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Old 07-10-2008, 07:39 PM   #1
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Docking "aha!" moments

I just confessed in another post about dock bumpers about my being docking impaired.

So I'm curious about how folks here got good at getting their boats back into the slip.

My two additional challenges are that I'm frequently singlehanding. and that I share a double wide slip with another beamy trawler (that's also a LOT more expensive than mine).

It seems that all of the printed material and books out there concern getting single engine boats alongside docks using spring lines.* There doesn't seem to be much of anything about getting twin engine boats into slips beyond "center the rudder and use the shifters."

So, how did you get confident about docking?* Was it just doing it over and over again until you got the feel?* Was there an "aha" moment where it all suddently made sense?* Did someone give you a magic tip that made it all come together???

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Old 07-10-2008, 08:45 PM   #2
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Chris,
When we moved into our trawler I spent a few hours working to get a feel from the flybridge to get comfortable. We have twins- which I love for docking. When I am nearing the slip I l find out the wind direction from a sailboat mast nearby and adjust accordingly. Going in bow first is much easier- you can see what you are doing on our sundeck. Transom first requires the CoCapn'. She talks me in... steadily talking. Lookin good, looking good, port, port, looking good, etc. This works great if I keep my port/ stbd straight!!
We decide which line/ lines go on first* before the dock. I keep a spring line at our home slip- which goes on first. This keeps my from hitting the pier by going in too far. I try to spin the vessel before docking at the correct time. This ususally requires transmission steering. The fun part is adding throttle to*F or R as needed to spin in place.*I usually get back to the slip without much embarresment.*I have not figured out how to move the girl sideways- so if crew is available explain this to them* so a pole or dockline is available after you have made your most gallant attempt at the fuel dock while prevailing winds are trying to push you away! Good Luck!
Steve
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Old 07-11-2008, 12:22 AM   #3
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

See threat and error management thread!!!!....

Identify threats(tide,wind,singlehanding,unfamiliar dock,etc.)

Anticipate errors....

Have plan B for possible errors,etc.

-- Edited by Baker at 01:25, 2008-07-11
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Old 07-11-2008, 12:23 AM   #4
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Don't have time at this very moment but I will post up when I do....
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Old 07-11-2008, 03:28 AM   #5
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Pull in going forward, back out on leaving.

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Old 07-11-2008, 04:09 AM   #6
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

I got a brick, string and a gallon milk jug and threw it in the water. Backed all around it (over it!) and practied in open water so I understood how everything worked. Then I practiced on some old abandoned docks. But mostly, I read all I could and rented a good video on boat handling before even starting. Nowadays I back my single screw trawler into a slip that's only a couple feet wider than she is without a second thought. Practice, practice, practice! I can also highly recommend Charles T. Lowe's book on boat handling. Very useful.
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Old 07-11-2008, 07:03 AM   #7
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Mr. Foster,
All of the suggestions given so far are excellent with the most important being offered by Mr. Keith-practice. Many years ago we had a twin engined boat and after a LOT of practice with the "center the rudders and use the shifters" technique* I got to using the rudders in SOME situatiions. Can't really explain how I did it, but the use of rudders, shifters and throttles came into play.
A neighbor installed a corner roller which he says helps him to dock but I would caution you don't rely on this too, too much because not every dock will have one.
http://www.ssnautical.com/en-us/dept_37.html (at the bottom of the page)

-- Edited by RT Firefly at 08:03, 2008-07-11
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Old 07-11-2008, 08:57 AM   #8
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

No "aha" moments for me....just ignorant sheer terror.... My first "big" boats were sailboats with very high aspect ratio glider wing rudders. They would almost turn in their length with the flip of the wheel. I did have a full keel Cape Dory sailboat that was a bit of bugger to dock but didn't own it long enough to matter(soon to be wife did not like it...and I don't blame her).

Now I picked up my Prairie 29 in Mississippi and hopped on and away we went to Texas. I had only briefly drove the boat during seatrial...never docked it. The P29 had tons of windage and a rudder literally 12x17 inches...we called the wheel the steering "requestor" because you would input your "request" and wait and hope what you requested was what happened...many times it wasn't as the wind and/or tide took precedent. It had tremendous prop walk to starboard in reverse. This was basically our one way stern thruster so we always tried to dock starboard side to the dock. You literally felt like a 3 legged cat trying to bury a turd on a frozen pond driving this thing. Anytime I would hand the wheel to someone to go down and do something I could hear them mumbling as I went down the flybridge ladder...something to the effect of "...how in the hell....". But strangely, I got used to it and it made me into a decent boat handler. It was always great to hear someone ask after docking into a tight spot at the fuel dock or restraunt, "Is that a twin?". No was the answer. We always had to come in with a scary amount of speed to keep steerage.

