Docking a Boat Secrets – How to Approach With an On-The-Dock Wind

If you are anything like me, docking a boat can get a bit dicey with a howling, 15-20 knot wind blowing onto a dock, pier, seawall, or into your boat slip. So how do you best control your boat? One little-known method gives you a lot more control that the old method. Here are five steps that put you in command.

When you learned to dock your boat with a wind that blows onto the dock, your might have been told to approach parallel to the pier, stop one to two boat-lengths away, and allow the wind to push on your beam and set the boat onto the pier.

But there’s one thing about this method that you should know. This puts the wind–not you–in the command and control seat. Why is that?

Think of your boat as a four-sided structure. It has a bow, starboard beam, stern, and port beam. Those are your “docking control” points.

At any time, in any situation, in any force of wind or current–you have the ability to use two of the four “docking-control” points to take command of your small boat. These are the bow and stern. As long as you point one of those two points into the wind or current you have complete control.

When you start to move the bow or stern away from that position, you give up control. The maximum angle at which you surrender complete control–ninety degrees–occurs at the starboard or port beam. Learn this and plant it into your mind to develop a “master” mindset used by pro skippers worldwide.

Now, take a look at how you will use this secret to put YOU in complete control when docking a boat with a heavy wind or current that sets your boat onto a pier, seawall, or slip.

1. Prepare Your Boat for the Approach

Line both sides of your hull with boat fenders. Assign one crew the job of “roving” fender. This person will “rove” the boat to cushion any contact with the pier. Make a long spring line the same length as the boat. Attach one end to a cleat near the beam. Coil the bitter end and assign a crew to have it ready to put onto a dock piling or dock cleat.

2. Approach at a Perpendicular Angle

Position the boat so that the bow points about 1/3 back from where you want it to end up after docking. Keep your stern as close into the wind as possible. Use reverse propulsion to keep your stern into the wind. Approach at the slowest speed possible.

3. Drape the Line

After you arrive within a foot or two of the pier, loop the line around a piling or cleat forward of the boat cleat. Bring the line back to the boat. Keep slack in the line. Fend the boat with the roving fender at the bow.

4. Back Down on the Spring

Use the forward spring line to hold the boat in position and back the boat bodily into the pier. As soon as you back on the spring, the boat will angle toward the pier. At this point, the wind will take over to set the boat down onto the pier. Note that the bow will rest alongside the pier to act as a pivot for the rest of the boat.

5. Rove to the Stern

Shift the crew with the roving fender aft as the wind pushes the aft part of the boat to the pier. Fend off at any contact points to cushion the boat. Pass a stern line around a piling or cleat on the dock, aft of the stern cleat on your boat. This line, along with the forward bow spring, will hold the boat in position without fore or aft movement.

Learn how to sail like a pro with these simple “docking a boat” secrets from a master mariner. Keep control over your small sailboat to become her true master and commander–wherever you choose to cruise!

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