Seven steps to prepare for smoother boat docking

Boats at the dock
BoatUS Press Room
Skippers have a million things on their minds when docking a boat. Have you covered all the details with your sailing crew to make sure they are ready for this tricky maneuver?

Captain John Jamieson (Captain John) of skippertips.com suggests you make all seven of these seamanship tips part of your normal check list--before you enter any marina.

1. Preset Springlines: Get bow lines and stern lines ready on both sides of the boat. Tie spring lines, equal to your boat length, to boat cleats near the bow. You can tie up a boat of any size with just one spring line.

2. Roving Fender: Attach fenders along the sides, but don't forget the most important one-that 'roving' fender. Tie a five foot line to a fender and assign one of your crew to handle this job. Now, you are ready if you need to fend off the dock or another boat.

3. Bow and Stern Marine Anchor: Untangle the anchor rode and make it ready for an emergency. Pull 30 feet from the anchor locker, remove the kinks and coil it neatly on deck. Do the same with a small anchor at the stern. If you lose power, you have your anchor 'brakes' ready to stop the boat!

4. Test Reverse Propulsion: Check your small diesel engine (or gasoline engine) in all three gear positions. Bring the engine down to idle speed; then shift into neutral, reverse, neutral, ahead. Repeat this test twice. Now you know you will have good response in reverse gear.

5. Quiet, Clear Communications: Keep open communications with your crew while entering. If you change your mind about any maneuver, let them know right away. Crews on large yachts often use wireless headsets to interact. Or get your crew together and decide on easy-to-understand hand signals.

6. Bare Steerage: Think about how far you will drift if your engine dies. You want to be going slow enough so that you don't damage another boat. Maintain just enough speed so that you still have good control with the wheel or tiller.

7. Emergency Openings: Look for any open slips or pier space on the way in. If your engine dies, these provide a place for docking. That's another reason to have dock lines and fenders rigged on both sides of your boat.

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Prepare your crew with crystal clear communications when docking a boat. Follow a checklist like this one to make tough maneuvers easier and stress free!

Captain John teaches sailing skippers the cruising skills they need for safer sailing anywhere in the world.

You will find more at www.skippertips.com.
http://www.sail-world.com/89050