Obviously practice like other people said. But my TEM answer above is dead on. You have to identify the threats going into the docking situation...wind...tides...other traffic...other boats...and be able to manage those threats and realize what effect they will have on your boat. If you have crew on your boat, you need to brief them on what is going on and how you expect the maneuver to go down and maybe some contingencies and Plan B's. Also tell them how important it is for them NOT to hurt themslves and not sacrafice any limbs for the safety of the boat. If you are solo, you still need to go thru the exercise in your head and have a plan. And guess what, if things are looking ugly, go missed approach...no big deal...just back out and try again. I would probably miss about 40% of the time on the Prairie if the wind was blowing. The dock neighbors always got a kick out of it but if it doesn't look like you are gonna nail it, get outta there and try again.

At the very end of the day, nobody is gonna die or get hurt. You might bang your boat a bit but that is all. That is what I tell my crew if WE screw up...nobody got hurt and we achieved that goal...so there is succes to be taken from it. For me, like flying an airplane, the landing offers instant gratification if done properly. While there are so many areas to boat handling other than docking, docking is how people will judge your seamanship....just like landing an airplane. If the landing sucks, you basically suck...until the next one. You are only as good as your last landing! So I take great pride in doing it well even though it may not be perfect everytime...if ever.

My current boat is 30ft 10,000lbs with almost no windage and a bow thruster...it is damn near brainless. I used to have dock neighbors coming to help me dock until they heard the "whiiiiiiirrrrrr" and the swirl of water around the bow and then they would throw up their hands and walk away shaking their heads muttering "cheater".

Hope some of this helps.

PS....Keith has a bow thruster...
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Old 07-11-2008, 11:08 AM   #9
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

We use the shifters, throttles, and rudders in docking. We also have a permanent spring line on our dock hung on a high PVC pole where my wife can reach it from the forward quarter as we enter the slip. She puts it through the midship hawse and on the midship cleat and I ease the boat foward to take up the slack. Using this line, the dockside engine (starboard in our case) in forward and the rudders hard over away from the dock (port) I can pin the boat against the dock in even a strong direct crosswind. With the boat pinned to the dock there is no frantic rush to get the rest of the lines secured--- the boat's not going anywhere.

One thing that can get people in trouble when maneuvering is the belief that they are moving the bow around when they manipulate the transmissions, use the rudder, etc. If you have a bow thruster obviously that DOES move the bow, but everything else moves the stern. The bow does move somewhat because of the pivoting action of the boat but I've learned that maneuvering becomes a whole lot easier when you envision everything from the point of view of moving the stern.

I hate the sight picture from the flying bridge and so always dock the boat from the lower helm station. I find it's much easier (for me) to accurately judge the boat's position relative to the dock, neighboring boat, etc. from down below than from up above. Plus it's an easy matter to step out and assist my wife with lines if necessary. But other people prefer docking from the flying bridge, so there's no right or wrong in this regard.

And we practice what John preached in his post with regards to "going around" if the docking looks like it's not working out. Personally, I think this is the source of most docking problems. People get so determined, or desperate, to get to the dock that they'll do anything to get there and get the tension and worry and fear over with. Even to the point where crunching something is better than prolonging the uncertainty and fear that they MIGHT crunch something.

In reality, a boat underway is better off away from the dock, just as an airplane in flight is better off away from the ground. So we have no compunction about backing out or away if things aren't looking right and going back out to the turning basin to make another approach. I've done this as many as four times on occasion. It's the crunch of a collision that turns everyones' heads, not the sight of a boat going back and forth between a slip and the turning basin. As long as the boat hasn't hit anything, you don't have to pay to fix anything.

Our slip is oriented so we usually have an aft quartering crosswind blowing us off our dock and, depending on the state of the tide, a direct crosscurrent in one direction or the other. So it's important to figure out which way everything is moving well before arriving at the slip so that the best manner of compensating for these things can be worked out. For example, we never align ourselves with the slip before entering it. Doing so would cause us to be blown or carried out of alignment in short order. So I treat every docking, either in our home slip or anywhere else, in the same way as I dock a floatplane (which has no brakes, no reverse, and at slow speeds very little rudder authority). I bring the boat up to the dock at an angle, even our home slip which we share with another boat, get the bow right up to the dock and then walk the stern in with the props and rudders.

