There are so MANY different situations! We have a sometimes tricky approach to our pumpout station. You almost have to breast directly in to it and there is no room to approach it at a small angle. Luckily we have mostly easterly winds and I can back into the wind and bumping in and out of gear
, I can walk it right in there port-side-to. It works really slick. I actually had one of the kibbitzing vultures that hangs out hoping to see a bad docking ask me if I had twin screws LOL! But it comes from practice, not just knowing stuff.
A line to stop your forward or aft progress is essential, and you really should plan on being able to get the line on a piling or cleat from the cockpit. Don't go scrambling around from foredeck to cockpit while trying to maneuver under power (or even under sail) and tie up the boat at the same time! Watched a guy manage to damage his boat, another boat, AND fall overboard
in the same maneuver one time, trying to do about 4 jobs at once. It was hilarious for me to see, humiliating for him to be.
If you are approacing a dock starboard side to, you can come ahead easy on a stern line hastily tossed over a piling and easy sneezy, the stern line on the onshore quarter combined with the right turning prop will put you snug on the dock. Leave it idle ahead, and take your time going forward to pass a bow line. Then kill the motor
and deal with any spring or breast lines you think are needed. The stern line works great for a first line in this circumstance. Your line is cleated right there next to the helm and engine controls.
A good approach when you are going port side to is to pass a long line around your bow and back to the port side of your cockpit. Run it through a chock or fairlead on your starboard bow. Bring the bitter end back to the starboard side of the cockpit and be ready to work the line on a starboard side cleat. Approach a piling or dock cleat either by coming ahead or backing into it, and get that offshore
bow line on. Take the slack out as you back down. It should be ideally on a piling or dock cleat at least a half boat length forward of where your bow will end up. You can adjust it closer later, after the tieup. Anyway, line secured, back down against it. Keep backing against the tight offshore
bow line and you will fall right into the dock. Keep it in gear
and the engine will hold you snug against the dock while you take your time and pass a stern line, then any other lines you want.
Always try to make good use of the wind. With a ketch
, the mizzen can be a useful tool in maneuvering in tight spots. Simply letting the wind blow you onto a dock works beautifully if it isn't blowing a gale. Your engine and rudder simply maintain your heading and your fore/aft positioning.
A spring line is quite useful for docking, but it is even more useful getting away from a dock. Motor ahead against a spring line to cick the stern out, especially when you are stuck with docking port side to. Get that stern swung out far enough that when you back away, the tendency to back to port has been compensated for already.
, my own included, do not allow you to sail in to a berth. Frankly, I almost am glad for that, because the wirst dockings I have ever seen were sailboats landing under sail alone. OTOH, the relatively low power of sailboat auxillaries vs the typically overpowered mobos helps to keep powered dockings much less traumatic with the sailboats than the stinkboats. For a single
screw vessel, the average auxillary sail boat is quite pleasant to dock and easy to learn. But docking without using the engine can be tricky at times. Judging how much headreach you will have, being able to reliably drop your main at exactly the right moment, not having an engine to "put on the brakes", all place higher skill demands on the skipper
Got a dinghy
? Don't forget you have an anchor! An anchor
can be a useful tool for helping to swing into a tight spot. The dink is used to recover the anchor
so nobody fouls on your anchor line. Then again, there is the "med moor" where you put out two anchors, sometimes only one, and back down against them, paying out just enough so you are a step across to the quay. Two widely spaced stern lines complete the mooring
Softly softly, catchee monkey. Get some way on and gently drift, rather than chuggachug all the way into a dock. At very low speeds, you have excellent control with rudder and engine. Put the rudder over, give it a good 3 second bump, and especially with a fin keel boat, you will spin her around pretty good. OTOH your rudder is useless in reverse unless you do have considerable sternway.
Backing into a narrow slip is usually preferable to going bow in, when you are by yourself. The reasons above. Backing, with sternway on, you can steer with the rudder. Kick it ahead and even without any headway, you can steer with the rudder. You are near the stern so you are ideally situated to fend off with a boathook. Remember with a right hand screw, you will have a tendency to back to port so compensate for that ahead of time and you will look like an old pro when you slip right in there.
Finally, ALWAYS test astern propulsion
before approaching a dock! ALWAYS! Stuff happens. What if the engine stalls just when you need to reduce your headway to avoid crashing catastrophically into the dock? (Deja vu all over again... remember to approach as slowly as possible while still maintaining steerageway!) What if it simply refuses to go into reverse? What if your prop decides it doesn't want to hang on to your shaft anymore? What if what if what if? A gear test is something every prudent mariner does before entering port, from the biggest ship to the smallest motor launch. Steering
and astern propulsion
are the two most important things to test. Astern is your "brakes", above all else. So always slip into reverse at idle speed with some headway on, and if you have no problem, then you certainly won't have a problem at slightly higher revs. I recommend that for a critical stopping that you advance the throttle slightly, a couple dozen turns over idle, for reduced chance of engine stall before going into reverse.
Remember which way your stern will walk when backing or when first going ahead. Remember how the wind turns your boat when it is not making way. Remember how much rudder you need for this or that tight spot. Learn from your boo-boos. Take it easy, but don't be afraid to use some power when the wind is blowing you all over the place, or to keep from having a collision
or allision. Watch out for the guy coming around the corner! Keep a boathook ready to fend off. If possible, alert nearby boats so they can assist. And FINALLY finally, PRACTICE. Don't procrastinate when you need to go pump out or whatever. You got to DO this to get good at it. Got a good restaurant nearby with a dock? Don't take the car... take the boat! Go for day sails
and when you get back, dock, undock, and re-dock just for the practice. All we can do is give you ideas. The mind/body/boat connection you can only develop through doing the thing.