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Old 08-07-2017, 07:59 AM   #1
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Can you dock your boat single handed???

Is it even possible? My boat is a 31' Mainship Sedan Bridge. When it's windy, it might as well be a sailboat. Throw in a current and it's a challenge.

Do any of you do it? If so, what are your techniques?
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:20 AM   #2
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Yes..... and all kinds of boats and also as a tow captain with a tow sometimes.

There are no secrets, only tips, techniques and practice. Though hand/eye coordination and a quick judge of movement is something that come people never seem to improve and why their dockings skills don't either.

There are so many different combinations of wind, current and boat handling.....all I can say is read whatever people post here and other sites and books.....and understand that those techniques work for them, but arent gospel. There are always other ways to do it. Wathching youtube and other sites with videos can be valuable, but again, none of them are the only ways, but they might be easier to apply to your situation as you can see others based on certain conditions, not just stick diagrams.

The first rule is, if you dont think you can do it, DON'T! Tie up somewhere else or anchor up till the wind and current combo becomes favorable. Getting a boat tied up in unfavorable conditions single handed is impressive, but so is crashing and doing a bunch of damage. Just depends if you care which.

A lot of people swear by a midship line that goes over first. It works for them and their boat.

I can show them that sometimes there are better ways, but no convincing them.....so fine.....its a good technique to start with, but for some people, boats, docks and conditions, there are easier ways.....depends on your situation.

Almost always, hands on with a good boat handler, even a paid one is the best teacher.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:21 AM   #3
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Occasionally single hand my 43. Midship cleats and a spring line are your friends. These boats have way more windage than a bare pole sailboat. There are conditions where it's not workable. There are conditions where a crew of three still won't be workable.

There are a number of fairly recent threads (last year or so) that speak to single hand docking in some detail. Recommend a search.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:22 AM   #4
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I do it all the time, single with no bow thruster. My home dock is side to on a protected canal as pictured in my avatar. Once I had the routine down it was easy. Of course the prevailing winds were right down the canal, and I had to do a 180* turn at the dock which with a couple of back and fills put me right there.

When I was new to this boat and dock I would "rest" the bow against the front outboard piling, run up and put a line on it, and pivot in forward with full turn the remaining 90*. I could also just let the wind do it, slow but safe and easy.

At my home dock The lines are left there and are loops to just drop over cleats, but I still keep a dock line ready both on the bow and at the stern "just in case." Boat hook is always readily available as well

At the dock I use in the Keys it can be more challenging and I do need help if the conditions are not within an acceptable envelope. The docks are exposed to any wind from a Northern quadrant, which puts the boat beam to the wind when backing in. This would not be a real problem if there was a middle piling to "rest on," but there is only the front piling and the dock behind. I either need someone aboard or help from the dock in these situations.

I hope this is helpful, whenever possible use the wind and current, they can sometimes be your friend

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Old 08-07-2017, 09:03 AM   #5
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nope - my dock is on a tidal river which has a 5~7 knot current which reverses twice a day, by the time I get down from the bridge the boats no longer where I want it.
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:09 AM   #6
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My home dock I can put my boat in its place blindfolded and alone because. Have done it for 30 years so it's easy. Go to a new dock and it's a crap shoot.
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:24 AM   #7
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I can't back into a slip without someone on the bow to put lines on the outer pilings. Coming along side is pretty easy. I put the boat next to the dock, slide down the ladder from the bridge and throw an aft spring line on. I then put the engine in gear and have all the time in the world to put the other lines on.
Possum is single engine, no thruster.
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:28 AM   #8
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Yep...all the time. My boat has a lot of windage as well. My home dock only has wind...no current...and the slip I chose is favorable to the prevailing wind...not a random "mistake". My point being, do what you can to get all of the forces that you can't control to work with you...not against you. And like PSN said, if you cannot figure out a way to make it work, go tie up somewhere else until the conditions lean in your favor. You can almost always get nature to help you out...
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:31 AM   #9
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Parks

With all the $$$ you spent on Possum you didn't add a thruster? Shame.
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:42 AM   #10
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Most maneuvers can be done on most boats singlehanded. It takes planning, preparation, practice and patience (meaning, more time). That said, there are conditions of wind and tide that make single-handed docking or getting underway risky, in which case you should wait for conditions to improve. (See the part about patience).
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:04 AM   #11
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Steve, it's possible and done all the time but don't be hard on yourself having just a few weeks experience vs. years.

I'm with psneeld that many different ways depending on boat and conditions and while the spring line is a great technique, sometimes others work better.