Another problem I've observed a lot, and that I am guilty of more often than not, is people often approach docks or slips going way too slow. A rudder doesn't work unless there is water flowing over it. As soon as you get too slow two things happen, both of them bad. First, you lose rudder authority and so have little control over moving the stern around. Second, the wind or current or both can now get a good grip on your boat and shove it around at will.

I believe the key to keeping control is keeping some speed up when coming into a dock or slip. This is a major judgement call and takes a lot of practice to know what is too much speed and what is not enough. Obviously you don't want to come roaring in. But being too timid with the power, or momentum, prior to arriving at the dock can lead to a loss of control as the wind and current take over.

But as far as a home slip goes, the best possible docking aid in our opinion is that fixed spring line hung on a PVC pole where it can be reached as the boat enters the slip. Get that line aboard and on the midship cleat, go forward to take the slack out, and pin the boat to the dock with power and rudder. My wife used to worry herself sick at the end of a cruise if we had to dock in strong or adverse winds because she'd have to jump to our somewhat tippy dock with a line and secure it in a big hurry. Now with our permanent line the pressure is off and she is confident about our docking even if the wind is blowing pretty hard.

And on the couple of super-windy days when my boat handling caused her to drop it I simply backed out and we went to a vacant downwind slip and tied up so we could walk around and rehang our line.
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Old 07-12-2008, 04:05 AM   #10
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

..just like landing an airplane. If the landing sucks, you basically suck.

However the traveling public does not know enough to judge any landing.

They all think a Greaser is great.

A greaser will not engage she strut switches until the weight of the aircraft is lowered on .

On a usual winter runway with Mu meter breaking "nill" the greaser will have you in the toolies in a heartbeat.

The strut switch allows reverse , usually raises the spoilers and allows brakeing.

A winter landing should be a bit short of the usual plant point , on the low side of the allowed speeds and FIRM , to break loose the ice that grows on the struts from wheel extension.

A good docking is one that is done with minimum risk of failure .

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Old 07-12-2008, 07:54 AM   #11
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Quote:
FF wrote:A greaser will not engage she strut switches until the weight of the aircraft is lowered on .

*
This may be true of certain very old aircraft but it's certainly not true on a modern jet transport aircraft.* Boeing's test pilots all do their best to do as smooth a landing as possible (it's almost impossible to do a hard landing in a 777 because of the gear configuration).* There is no issue with the squat switches not being activated no matter how smooth the touchdown is.

*

*
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Old 07-12-2008, 08:22 AM   #12
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Marin, they do sometimes delay due to the things FF mentioned. You can have the greaserist of all greasers but the moment those spoilers come up and dump the lift, the whole airplane drops another few feet(strut compression) and turns your greaser into just another average landing. I do fly with guys that do not arm the speedbrakes for this reason. You can show off your greaser and deploy the speedbrakes at your own discretion....and very against SOP!!!! The things FF was talking about also played a roll in the SWA overrun at Midway. The airplane was still in "flight" mode so the spoilers did not deploy on time and the TR were locked out for an inordinate amount of time because the landing was smooth and the wheel speed sensors did not get enough rotation to trigger "ground" mode. The advantage larger aircraft have is in multi-axle wheel trucks. They hang "tilted". There are tilt sensors/switches that are activated when the airplane touches down so they activate "ground mode" regardless of strut compression and wheel speed.

Anyway, back to boating. FF's last sentence pretty much summed up what I was saying. You minimize/manage the risk as much as possible.

Which brings up another point....slip choice. You can minimize risk simply by the slip you choose....whether your home slip or transient.
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Old 07-13-2008, 03:56 AM   #13
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

"very old aircraft"

Damn dated again DC 8, DC 10, B727 , B737 100 and even the Caravelle.

The 727 was the hardest to grease as the gear were so far back, pulling up to flair drove 'em into the ground, so at the "right hight" the nose was lowered rotating the gear UP awat from the deck.The wrong hight wold give time increase the sink rate , carrier landing any one?**

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-- Edited by FF at 05:00, 2008-07-13
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Old 07-13-2008, 07:19 PM   #14
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

RE "greasers on landing"

Some aircraft spoilers pop out on main wheel spin-up, dump the lift and drop the whole load on the mains like right now. If you are on the proper airspeed it all works nicely.* If not you'll either slam it on or float forever.

