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Old 09-07-2010, 17:18   #1
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Getting Out of My Windward Slip

I like to back in my Niagara 31 sailing boat into its slip as the dock is only 25' long. Being in backwards, I can step onto the dock from the cockpit. Starboard docking. RH prop. Sailing single-handed. I have a 26' neighbour on my port side.

Leaving the slip can be difficult when the wind is high and pushing me against the dock. Even using a line tied to the Starboard stern until the last minute, and steering to port, doesn't really work as I don't have enough space in front of me to make the turn to port to leave the series of docks towards the open channel, and because the wind starts blowing the bow to starboard as soon as I start out. (Towards the blind end of the docks).

It seems to me I have two options:

1) Steer to starboard when leaving the dock, and when straight, in the middle between my docks and the ones opposite me, start backing away from the docks to the open channel. This is a tricky situation, as I'm only one complete dock away from the blind end of the series of docks. In fact, I think I'd be less than 6' away from the blind end before I could start backing.

2) Push the boat out and let it wrap itself around the dock corner to starboard, i.e the stern of the boat is now facing the wind. I can do this, as I have no neighbour on the leeward side of my dock. For this, I'd attach a line from the starboard bow to the cleat at the end of the dock. OR a line from somewhere more midships to the dock's end cleat. Which ? When do I get on board ? If on board, being single-handed, how can I release the bow/midships line to the dock ?

Are there any other options ??

Being single-handed certainly raises a number of problems couples don't meet !!
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Old 09-07-2010, 19:32   #2
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If I have the geometry right, here's what I would do.

Go for option 2 since you can stay under control at all times. Rig a long slippery light line (3/8" is plenty strong) from the cockpit to a midships cleat with a smooth center hole then around a corner dock cleat, then back around the forward horn of the midships cleat and back to the cockpit. You may find that you want to mount an extra midships cleat at just the right location where you want the boat to pivot.

As you start to motor out take up the slack on the line until your stern can swing. Then snub the line and power the boat around the corner. As the stern comes free start to reverse. As the boat picks up sternway, let go of one end of the line and pull in the other end to retrieve it. It will be less likely to jamb if you can flick it off the midship cleat's horn from the cockpit before you pull.

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Old 09-07-2010, 19:43   #3
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Standing on dock. Push her out more than half way. Pull bow slightly towards dock. Step on. Give her a good strong quick bit of reverse to get some steerage. But go slow. Easy. It's a little risky even with crew. That's part of boating. I do this singlehanded with an agile 50 foot boat. Anybody should be able to do it with a 31.
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Old 11-07-2010, 03:25   #4
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Another additional little aid

Thanks ror responses. I especially like CarlF's response as I can get on the boat when it's stationary, being older I'm not that quick in jumping on moving boats anymore ! I especially like CarlF's idea of having both ends of the line connected to the cockpit.

I was discussing this with a friend over the weekend and he's given me a corner wheel for the dock. This will help spin the boat around the corner. We also think that using floatable rope would be a good idea to avoid any prop wrap problems. He also suggested a short length of line attached to the corner dock cleat with a loop or block on the end of it, with the idea that the line from the boat goes through the loop/block instead of around the cleat, in the hope this would lessen the risk of snarls at the cleat.

With all these suggestions, I think my next dock leaving will be a breeze ! Thanks.
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:27   #5
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Another view

It sounds like you have a plan that you feel comfortable with so that's good. But if I understand correctly, your plan will have you backing down between the opposing slips until you get to the open channel where you presumably have enough room to turn easily.

If I had your problem I would probably address it differently. I would look for a solution that made boarding from abeam more acceptable and then I would pull into the slip rather than back in. This way a line running from the bow to the pier corner and back to the cockpit would give me the control I needed and I would let the wind assist me by pushing the stern around toward the blind end. Should I have a propulsion failure after all of the line are released and before I've gotten to the channel then at least I might have some chance to drop an anchor from the bow and/or put fenders out along the stern before getting up close and personal with the blind end. Being pointed bow toward the blind end in this situation would make me nervous.

But then I'm also just not a big fan of backing down between the slips so that's my personal bias. If you're comfortable with your solution and it works for you then it's a good one.
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Old 11-07-2010, 06:40   #6
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We dock port-to in our slip with the prevailing wind (and sometimes current too) pressing us against the pontoon.

The dock dog-legs behind us so we have another boat sticking far out on our port (leeward) side.

It's a tricky slip both to get into and to get out of.

We have a right-hand prop, so prop walk (pretty mild but noticeable) pushes us, together with wind, towards the boat which lies to port of us.

So we leave the slip by backing out and with a good bit of right rudder at first. To keep the boat from turning to starboard (and the bow going to port into the pontoon), we add a bit of port thruster. This in combination with the right rudder will move the boat to starboard off the pontoon.

Then as soon as the bow is clear of the boat to starboard, full port thruster. When there is enough room to port, the rudder goes over hard to port.

We've yet to smash anything coming out (knocking hard on wood) using this technique.

For your case, I'm assuming you have no thruster. I would warp off just like Carl suggested. Does your boat back up more or less straight? This won't work in a longer keel boat which is directionally uncontrollable in astern. I would probably prefer backing out. That way, you will pointed bows into the wind when you swing around and can just go forward, and besides that -- this could be crucial -- the line you are using to warp off will be under your hand with better angles on it, reducing the risk that it jams somewhere.
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Old 11-07-2010, 23:53   #7
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Not knowing for sure your clearances here is what I would try.

1 - Permanently rig a line to a forward dock bollard near the end of your finger
2 - Permanently attach a horizontal fender just past midway out your dock
3 - Run the line from the forward bollard on the dock to an aft starboard winch on the boat
4- Very slowly motor forward while taking up slack on the line until just before midships crosses the end of the finger. (once midships passes the end of the dock the bow will be blown down channel)
5- Take a couple of turns on the winch
6- Motor hard in reverse and the bow should swing port and the starboard stern will be crushing the fender.
7- Once you guess that the angle is right (~30 degrees to port) cast off the line from the winch (throw it on the dock) and floor it in forward.

In very high winds single handed this could be risky but it avoids having to back out of the channel.

If you need to take the dock line with you you could run it from a cleat, loop it on the bollard and run it back to the boat. As you motor away you'd have to play cowboy and un-lasso the bollard, while steering and avoiding the boats on the opposite side.

Alternative 2 - Move to a port side docking slip as soon as one is available.
Alternative 3 - Spend some time on your dock and watch how other starboard reverse berthers do it.
Alternative 4 - Probably the least stressful. Pull out turn to starboard and back out.

As a side note - even with crew getting unstuck from a leeward dock is troublesome. If you haven't done so I would take the boat out and practice pirouettes and maneuvering the boat in as close to it's own boat length as possible in various wind conditions.

Slow boat speed does not necessarily mean non-aggressive use of power. You need to know what happens when you floor it from a dead stand still in forward and reverse. You need to have a sense of how long you keep it floored to get a knot or two of forward or reverse way. You need to know what happens when you floor it in reverse while making way at 2 knots forward.
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