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Old 05-28-2020, 08:41 PM   #1
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Most Important Dock Hand Skills & Traits

I've been meeting with & providing boater inputs to the "owners" & Mgmt of our newly rebuilt marina. This is their first full year of operation following a partial season last year.
They are really striving to make this marina a stand-out in our area and want to do things that make a positive statement for boaters.
In addition to a first class total rebuild of the marina they have completed construction of a new Ships Store, (card access) boaters rest rooms / showers and laundry facilities.

They are finishing up work on rental cabins and seasonal / long term RV sites. Next chapter includes a "multi-purpose" Bistro type facility with food, drinks and entertainment.

They have 2 returning and 3 new dock hands and I volunteered to pull together and deliver a workshop to help train them, from a boaters perspective.

I have my inputs and suggestion but thought I'd tap the vast experience of TF cruisers.
Thanks in advance for your inputs.

What are the top 3 Skills, or Traits that you would value in a dock hand?
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Old 05-28-2020, 08:58 PM   #2
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Know how to secure a vessel in all conditions, especially those that are unique to your marina. Have a hand held and use it to give the skipper any, short, unique info he needs for his slip assignment. Don't plan on a conversation, he has his hands full and has already spoken to the office.

Be courteous to the wife at all times, regardless of what they may think of what she is doing. We have likely honed our process over many years. It is likely the crew will take your direction but if the missus asks you to do something specific please do it unless you feel it is unsafe or will not work for your marina. It may not be exactly how you would do it, or were trained by the marina to do it, however, they know their boat and she knows the wishes of the captain...

Do not expect a tip. Most cases you will get one but don't clearly hover around waiting for one. If the boat has just come in from a 12 hour run they have things to do after tying up. If they didn't hand you a five after you helped secure the boat and plug in the power say "have a great stay," and walk off. Hopefully they will find you once settled. If not, I'm sorry, some people are like that, but don't annoy the majority because of the few.

I know you asked or two or three, but have a fourth. Don't hang around yakking and BS'ing. The folks are probably tired and want to set with a beer and enjoy the moment. Be there, be good, be gone.

OK, I'm going to give you a fifth. After 30 minutes or so swing by and just make sure there is nothing they need or any information required. One simple question; "sir, m'am, I hope you are all settled, is there anything more I can do for you?" Chances are, if you didn't get your tip, you will then.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:09 PM   #3
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Don't expect a tip, let it be a surprise.

Never, ever hand a fuel pump nozzle with out hearing gas or diesel. Always confirm diesel by smell.

Take them all to the parking lot and empty an old fire extinguisher at a sidavcan burning with lighter fluid.

Talk about how to handle a marina fire, heart attack, drowning on property, and drunks.

Don't get on a customer's boat unless an emergency.

Never fall in between a boat and dock, especially near the stern.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:17 PM   #4
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Sorry, a sixth. Learn to wave like a lunatic! Especially if it is a large or confusing marina.

It is amazing how much it helps when trying to eyeball the slip your are aiming for, not just for the captain but for the crew, who now is assured there is help waiting on the dock.

Pretty much every time we go into a marina I say to Sian over the head set - "do you see him, waving to your right/left?" and get confirmation.

The directions from the marina office may always be accurate but not always the clearest from the aspect of an approaching vessel.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:23 PM   #5
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Hate it when the marina staff are only concerned about your length but not one's beam. Have had rubber stripes along the hull while squeezing into a berth. Once was enough.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:26 PM   #6
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Hate it when the marina staff are only concerned about your length but not one's beam. Have had rubber stripes along the hull while squeezing into a berth. Once was enough.
Did the marina office not ask for your beam and draft when you booked the slip? If not, you should make sure to provide it.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:28 PM   #7
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When the first mate hands you a line from his/her boat, hang onto it without pulling on the line/boat if the boat is coming in without difficulty. Most good, experienced first mates will tell you what to do with the line. Ask if the first mate does not give directions. If the boat is getting blown off then wrap the line around the cleat and help pull the boat in. Learn to use the cleat for advantage

Learn to cleat a line. Properly. Most boaters don't enjoy undoing the macrame off the cleat.

Boaters assisting other boaters come into a slip or dock needs to follow the above too.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Choices View Post
Don't expect a tip, let it be a surprise.

Never, ever hand a fuel pump nozzle with out hearing gas or diesel. Always confirm diesel by smell.

Take them all to the parking lot and empty an old fire extinguisher at a sidavcan burning with lighter fluid.

Talk about how to handle a marina fire, heart attack, drowning on property, and drunks.

Don't get on a customer's boat unless an emergency.

Never fall in between a boat and dock, especially near the stern.
Great tips though I'd reconsider Firefighting training. Consult with you local FD about that. As a former Firefighter I'd tell them "Don't become part of the problem" and call 911 even if someone said it's already done. Then I'd stress moving boats await from the fire. What they do as far as attacking the fire is a game day decision for the dock hand.
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Old 05-28-2020, 09:39 PM   #9
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Just to be clear, I think Don was asking what we as boaters would like to see from marina employees over and above what the marina would be doing - such as the safety, firefighting, fueling.

Is that not what he is after? The softer things that would make boaters lives better and enhance the reputation of the marina
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Old 05-28-2020, 10:13 PM   #10
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Listen to the customer!

You will encounter train wrecks that drive boats and it will take all your skill to limit the damage when they dock. You will also encounter competent skippers that have skills beyond your grasp. With experience, you will be able to judge quickly which you are dealing with. When the competent skipper asks you to put the loop through the cleat and over the horns, he's going to determine the slack on his end. If he says to put this line over that cleat for a spring line, just do it. Save your "let's do it my way" directions for the train wrecks.

