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Old 08-17-2015, 12:50 PM   #1
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Docking in an unknown marina

Watching a recent docking, I wondered to what extent you skippers of larger boats scout an unfamiliar marina before entering?

I don't know and won't judge the capabilities of the skipper or the manoeuvrability of this particular boat, so I will only say there was difficulty getting her to go where he wanted and wonder, if he knew the layout and conditions, would he have proceeded.

The boat was 55-60 feet with a high superstructure; skipper on the bridge, one deckhand and two young dock attendants. Wind outside the breakwater was maybe 12-15 knots.

There were no other boats nearby and in my opinion not tight quarters, so the anxiety level should not have been a factor. After several attempts and a couple of sideways predicaments he managed to get bow in, docked port side, as directed.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:04 PM   #2
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Unknown or not I never just drive into marinas
I hold off on that outside said marina to better understand how the vessel reacts to the conditions present. Wind waves current, and other users. I take that info, how the vessel wants to work to the dock. I just try to work with what the vessel is happy with

My two cents. YMMV
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:17 PM   #3
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My boat is pretty handy, at least compared to a 60 footer. I'll check the chart, and head in slowly. I don't encounter much current, generally, but certainly have to take wind into account. I like exploring new marinas.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:19 PM   #4
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We're, about 105,000 lbs, 60ft LOA with 18'6'' beam and 6 ft draft. I always know exactly what a marina look like and where I'm going before getting close. On approach I'm always looking at a mooring field, flags or other signs of what the wind is and my wife and I always have a plan of what order we want to tie off lines to secure the boat based on the current conditions.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:26 PM   #5
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I just try to work with what the vessel is happy with
I like the comment "what the boat is happy with" and agree. Realistically, size shouldn't necessarily be a factor as I have had "moments" on much smaller boats.

I have had boats and bikes that almost knew what I wanted, as if they were a part of me; like a good horse. Some just took more coaxing.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:32 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by No Mast View Post
We're, about 105,000 lbs, 60ft LOA with 18'6'' beam and 6 ft draft. I always know exactly what a marina look like and where I'm going before getting close. On approach I'm always looking at a mooring field, flags or other signs of what the wind is and my wife and I always have a plan of what order we want to tie off lines to secure the boat based on the current conditions.
Same here except I am only 45K Lbs. Sometime it may take a few time to get to the dock, but then again I go as fast as I want to hit something.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by No Mast View Post
We're, about 105,000 lbs, 60ft LOA with 18'6'' beam and 6 ft draft. I always know exactly what a marina look like and where I'm going before getting close. On approach I'm always looking at a mooring field, flags or other signs of what the wind is and my wife and I always have a plan of what order we want to tie off lines to secure the boat based on the current conditions.
Exactly.

In this case, I don't even know if the marina was new to the skipper but all other conditions considered, he could easily have made temporary moorage at the first transient dock inside and walked to see where they wanted him.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:33 PM   #8
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That's a hard one. Some marinas are great with directions and explanations about where they're going to put you (radio or cell phone), while others are just terrible. "Just park next to the white sailboat called NautiBouy thanks." If they send somebody down to the slip or the end of the pier to wave you in, even better, but I always thought landing in a strange marina is one of those marine roulette games, something to challenge my landing skills whether I liked it or not. The dockmaster in Black Rock, CT was fantastic -- gave me advice on wind direction, how to come around, how to nudge it. The marina in Mystic, that was a tough one in 30 mph winds but I nailed it like a master and the dock guys were so impressed -- but little did they know it was just dumb luck, not my skill, and I just about had a nervous breakdown when I saw what I had to do. Scoping out a marina was sometimes helpful, but sometimes that worked, sometimes it made no difference.

I can say we had one bad landing on Long Island I will not forget, high winds and a current that time. All we got was "Slip 26, next to the SeaRay." We asked for more information and I refused to go in until I got a better explanation. We drove past twice, and then got blown into a very tight mooring field as I tried to hover outside waiting for clarification. We should have gone elsewhere but it was the end of a long day and it was already getting dark. Luckily I didn't wrap anybody's mooring ball chain around the props.

Speaking of Mystic though, we did hover for quite a while before going into the channel. We came in from the east, Fisher's Island behind us, rocks all around. I hovered probably 15 minutes while we looked over chart books and I zoomed in and out on the chartplotter before swinging way over to the west-side shore for the run up the river. That cautious patience paid off and we came in fine, even though I'm sure some other boats were wondering what the heck we were doing out there in Fishers Sound turning in circles.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:34 PM   #9
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My electronic charts have a sat image overlay, which I do study carefully before entering an unfamiliar harbor. As for wind and current, I usually only need to figure that out when I am making my final approach.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:52 PM   #10
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Actually, I think docking a larger boat is easier than a smaller one, but Alaskan is right, you're managing more momentum, and approaching slow is key.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:06 PM   #11
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Cruising on a big boat and not being particularly adept, we always try to call well ahead and have a conversation with the dockmaster so both they and us know what to expect. We too have had landings (and departures for that matter) that have inspired awed, "Standing O" applause, and those that have inspired onlookers to dive for cover and sound almost like the guy describing the Hindenburg landing. The latter are always a result of poor preparation and a lack of patience, such as not waiting for slack in places with a ripping current.

