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Old 07-29-2020, 08:53 PM   #1
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How to tie to Dolphins?

The Admiral and I are looking forward to cruising in September. The plan to leave St Pete, take the Okeechobee Waterway to the East Coast, then ICW north to GA or SC. No rush; few plans. When it gets cold, we will turn around and return to St Pete for the winter. We took the Okeechobee Waterway east to west in January when we completed the S FL Loop. It’s a fun, different slice of FL.

Along the Okeechobee Waterway there are several town docks and small marinas for overnighting, and a few skinny anchorages. The 5 locks operate ~7a-430p; arrive after their last lock-thru and you wait until morning. Each lock has a set of “Dolphins” (pilings) on both sides of the lock for boats to use for overnighting or while waiting for their turn to lock through if the lock is busy. We never tried tying to the Dolphins on our last trip because I cannot figure out to do it. The procedure, as I understand it, is to tie fore and aft to adjacent Dolphins. There are 5-6 Dolphins in a line at each grouping and they are spaced irregularly ~50’ to ~200’ apart. Pick spacing that works for your boat. These are formidable pilings; not gentle marina pivot posts. My concern is if we tie securely it will be very difficult to untie in the morning. If we tie loosely, draping a line loop over a cleat, I will not sleep. Most (not all) Dolphin groupings have no tide and little current.

I would love to hear how others have successfully tied overnight to Dolphins, and retrieved their lines in the morning. We are a crew of 2.
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Old 07-29-2020, 09:15 PM   #2
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Hmm, we once put an offer in on a boat over in Fort Myers and I was researching the route back to JAX, crossing the lake. If I remember correctly I thought there were long docks for boats to tie up to either side of the locks?

Those look like piles for the bigger commercials?

Could be wrong though as the sale fell through and we never did it.
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Old 07-29-2020, 09:35 PM   #3
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Ive never done it but I think I would put my nose into the current and tie a couple bow lines to the dolphin running out of each side of the bow. I guess you could run a stern line to the next dolphin but if your nose is into the current you really shouldn't need to.

Don't forget to light your anchor light.

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Old 07-29-2020, 10:02 PM   #4
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While I won't claim to be an expert at doing it, I have done it probably 20 times, almost all solo. On almost all the sets you will have cleats facing toward the next set. The object is to attach a line to the piling cleat that will be nearest the bow and up wind. Then drift / power back paying out line (probably want to have 100'+ to work with). When you near the stern set, cleat off the bow line with a little slack. Then position the boat to get a line on the stern dolphin cleat. Finally its a matter of adjusting the lines to position the boat in the middle.

Not all of the dolphins are optimal for tethering in between as wind may push you too close to shore. The barges and tugs that tie to the dolphins lay against them on the channel side. Oh, that reminds me. What's that word, creosote. The only thing you or your line wants to touch is the cleat.

As to tying to the cleat (remember, I'm doing this solo), this is what I do and works for me. The cleats are vertical (horns pointing up and down). I drop a loop over the top horn. I wrap the line behind the lower horn. Then back over the upper horn. Done. As long as you keep tension on the line it can't come above the upper horn. If my boat bow is as high as the OP's, and higher than the cleat, I might reconsider. The other alternative is to pass a line through the cleat hole and double line back to the same cleat on your boat.

My technique for getting the first line on is to bring my boat in perpendicular to the line between the two dolphins I will tie to. I'm aiming for the up wind or up current dolphin so that my bow sprit is down wind but easily with in reach of the cleat with a line loop on the boat hook. The boat needs to be completely stopped and I can adjust closer or further from the dolphin with the bow thruster. Whether you have success or need to regroup, just back up. Try to avoid getting between the dolphins until you have both lines on.

Leaving in the morning is simple. Move the boat by adjusting the lines so that the stern is near the dolphin. Slack the stern line and flip the line from behind the top horn. It will hang down and come from behind the bottom horn. Then flip the loop off the top horn. Position the boat as though you were putting the bow line on the dolphin cleat, and flip it off as you did the stern line.

This has gotten a little long. If there's interest, I'll give you my opinion on which locks have useable dolphins and which to avoid.

Ted
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Old 07-30-2020, 02:24 AM   #5
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The dolphins are for laying barges against.
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:39 AM   #6
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What Ted said ^^^
Plus watch out at the dolphins on the lake side of Moore Haven lock. You are in the blast zone of the airboat ramp.


What first came to mind


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Old 07-30-2020, 09:05 AM   #7
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I sure wouldn't want to do it unless it were explicitly stated somewhere (on a sign or a chart) that the dolphins were no longer used by commercial craft and that use by pleasure craft is permitted.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:11 AM   #8
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I sure wouldn't want to do it unless it were explicitly stated somewhere (on a sign or a chart) that the dolphins were no longer used by commercial craft and that use by pleasure craft is permitted.

I am not quite sure there is a rule that says they are for only commercial craft to begin with.


I would be interested in a link that says they were.


I did find on the ACoE website under commercial craft....


