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bigbrownpilot 06-07-2015 09:29

Docking Help (or not)
We keep our Hunter 380 at a marina that is mostly a home for cruisers. They seem to come in, tie up, and stay there for six months. While we aspire to the cruising lifestyle, right now about the best we can do are take day trips offshore and out into the sound. But when we do, people are like 'Oh, my God-- you're leaving the dock and coming back after hours? How will you get back in?"

As primarily lake sailors, we struggled for a while to figure out how to deal with current at the dock, especially when the tide is coming in. We usually have a following current that hits the starboard stern quarter, so we're idled down, coming in hot, bumping reverse gear, and with limited steerage because there's not so much prop wash helping the rudder. What we figured out is that my wife (or whoever else is crewing with us) needs to get a line from the starboard mid cleat on the boat to the aft cleat on the dock, then hand it back to me at the helm so I can keep the stern from swinging wide and hitting the boat on the port side. Then, I keep motoring forward while holding the line and paying it out as we move ahead until we're right where she wants the boat and then start attaching spring lines, and bow and stern lines. Works like a champ, as long as everyone has the picture. The problem comes in when you have neighbors on the dock who want to help and they don't know the plan. They are trying, and we really appreciate it, but invariable they are handing us the wrong lines at the wrong places and wrong times. I've had this happen enough times where I'm literally wanting to tell them not to help.

Am I being a jackass, or is there a better way to handle this? What are some of your experiences out there? We're still new at the big boat in a marina that gets tide and current, so I don't want to turn down help, but we're trying to perfect our system and sometimes th help, well, isn't helpful.


valhalla360 06-07-2015 09:39

Re: Docking Help (or not)
We generally ignore shoreside help but thank them once tied up.

Handing us lines isn't a big deal. When they try to push the bow off or actually attach a line, that just messes us up.

We try to stay pleasent about it because they are trying to help but they usually cause more problems than they eliminate.

Stu Jackson 06-07-2015 09:51

Re: Docking Help (or not)
Please, let us do it our way, thanks for your help, it's just not needed.

Ask them to help you rebed some stanchions some hot day...:)

I truly feel sorry for those who say they need help docking and won't go out if no one's there to help when they return. How do they get fuel?

After a while they'll get the idea that you know what you're doing.

Maybe they'll even bother to learn. :)

angelfish2 06-07-2015 12:23

Re: Docking Help (or not)
Oh yes, docking. The only thing about sailing that scares me to death! I too, handle the docking lines and have had a LOT of trouble with those who think I'm a complete tweeb. I use a docking stick with a pre-determinded length. All I have to do is have it tied off at the mid-ship cleat and catch the stern piling. It will slow the boat. If those "know-it-alls" are on our dock, I tell them to reach over and take the blue line (coiled on the lifeline at the gate), which is the bow line and tie it off at the forward cleat on our dock. That seems to keep "them" happy and they go away after "helping" us of little knowledge. :)

We have been lake sailors, too. It has been interesting learning all about tides and currents. At the very least, we are never bored. Ha!

Stu Jackson 06-07-2015 12:46

Re: Docking Help (or not)
The bad part about giving them the bow line is that they all tend to pull on it REAL HARD, which swings your stern out just when you don't want it to do that! :)

A simple "Aw, shucks, no thanks, think we got it (this time?) usually works."

Why do they keep thinking people need help docking????

Want a real fun weekend? Ask everybody on your dock if they want to do a "Saturday morning Docking Practice Party!" :)

Kenomac 06-07-2015 13:21

Re: Docking Help (or not)
We never use dock side help. And never ever hand someone dockside your bow line... you relinquish all control.

The best and easiest way to dock the boat assisted by one crew or solo, is to take a twenty foot length of rope and make a large loop. Attach the loop to the center most cleat on your boat where you'd normally tie the spring line. When you come up to a dock in forward gear, take the large loop located on the beam and place it over the dockside cleat. Go back the the helm and steer away from the dock, leaving the boat idling in forward gear. Secure the helm wheel in a position steering away from the dock. The boat will remain in place, now you have all the time you need to disembark at your leisure and tie up the remaining lines.


JPA Cate 06-07-2015 13:26

Re: Docking Help (or not)
They want to protect their or their neighbors' boats, and don't know you from a bar of soap. Plus, they've seen docking problems happen. Or they're just nice and want to help. So, I agree they want to help.

I also agree they get in the way and can mess up your docking. While one doesn't like being rude to innocent strangers, I've taken to saying," Please get out of my way, you're standing where I need to be to secure this line now." Sometimes I can add, "Please go forward to the shrouds, and take the bow line there forward, don't secure it yet." But even with simple instructions, they often won't do it. I think it is because I am wrinkly and female. But I don't know. "I've tried, thanks, no, we'd rather do it ourselves." Doesn't work well. ....and then there was the nice guy who wanted to secure the stern line and fell in between the boat and the dock. End rant.

Usually, Jim's driving, and it's a marina we're coming into for the first time in about a year, so familiar to us, and often we sneak in and just do it, all the lines are made ready before we come in the channel.