I should add this applies to mooring fields as well.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:10 PM   #12
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No matter what instructions offered by the marina, I will hang outside to check tide and wind conditions for my boat. I will then get the boat set up with lines and fenders ready. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your boat, crew, and any damages. It is nice to have opinions to consider, but all dock masters are not qualified mariners. I have had dock masters do some stupid stuff.

We have some strong tidal currents on the East Coast. When they are running strongly, they will most times be the governing factor. Under that type of condition wind is considered secondary factor.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
It is nice to have opinions to consider, but all dock masters are not qualified mariners. I have had dock masters do some stupid stuff.
Point well taken, but it is better to have some info than no info. I call twice actually, once in making the reservation, and again on the radio when we are in the area, which among other things increases your chances of talking to someone knowledgable.. which you can usually tell. While we like having help on the dock on hand (which can really vary in quality), we go in with the assumption we are on our own or will have to direct the operation. No matter what, the results are solely our responsibility.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:22 PM   #14
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It does seem, that the average "weekend" boater is not as willing or thoughtful about their options. Just last week I saw a guy trying to dock his 30ish ft formula with about a 30t crosswind. Anchor, fuel dock, transient dock, stay out, the wind (or current) will die down.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:50 PM   #15
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Point well taken, but it is better to have some info than no info. I call twice actually, once in making the reservation, and again on the radio when we are in the area, which among other things increases your chances of talking to someone knowledgable.. which you can usually tell. While we like having help on the dock on hand (which can really vary in quality), we go in with the assumption we are on our own or will have to direct the operation. No matter what, the results are solely our responsibility.
Great point
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:54 PM   #16
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...We too have had landings (and departures for that matter) that have...inspired onlookers to dive for cover and sound almost like the guy describing the Hindenburg landing.
That's hilarious and a great description. I've certainly been there. And of course it always helps so much when you're having a bad landing to have 24 people running on the docks yelling directions and warnings at you all at the same time, as if you didn't already know the landing was going badly.
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:50 PM   #17
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I usually use Active Captain and Google Earth to take a look at the marina before I arrive to familiarize myself with the layout.


I also make two calls; the first to make the reservation and the second on the VHF to let them know we have arrived and I try to get VERY specific instruction to the slip they want me in.


Before we enter a breakwater we usually rig lines and fenders on both sides (unless it's a side tie) because I don't know if there might be a boat next to me and I don't want to ding anyone's boat....or mine. We also go over which lines to secure first (upwind lines first). Since we almost always back in that's to prevent us from getting blown back out of the slip (in the case of a wind on the stern) or blown too far into the slip (wind on the bow).


It's always fun when you are coming into a marina when the wind is blowing and/or there's a current and you nail it. I did that once in a downtown Portland, OR marina. We had about a 20kt wind that was keeping us away from the dock. We were backing into a side tie slip and I was backing upwind at about a 45* angle to the dock. My Admiral stepped off onto the dock and, as we had previously agreed, she secured a stern tie on the upwind side. She yelled up to me that the line was secure. I then put the boat in gear forward and, using the line as a spring line, brought the boat gently alongside the dock. The dock hands were impressed!


I've watched some horrible dockings where the skipper ends up yelling obscenities at his wife, the dock hands, and anyone else within hearing distance.


I've also watched some great landings where boats were put into tight spots. A lot of it comes down to how comfortable the skipper is with his boat.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:12 PM   #18
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I dock Magic a heck of a lot better than my 19' sterndrive speedboat. There's something to be said for a keel and weight.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:36 PM   #19
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In this region there are tons of guidebooks that illustrate all the harbors, marinas, and anchorages all the way up through SE Alaska. To say nothing of Google Earth and the detail on our plotters. So it's very easy to become familiar not only with what a particular marina or harbor looks like, but what the actual dock layout and lettering/numbering system is well in advance of getting there.

In terms of figuring out the best way into a harbor we always start by figuring the best way out of the harbor including what the winds and currents are expected to be when we depart. Knowing this tells us a lot about how we want to enter it and where we might want to moor (unless we've been assigned a specific slip or dock space).

With regards to anchorages there are several locally published guides that are specifically for anchorages, plus we have both the US and Canadian Sailing Directions on board for the "official" descriptions and photos.

As a result of all these resources we have yet in the 17 years we've been doing this kind of boating to not encounter what we've expected to encounter. The only variables are the currents and winds, and with a twin-engine boat they don't often throw a monkey-wrench into our plans. We will sometimes elect to turn around and back through tighter quarters as that gives us more precise steering control in a lot of situations.

Current's easy enough to judge simply by stopping the boat and seeing where it goes and how fast it goes there. Wind is easy to judge either by the telltales on our own boat or the wind indicators on the mastheads of nearby sailboats.

Once we have all the above information we work out a Plan A, a Plan B, and an escape plan if we manage to screw up, and then we go on in.

If the conditions are not conducive to a safe entrance and docking/mooring we simply go someplace else. Lord knows there are always plenty of options for this around here.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:38 PM   #20
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We had about a 20kt wind that was keeping us away from the dock. We were backing into a side tie slip and I was backing upwind at about a 45* angle to the dock. My Admiral stepped off onto the dock and, as we had previously agreed, she secured a stern tie on the upwind side. She yelled up to me that the line was secure. I then put the boat in gear forward and, using the line as a spring line, brought the boat gently alongside the dock. The dock hands were impressed!

I love these maneuvers. They're always so satisfying.
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