You're docking a difficult boat in some challenging conditions. So, two major rules. One-If you don't think you can do it in existing conditions, don't try. Dock at transient dock. Let it calm down, or get assistance from there to your slip. Two-don't expect perfection. Everyone should have to dock a pontoon boat one time in strong wind and current. You learn, the goal isn't to look good, but to safely get the boat in the slip without damage. You observe others just in the slip, barely touching, reverse, all set, easy lines. Well, it doesn't always work like that and sometimes the worst thing is to try to copy the "pros." Their methods might look great, faster in, hard reverse, just driving it in with no fears, but they leave less room for error too. The advantage of a more cautious approach is you can try over and over as many times as you need and no damage. At your point you may often need a trial approach to really feel the wind and current and know what you need to do. There is nothing wrong either with easing the bow in and being very crooked at that point and then just slowly easing it on in and letting it straighten. As long as you have fenders and rub rail and are slow, nothing hurt. Also, by that time perhaps help appears and that's when often tossing a stern line can help.

Your goal is no damage. Forget how it looks to others. They've all been there. They either understand or, if they don't, they're jerks. Amazing that some will just talk and laugh and offer no help.
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:14 AM   #12
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BandB wrote, "Everyone should have to dock a pontoon boat one time in strong wind and current."

Amen to that. It's one of the ways I have trained captains to operate larger boats that are heavier, windier, and underpowered. Put the wind and current to work for you, instead of fighting with them. (That's good advice no matter how many deckhands or how big and powerful a bow-thruster your boat has).
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:16 AM   #13
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https://www.google.com/search?q=boat...ng+competition
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:18 AM   #14
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When I was a kid my dad told me to never dock at a speed that you weren't afraid to hit the dock. That's an oversimplification but in many ways is still true.
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigsfish View Post
Parks

With all the $$$ you spent on Possum you didn't add a thruster? Shame.
$72,000 brand new in 1988. No good place for a thruster. The bow is very shallow. Can't install a stern thruster either. Only about 6" of the transom is submerged.

I'm not one of these guys who says "I don't need no stinking thruster!". I'll take all the help I can get.
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:21 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
The first rule is, if you dont think you can do it, DON'T! Tie up somewhere else or anchor up till the wind and current combo becomes favorable. Getting a boat tied up in unfavorable conditions single handed is impressive, but so is crashing and doing a bunch of damage.
Excellent advice! Confidence is not overrated. However, overconfidence is equally as problematic as no confidence.

I docked our boat once singlehanded in 25-30 kt winds. At one point I was sure I was going to crunch into the concrete travelift pier. But I did one last "Hail Mary" move and docked perfectly. I was proud of myself, until I spoke with my wise and experienced friend the late Capt. John Aydelotte. He said "you got lucky. Do yourself a favor and don't do that again." He was so right. In retrospect I should not have entered the port in those conditions, even though we had a scheduled haulout (they closed the travelift afterwards anyway).

The point is I was overconfident. It could have cost us dearly. As you gain experience and confidence in your docking abilities, stay within your limits and don't press your luck!
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:21 AM   #17
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$72,000 brand new in 1988. No good place for a thruster. The bow is very shallow. Can't install a stern thruster either. Only about 6" of the transom is submerged.

I'm not one of these guys who says "I don't need no stinking thruster!". I'll take all the help I can get.
Not suggesting you do so, but there are retractable thrusters for shallow boats.
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:28 AM   #18
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I can, usually. And sometimes, I can't.

Almost all the time at our home slip, long as both engines are working. Sometimes in our home slip on one engine, depends on which one.

Usually, at a destination marina; usually depends on piles vs. cleats on floating docks, latter depends on how the tides/current/winds are cooperating.

No matter what, it all takes planning, and then practice...

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Old 08-07-2017, 11:30 AM   #19
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So far so good! But I have twin engines now and I almost feel like I'm cheating

Tip I got from a dock neighbor is if you are backing down slowly, try to make sure it is into the wind or current so you have a little more control.

Tip from me is don't be afraid to nudge pilings. That's what rub rails are for

And the others posting above about not doing it if you don't think you can...have a back up plan, or back up slip to temporarily tie up to. To me at least, it is kind of crazy to get into and out of my slip. I always have a couple empty slips in mind that would be easy to get to in case the weather is crappy. i can always move it later that afternoon or the next day.
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Old 08-07-2017, 11:50 AM   #20
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Depends on the vessel layout and the skills of the operator.

My skills may not be the best, but my wide 360* side decks, lower helm with great sight lines, 3 cabin doors including the stbd helm door, easy dock access from the cockpit or side decks and twin engines more than make up for it.
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