To the OP, since your method works for you, I'd suggest you (since your'e the skipper), give them a firm no thanks, and maybe invite them over for a cup of coffee in a hour or so, a firm date to socialize with people who are familiar to you. Later, if you feel like it, explain to them that you want to increase your proficiency doing it yourselves so that you feel confident handling it if you have to come in at night, in a blow, or whatever. The idea being that you want to keep getting better 'cause you may need the skill sometime.


angelfish2 06-07-2015 14:24

Re: Docking Help (or not)

Originally Posted by Stu Jackson (Post 1863683)
Why do they keep thinking people need help docking????

Well, there really was a time when we needed help. The wind was blowing 24 knts right on the beam and we could not get in to save our lives. I told the guy on the dock to stand out on the end and my hubby drove by the end of our dock (very slowly). I threw the guy on the dock a line and we literally pivoted around the stern piling to come in. It worked pretty good because the wind blew the stern around. So, that time I was glad to have help and our boat did not touch a thing.


Originally Posted by Kenomac (Post 1863717)
We never use dock side help. And never ever hand someone dockside your bow line... you relinquish all control.

You don't lose control when there is a spring line from the stern piling to the mid-ship cleat and the boat is idling in forward gear, thus keeping her snugged up to the dock (with a million fenders out :)). Usually the person on the dock is holding the line with it one time around the cleat and not tied up tightly. Sorry, that is what I meant.

Ann, I am going to remember that wrinkly, female thing. :) That must be it!

bigbrownpilot 06-07-2015 14:36

Re: Docking Help (or not)
Ann, I was the guy who fell in, except it was at the lake, and I was reaching to grab the stern line from a helpful neighbor who was handing it to me so I didn't have to pick it up with the boat hook that I had in my hand. Unfortunately, he was holding it such that I couldn't reach it with my other hand, so I leaned out, put one foot on the edge of the dock to grab it, and next thing I was in the water and narrowly missed hitting my chin on the dock and my head on the hull. The wood where the rub rail attached to the dock was rotten, so when my foot contacted it, it all crumbled and I lost my balance. I tried to grab for the edge of the dock, and was picking splinters out of my hands for the next two weeks. Bottom line was, I didn't need help grabbing the line. I had docked single-handed on numerous occasions. But he was being polite by trying to hand me the line, and I decided to be polite and accept his assistance, even though I really didn't need or want it. I think docking is one of those things that our fellow sailors should just stand by and watch unless you ask for help or are going to hit their boat. The only person I trust other than my crew is the dockmaster, because she handles several boats a day; but even now I think I'd prefer her to stand by. And really, it's that first line that stops you from moving forward and holds you close to the dock that matters. If they want to help after that, I'm good. At least the guy helping on Saturday was a former merchant seaman, and now he gets our docking plan when we have a following current.

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rassabossa 06-07-2015 17:02

Re: Docking Help (or not)
If you are docking at the same location every time, you can have lines at preset lengths and color code them with flagging or electrical tape. Just ask them to put blue to blue and red to red and then will catch on pretty quick.

Instead of coming in hot, have you considered doing a standing turn and face the current? Might scare the neighbors less but hey, to each their own.
I've made the window seats at a waterfront restaurant run for their lives before.

Docking techniques

bigbrownpilot 06-07-2015 18:24

Re: Docking Help (or not)
The problem isn't with putting on pre-set lines. That's easy enough, and probably a better use of extra hands. It's putting on that first line that we use to stop forward and lateral motion. Unless they understand the plan, they are just in the way. Since we are docking in a slip, not tying up alongside, a standing turn really isn't an option. We could back in, stern to the pier and port to the catwalk, but I don't think that is going to help when we are fighting a quartering current. We have a system that works. We just need to keep people out of the way long enough to work it.

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SilentOption 06-07-2015 19:19

Re: Docking Help (or not)
Good post.. We go through this all the time. People generally want to help when they see you coming in. Usually the people who see you coming in and spring into action have been sitting in their cockpit drinking the entire time you were out sailing.
I always ask everyone on my boat to resist throwing lines to people on the dock unless I tell them its OK.
My personal pet peeve is when the person on the dock catches a line then tries to hold or pull the boat in rather than taking it to a cleat. If you are getting set hard away from the dock that line is going in the water.

Joe Brown 07-07-2015 07:36

Re: Docking Help (or not)
I had the same situation with flood tide at Ocean Sailing Academy in Charleston, SC. For cruising/conav courses we used a Hylas 47 and frankly, if class was ending during flood tide, no way would I try putting the boat in her slip. We would simply lay alongside a flat dock at the marina - facing the current - where I could let students disembark. Then enjoy the view while I wait for slack water.

I don't know if you have the same opportunity where you are moored. One other possible suggestion in this thread was to spin the boat to face the current, then back in. Depending on the strength of the current (at peak current we had 2+ knots during flood/ebb tides) there is a real danger of getting caught against other boats while you are broadside to the current.

One more suggestion: practice outside of the marina in similar current until you know you can control the boat. Better yet, plan trips so you can return either at slack water, or with the current facing you.

My 2 cents worth.

perchance 07-07-2015 08:16

Re: Docking Help (or not)
In adverse conditions a spring line is your best friend.

Kokanee 07-07-2015 08:17

Re: Docking Help (or not)
I feel your pain. Even when single handed, I prefer to handle it myself using a the same method you described, except using a fixed length for the home dock. I then can step off the boat with the engine idling in forward gear and calmly tie off the rest of the lines.

When others are there I just say, "It's ok, I got it under control", and hope like hell I don't miss looping that stern cleat due the the extra pressure of a small crowd watching.

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