will jump to the dock to tie up. Make sure the lines are run under and then drapped OVER the lifelines waiting to be grasped and so they run fair when pull taut.

I use my prop walk to help me dock. My stern will walk to starboard in reverse so I will come along side on starboard whenever possible. Approach the dock on a slight turn to port so the bow come close to the dock will the stern is a bit off. At that point, with the helm over to (port turn) give a shot of reverse. This will slow the motion and pull the stardboard quarter into the dock. In calm conditions with no current or wind, you simply walk to mid ship, grab the lines and jump to the dock. With the boat making no or little way you can make fast the lines.

I usually try to have three lines for docking. The key one is a line secured to a mid ship cleat. When I take this line I try to make it fast to cleat or pile close to or at the midship. If the boat is making any way making the midship line up fast stops the motion. Depending on how the rudder is (and current and wind) the bow will eaither remain straight or go into the dock or perhaps away. With the stern and bow line you can control the "trim" of the boat alongside the dock. You than make the stern line fast aft of the boat and then the bow line. Each of these lines should be long enough to be brought to midship and secured to the midship cleat, one serving as a bow spring and the other as the stern spring.

Departing is performed in reverse. Undo the spriongs first leaving the bow and stern attached. If the wind and or current is pushing the boat forward, remove the bow line first, then the stern (reverse the order if the wind is pushing the boat astern. Engine is in idle of course. Finally undo the remain line leaving JUST the midship line to the cleat or post adjacent to the midship. Here you want to make sure the the bow is straight or pointed slightly away from the dock. Undo the the midship line and push the boat away from the dock if you can, Put the boat in forward and start a slow turn to port. If you turn too hard you risk the starboard quarter hitting up against the dock.

When you have less space to make a longer sweeping turn you can do it by heading AT the dock and turning hard over with a blast of reverse to bring the stern in. and stop the forward motion.

Key points:

Use the motor in reverse to slow the boat and kick the stern into the dock.

Use a line from the midship cleat to a dock cleat or piling to stop the motion.

Once the midship line is tied and short all you have to do is deal with the bow and stern lines. If they are waiting at midship you can reach for them and tied them one at a time. You needn't take all three lines with you and you don't have to throw anything.

Practice in light or no wind and current and get comfortable with the steps and soon you can do it under more difficult conditions.

Don't toss your lines to someone on the dock who offers to help and probably hasn't a clue what to do. Do it yourself!
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Old 24-02-2008, 06:53   #34
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Im sorry but I can't abide by your single handed docking procedure. Comming into a dock single handed and jumping off of the boat is a bad idea. Opps you slip and now your between the dock and boat. Opps you get fowled up and now only have a sturn line. To many variables to leave the boat. I sail a Formosa 51 . She has a 52" freeboard and I can dock all 56,000 lbs of her without leaving the boat. The only part of your statement I agree with is being midship. with lines leading there. Mid ship line always goes to the dock first. The center line is thrown out and over the center cleat in a loop while I hold the bitter end. When the loop is out past the cleat in a loop around it the bitter end is hauled in. This brings the boat to a stop and pulls midship to the dock. In this possition the boat can only rock against the dock. Neither the bow or sturn can swing out. After midship is secure you can do sturn or bow at your leisure.
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Old 24-02-2008, 07:26   #35
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Jack Tar,

Of course if you can loop the mid ship line around a deck cleat or a piling without leaving the boat. fine and dandy. I think that IS a smart approach. But often this is simply not possible. And the deck to dock height would be a consideration for leaving (jumping/stepping off the boat). The fuel dock I use most frequently is a fixed dock and at the same height at my deck - no jumping necessary. The typical floating dock is a bit of a jump down, but not something which I would do if I felt it was dangerous.

Again, there are lots of variables and if you can secure the midship and stay aboard till that's done it is the best approach.
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Old 24-02-2008, 08:51   #36
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At my marina, landing is not as difficult as departing. We are down a long finger and there are often boats stacked double and sometimes triple making for a very narrow path which we navigate in reverse. Propwalk is a problem. A good solution I've learned is to get the boat moving then go to neutral. Correct for the propwalk then power again as needed.

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Old 25-02-2008, 22:20   #37
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I am a bit fortunate in that the tri has (1) a steerable outboard (2) amas (floats) that are not much higher than the dock. (3) my dock has a finger on the starboard side and also one across the back (4) the fairway is very wide I come up to my dock area, swing to set up to reverse in - reverse in with outboard and tiller and pick up a rear line that is attached to the dock and place it on a cleat near me, idleing forward and put outboard well over to try and drive the boat toawrd the dock - walk over and put a line on forward - this is all good if the wind is (as it usually is) blowing me onto the dock, if it isnt it will be blowing me into a concreete wall, if that looks to be the case the same system applies except I have a dedicated fender that ties to the bow and round the port float front, i come in quick and dothe same, the wind blows the bow off a bit and the worst that happens is the port float fender touches the wall, - the adverse wind is also an issue only when its low tide.

The most consistent advice here is the best, find a place to practice and have a few helpers during the practice to avoid disasters and then refine your technique until you are okay on your own.