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Old 05-28-2020, 10:19 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
Listen to the customer!

You will encounter train wrecks that drive boats and it will take all your skill to limit the damage when they dock. You will also encounter competent skippers that have skills beyond your grasp. With experience, you will be able to judge quickly which you are dealing with. When the competent skipper asks you to put the loop through the cleat and over the horns, he's going to determine the slack on his end. If he says to put this line over that cleat for a spring line, just do it. Save your "let's do it my way" directions for the train wrecks.

Ted
They'll learn to recognize the train wrecks. The first mate will have a look of total terror on her face and the couple are yelling at each other.
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Old 05-29-2020, 12:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menzies View Post
Did the marina office not ask for your beam and draft when you booked the slip? If not, you should make sure to provide it.
Had a fellow boater make the arrangement.

In the SF Bay Area, it seems most berths were designed around sailboats, which are commonly narrower for a given length compared to motorboats. Or do I have a fat boat?
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Old 05-29-2020, 12:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menzies View Post
Sorry, a sixth. Learn to wave like a lunatic! Especially if it is a large or confusing marina.

It is amazing how much it helps when trying to eyeball the slip your are aiming for, not just for the captain but for the crew, who now is assured there is help waiting on the dock.

Pretty much every time we go into a marina I say to Sian over the head set - "do you see him, waving to your right/left?" and get confirmation.

The directions from the marina office may always be accurate but not always the clearest from the aspect of an approaching vessel.
As a corollary to that I would add that during the brief radio conversation the dockhand should give specific directions, not just a slip number. I've had several instances where I'm told something like, "Go to slip B32 and someone will meet you", but it's hard to know which fairway is "B" (sometimes B is on both sides on one dock), and if the slip is to port or starboard, etc., all while I'm also trying to assess wind, current, height of dock for fenders, and so on. I find directions like, "Turn into the third fairway, then Slip B32 is about halfway down on your starboard side. I'll be waving to you from the slip" to be much more useful!
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Old 05-29-2020, 05:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syjos View Post
When the first mate hands you a line from his/her boat, hang onto it without pulling on the line/boat if the boat is coming in without difficulty. Most good, experienced first mates will tell you what to do with the line. Ask if the first mate does not give directions. If the boat is getting blown off then wrap the line around the cleat and help pull the boat in. Learn to use the cleat for advantage

Learn to cleat a line. Properly. Most boaters don't enjoy undoing the macrame off the cleat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
Listen to the customer!

You will encounter train wrecks that drive boats and it will take all your skill to limit the damage when they dock. You will also encounter competent skippers that have skills beyond your grasp. With experience, you will be able to judge quickly which you are dealing with. When the competent skipper asks you to put the loop through the cleat and over the horns, he's going to determine the slack on his end. If he says to put this line over that cleat for a spring line, just do it. Save your "let's do it my way" directions for the train wrecks.

Yes.

And dockhands should know how, why, and when spring lines work.

Also, they need to understand there's often a single moment in time when docking is going to be as-planned, elegant even... especially with spring lines... and it goes downhill from there. So usually when asked to put a line somewhere, it means RIGHT NOW!!!!!!! to make things go well from then on.

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Old 05-29-2020, 05:40 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menzies View Post
Just to be clear, I think Don was asking what we as boaters would like to see from marina employees over and above what the marina would be doing - such as the safety, firefighting, fueling.

Is that not what he is after? The softer things that would make boaters lives better and enhance the reputation of the marina
Exactly... but I also have the ability to make some thoughtful recommendations to mgmt about further training. We actually had a fire extinguisher exercise planned that got cancelled due to CV-19 but will find a way to make that happen as things loosen up.
Thanks gang and keep them coming.
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Old 05-29-2020, 05:43 AM   #16
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Bow in, stern in, Stbd side to, port side to
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Old 05-29-2020, 05:45 AM   #17
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Make the slips easy to find. Coloured caps on piles, large clear letters showing which fairway you are in, and slip numbers facing the incoming vessel.
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Old 05-29-2020, 06:22 AM   #18
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I'm with Mark on the beam thing, but with the caveat of knowing the real beam of a slip. My father has a good story of telling a marina he needed a slip for a 15 foot beam, knowing he'd be coming in on a breezy day and their slips are a bit tight. Boat was really only 14 foot beam. And yet, they gave him a slip where he took one look and said "no way we're fitting in there", and they insisted 15 feet would fit fine. Slip was probably 13'8", as he made it half way in and bumped the pilings on both sides, at which point they provided a wider slip.
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Old 05-29-2020, 06:29 AM   #19
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Pretty much agree with Ted. Ask how they can help the captain.
They should know how to tie a cleat properly, clove hitch, bowline.
They need to understand what a spring line is and that most of the time a mid ship line should be first on.
And of course understand how winds and currents will affect a boat.
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Old 05-29-2020, 06:31 AM   #20
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1) The captain and crew are operating and docking the boat, not you. Follow directions, don't give them. If asked a question, answer. If there is total mayhem with a clueless operator, then offer suggestions.


2) Be clear on slip number, where to find it, port or starboad side tie, bow in or stern in. Also, post a map of your slip layout on your web site, including a downloadable PDF. When available, I bring those up in advance and my wife and I both locate the slip, route to it, and confirm bow/stern port/starboard. It's really helpful to have the whole approach and required maneuvers in your head in advance.


3) Offer to help with tying up, shore power, water, etc., but if declined, make yourself scarce. I also like Mensies suggestion to come by again in 30-60 minutes to see if there is anything else you need.
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