Docking pet peeves
Mistakes to avoid at the dock
Before you approach the dock, radio the marina’s dock crew to find out which side of your boat will be next to the dock and where to place your fenders and docking lines. Run the docking lines under your boat’s lifelines. Make sure to secure the ends of the docking lines without the eye splices to the appropriate boat cleats. If you do not like the situation, tell the dock crew and opt for a different berth. At one marina, the available dock space was a few feet too short for our boat and no dock crew were in the immediate area. We radioed for help and went to a much better spot.
Do a complete stop some distance away from the pier. Too often new boaters approach the pier or dock at too high a rate of speed. After doing a complete stop, see whether your boat starts to move. Determine how fast and in what direction the current and the wind cause it to move. Allow for this when moving closer to the dock.
Keep your boat’s speed down by putting the transmission into neutral and briefly into forward or reverse as needed. By moving slowly, you will have better control going forward.
Pass the end of the docking line that has the eye splice to the docking person. Otherwise, if you are in a tidal area where the daily tidal differences are fairly big, someone on your boat will have to climb onto the dock in the middle of the night to put more or less slack into the docking lines as the tide comes in and goes out. You will find it much easier to stay aboard your boat to do this, especially in the middle of the night.
Use longer docking lines. One year, the big complaint of New England dock masters where I boat was that relatively new boaters were using short bow and stern lines. The lines worked for their slip at home but were too short for tying up at the marina. You will need longer lines, especially fairly lengthy spring lines. The first line that you hand to the dock person will be the bow spring line. My humbling experience as a novice to docking was watching a petite member of Mystic Seaport’s marina’s dock crew grabbing the bow spring line, easily flipping two or more loops of the line around a nearby piling, and bringing a 50-foot motor yacht to a gentle stop, precisely where she wanted it.
Beware of tidal range extremes. Sometimes boat owners who are not used to areas with higher tidal ranges will snugly tie up their boats at high tide and leave to shop and nosh at a local restaurant. This eventually puts a great strain on the deck cleats. At a marina in Nantucket, one boater from New York, a fellow United States Power Squadrons member, docked close to high tide. His dock lines had some slack but not quite enough. We mentioned that it was close to high tide and that some allowances should be made for the receding tide. He was not particularly thrilled by our suggestion, especially when he later had to put way more slack in his docking lines.
This article was originally published in The Rhumb Line, newsletter of Nobscot Sail & Power Squadron/12.