My most recent mono was a pig in reverse under power - would wander all over the place, again I endorse the comments of powering then neutral to gain control. Also really really understand prop walk, if you are trying to fight prop with rudder it gets ugly - find a swing basin or similar and really feel the propr walk effect, if you know its there you can use it to your advantage.
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Old 03-03-2008, 02:42   #38
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Midship cleat is the way to go. When approaching my own slip, it is the first dock/ piling line I grab to the windward side.

After that is snug, you can leisurely get the rest starting with the windward lines.

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Old 03-03-2008, 03:13   #39
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...yep midships cleat and slow....I dock solo and dont have engine astern. Watch trawlers coming in...gently up...then drop a fixed mid spring over somthing then gentle up on the revs with the wheel to bring her in. Tie off after. Leaving is same in reverse drop your fore and afts leaving either a fore or aft mid springer (aft for stern fore for bow) with the wheel over to bring either bow or stern out, depending on the circumstances. ie if you are bringing the stern out then you go ahead till it comes out then gently astern , release the spring and back out. Ahead is the reverse. You can sail her out in the same way but may not get to choose the direction. Good fun as long as the stress factors are not to great (expensive boat near by, strong wind currents, friends, attractive members of the opposite sex, bosses, and that P in the A who told you your boat needed a bit of work last night....)
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Old 11-11-2008, 17:56   #40
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First Solo Docking!!

The boats still in one piece. After reading some of the threads and their links I went with the midships tie method. It was dead flat calm at 0600 and I wanted to go over and empty my holding tank. Prop walk kicks me to port and I dock starboard side to. I took a long dock line and tied it to the midships cleat on the port side (since I Knew I was going to tie up on that side) led it outside the lifelines and then back in thru the the stern chock and on to the primary winch. Well it went well backing out of the slip but I had to give short shots of reverse and then tug in the midship line to pull me closer to the starboard side dock b/c the propwalk was pulling me over to the boat next to me. I got out with out a slip up. I then motored over to the pumpout stationand came in 1/4 or 1/3 a knot too hot. when I thru the dock line around the and then took up slack on the dockline around the winch there was a pretty fast stop and I put a little too much strain. It was a big cleat. I had it in reverse which pushed me towards the dock but it was a little fast. then when I put it in forward the boat tightened up the dockline and the boat was pushed against the bumpers softly.

On the way back to the slip I had to move the dockline to starboard. This time I went in dead slow and it worked well. My first throw missed the cleat but it was easy to get a second toss and since I was ging so slow there was plenty of time to do it. The last second I gave the boat a shot of reverse and my stern swung towards the boat next door but when I put her in forward Ohana snugged right up to the dock. The key is to not have too much speed on -- but not too little either.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 14-11-2008, 18:38   #41
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Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
The boats still in one piece. ... The key is to not have too much speed on -- but not too little either.
Well done! Nobody dead. No torn up boats. Sounds like you did it just right. Just do it that way every time. About the time you get your confidence up, the wind and/or current will conspire against you and it'll do something totally unexpected. If you are still taking it just as cautiously as you did this time, you'll recover just fine.

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Old 15-11-2008, 06:50   #42
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Thanks Dacust. I guess I'm just getting more comfortable with using manuvering the boat under power.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
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Old 15-11-2008, 08:01   #43
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Now you should keep practicing. You'll know you're getting there when the marina manager no longer puts out an "all hands" call to the dock staff when they see you coming.

Besides all the good advice, thinking about the wind and current direction can make all of the difference. I won't try a single handed landing when the wind/current is firmly off the dock.

I was recently on a cruise in the Eastern Med in a ship that was small enough (300 ft) that the Captain allowed bridge visits even when docking. He was masterful at it (although he had two variable pitch propellers and a bow thruster at his disposal). These picture are of him leaving a tight berth in Turkey. There was a 15 knot beam wind right onto the dock and we were sandwiched between two 1000 ft cruise ships. He worked his way about 50ft out parallel to the dock using a spring and then cast off and "went for it" going forward. It seemed really, really close. He told me later that it was "a piece of cake". I felt like I could have tapped the other ship with a long boat hook.

Oh - no tug.

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Old 15-11-2008, 13:25   #44
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This dock has a super wide fairway probably 10 boat lengths. Thta makes it really easy. I'm going to get the admiral to try docking. She's a better driver than I am in a car she can probably dock better with a little practice and then I can handle the lines which I prefer anyway.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
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Old 11-06-2012, 10:23   #45
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Re: Single-handed docking procedures

Decided to take some advice from this board and take my boat out and practice backing. I have a Cape Dory 27, semi full keel. Yesterday was a good day to try since there was very little wind.

So, I motor out and put it in neutral until I have no way on. Go into reverse and hold the tiller amidship. As expected it starts to back to the port, however, no matter how much I put the tiller over to port (I'm kind of dyslexic so I might have this backward, as I sit here at work recollecting) it continues to back to port. So, I stop again. Put it in reverse and put the tiller a little to port and it backs to starboard, but.... it continues to back to starboard regardless of what I do with the tiller.

After probably 5 or 7 different attempts, I cannot make the boat back in a straight line!!!!! All I did was back in circles. I'm sure other boats were wondering what the hell I might be doing, at lease no one called the Coast Guard to come and save me! Other boat traffic started to pick up as foks were returning from the bay, so I motored back in trying to figure out what I did wrong.

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Docking, singlehanding

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