As to docking, there's a lot to be said for an end-tie!
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:57 PM   #15
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

I have never had a aha moment but have had plenty of Oh, my gaud, we are going to crush, moments.

In the PNW in the summer the Thermal winds blow from the NW and start to blow and 12 noon to 7 on warm/hot days. So we try to leave and/or arrive at the dock early in the morning before 12 noon or late in the evening. Anytime in between we plan on using the NW wind to out advantage. In the winter try to pick a weather windows. Having a 6 ft draft we also have to watch the tide and try to leave/arrive a high slack tide to get into some marinas and though some of the channels. Usually if the wind is blowing or a current I will sit and watch to get a feel, and to anticipate start maneuvering before the slip/dock

It seem by the time I get the hang of it again boating season is over, and next year I have to start all over again. Our previous two moorages are a bitch to get in and out of as the water way was 50 to 60 ft and we are 58 ft which made for some very tight close maneuvering. We found the best is to have permanent bumpers/fends and line on the dock, plus we carry bumpers and line.

However, having bow thrusters certainly does come in handy. My therapist tells me I need all the help I can get, so I call the neighbors before we enter the marina, have the bumpers down and the lines set so if things do not go as planned then plan B is throw the lines to the dock and let them pull us to the dock.
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Old 07-14-2008, 12:44 PM   #16
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Marin

You have a good point about docking in cross wind and current conditions with some way on the boat, but I take a bit of an issue with your comments about flow over the rudder.* Our power boat rudders are not very effective when the boat is "coasting".* The real flow comes from flow generated by the props.* One techinque I have used is a short burst in and out of gear, which is effective in changing the direction of the boat without increasing speed.
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:14 PM   #17
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

That's certainly true--- a burst of thrust against a deflected rudder will move the boat around a lot more smartly than if it is just coasting. But at a typical idle speed of 3-4 knots, if the engines are pulled out of gear the rudders should still have a good degree of authority until the way falls off the boat. I pull our boat out of gear before starting our turn into our slip and the rudders have plenty of authority to make the turn. Once we're entering the slip I used the shifters as necessary to move the stern around either with propwalk/wash or thrust against the rudders or both.

But what I see fairly often is boaters approaching their slip with hardly any way on and an apparent reluctance to put the engines in gear to put thrust against the rudder. So they kind of drift in hoping for the best in the theory that at a very slow speed they won't hit anything hard enough to hurt it. If there's no wind to speak of, or if it's blowing the right way, and there's no adverse current this works okay. But add wind or current or both and their boat often ends up where they don't want it.

-- Edited by Marin at 14:15, 2008-07-14
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Old 07-14-2008, 01:14 PM   #18
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

I can tell you about one of my first experiences docking a power boat.* We had been sailboaters for years, and had just purchased our first power boat (a monk 36).* For our first outing we planned a cruise to a marina in the center of town - cruise up, dock the boat, have cocktails and walk up the dock to a nice romantic dinner ashore.* When we got to the marina and called for our slip, we proceeded in and discussed docking the boat in our old sailboat fashion - run bow and stern lines to midships, approach the dock at an angle, put the rudder to flair out, hop ashore, and smartly put lines around a cleat.* Yeah, right.

We approached the dock, and when we got close enough, I hopped over the side with bow and stern line in hand...* Now came the HOLY S**T! moment!* It was now readily apparant 1.* that the boat was not going to flare out, and 2. that throwing a line around a cleat was not going to stop several tons of power boat, but would probably pull the cleat out of the dock.

What to do? START SHOUTING.* REVERSE!* The wife, who had never touched the controls until this point, got the boat into reverse, at FULL THROTTLE!* Wow.* Now the boat is backing out of the slip, at speed.* Well, she (to her great credit) got the boat back into the slip.* Needless to say, the romantic dinner evaporated.

Now (many dockings and power boats later), when we dock, I tell the wife that if I can't get the boat close enough to the dock for her to hand the lines over, that I'm the one that has screwed it up, and we should try again.
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Old 07-14-2008, 02:22 PM   #19
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Welcome aboard, RED, and hope you don't mind if a laughed a bit out loud at your first docking experience. I think it was the "evaporation of romance" that struck me as being so funny!!! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-14-2008, 05:39 PM   #20
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RE: Docking "aha!" moments

Thanks, John

Fortunately, my wfe is a forgiving person, and we are still boating together (after 40 years).* I should say forgiving, but with an excellent memory!

I figure when I can't laugh at my own mistakes anymore, it will be time to drop the anchor!
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