3. At no time will a tow or barge be left unattended. Tows will not tie off to mooring dolphins overnight or any unnecessary length of time during hours of operation."


but no mention in the recreational craft section about tying to dolphins at all...whether permissible for any length of time or not.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:29 AM   #9
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I am not quite sure there is a rule that says they are for only commercial craft to begin with. I would be interested in a link that says they were.

Could be a regional thing. Most of the inland waterways in Europe still have varying degrees of commercial traffic and I have seen it indicated on numerous occasions that yachts are not to use these. One example is the Kiel Canal, in Germany. Yachts can only tie to the "backside" of the dolphins in the event of sudden fog.

Again, however, maybe the treatment of dolphins is totally different in the States?

Rules & regulations aside, I don't think I would sleep very well if I knew there was even the slightest risk of a barge or ship wanting to use the dolphin to which I was moored.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:50 AM   #10
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This might be useful:

https://www.sailmiami.com/Okeechobee...hobee_tips.htm
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:51 AM   #11
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Adding to Ted's excellent post - When we needed to tie up to the outer dolphins at the Pungo Ferry way up there on the VA/NC border they were spaced closely enough that we were able with a 55-foot boat to put one about 15-20 feet back from the bow and another back close to the stern. We had big air-filled fenders that were placed horizontally between us and the dolphins. Lines were just run around the dolphins since there were no cleats - no creosote involved. If I were faced with a set spaced at a distance significantly longer than my vessel, I'd consider an anchor at one end or the other depending on conditions.
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:28 AM   #12
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In general, for Army Corps of Engineer locks that operate around the clock, you ask permission from the lock master to either tie to the dolphins or anchor in the pool below the spillway.

There is very little commercial traffic on the Okeechobee waterway. Once the locks stop operating (5PM), commercial traffic is essentially nonexistent west of St Lucie lock and east of the Franklin lock. Most of the locks have numerous dolphins, so sharing with commercial traffic isn't an issue. The lock masters are well aware of cruisers tying between the dolphins (especially Port Mayaca outside the lake), as there is often several boats coming off the dolphins for the first lock through of the morning.

You absolutely can't tie on the fenders coming into the lock and any dolphins close to the entry fenders.

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Old 07-30-2020, 10:33 AM   #13
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Ted, with proper planning/timing can you run the west side locks in a day without needing to tie up?

Say staying at Roland Martin the night before when West bound, and starting from Fort Myers East bound?
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:34 AM   #14
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If you want to practice your tying technique, the Port Mayaca dolphins east of the highway bridge and west of the railroad lift bridge are the most friendly to practice on. Plenty of depth around them and far from shore.

Ted
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:47 AM   #15
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Ted, with proper planning/timing can you run the west side locks in a day without needing to tie up?

Say staying at Roland Martin the night before when West bound, and starting from Fort Myers East bound?
Yes, depending on your speed and how you catch the 3 locks, that's certainly doable. Arriving at the lock just after the doors close can take 1.5 hours to lock through depending on traffic. A better plan would be to stay on the Moore Haven city dock just before the lock. They have padded fenders and 50 amp service for $1 per foot. There's also a nice simple Mexican restaurant about 6 blocks away. From there to Stuart, FL is about the same time. Really only have Moore Haven lock and the St Lucie lock to lock through as Port Mayaca is normally a pass through where both sets of doors are open.

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Old 07-30-2020, 01:41 PM   #16
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The way you tie to pilings with a tide, so the line doesn't catch is use rollers in the loop of a bowline. I use 1" line and about 2" plastic pipe cut into 2-3" lengths. They work as rollers like the mast rollers on an old schooner. It helps the line move up and down with the tide and not catch, but be pulled fairly tight.
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Old 07-30-2020, 01:50 PM   #17
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I have never seen horns or cleats on a dolphin pile. But Ted's process is good. There is usually a cable holding the pile together, and we just loop a line through it.

There are docks in a few spots, and it is a nice trip. Very similar to parts of the Texas Intercoastal, just much tighter. No real boat traffic at night. You could easily just anchor.
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:28 PM   #18
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I sure wouldn't want to do it unless it were explicitly stated somewhere (on a sign or a chart) that the dolphins were no longer used by commercial craft and that use by pleasure craft is permitted.
If you are planning to use the dolphins after the locks are closed for the night and you plan to leave first thing in the morning odds are you wont be seeing another vessel that night until the locks open in the morning.
I really wanted to tie up to the dolphins on our trip thru the lake but my wife was to nervous, so we just anchored in the canal. BTW the reason we needed to anchor was because we screwed up our timing and missed the Ortona lock by five minutes. We watched the lock keeper pull out and drive away. We were so mad at ourselves because we really looking forward to stopping at Labelle and hitting up the Log Cabin restaurant for some steaks.
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:34 PM   #19
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Take a close look at the photo in post 1. You can clearly see the cleats.
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Old 07-30-2020, 07:44 PM   #20
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Those cleats are obviously an accommodation for small boats. An invitation, no?
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