Single Handed Docking

May 17, 2004
2,030
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
I was in So Ca last week visiting my old stomping grounds (Shoreline Marina, Shoreline YC and Los Alamitos). I watched a couple of sailboats dock and one in particular caught my attention. He proceeded down the slip way, under power, made the turn into his slip, shifted into reverse and applied full power and then proceeded to crash into the front of his slip. I guess that's one way to do it but there is a better way.

Shortly thereafter I saw the boatowner and his wife at a local bar/restaurant (Parker's Lighthouse - one of my favorites). I introduced myself and my wife to them and indicated I was a Catalina owner. We jawed about that for a while. They were a very nice young couple and a joy to talk to. They were also new to their Catalina 30. Eventually, we got around to docking. Turns out they both hated that aspect of sailing and the wife told me that they crashed into the dock 50% of the time.

She then asked me to explain to them how I docked my boat. It's one thing I love about gals - they're not reluctant to ask a question as guys are. I told her there are probably a number of ways and I only knew what worked for me. One advantage I had was a up wind slip as did they. One of the first things I did at my slip was install a cleat about 6' in from the end of the finger dock. My slip was about 4 slips in from the entrance to the slip way. In the turning basin I unclipped the safety line and attached a short dock line to a cleat behind the winch. Just before the entrance to the slip way I placed the engine in neutral and drifted into the slip way and gently turned into the slip. Then stepped of the boat with the dock line and snubbed the line on the cleat. Simple, easy and no sweat.

The wife also told me, much to the chagrin of her husband, that one time they missed the slip and almost crashed into the rocks. We then discussed how "prop walk is you friend".

Anyway, yesterday I received a email from them. They installed the cleat and practiced where to shift to neutral and are no longer worried about docking. They also practiced turning the boat in a confined space.

I get a nice feeling when I can help someone. I rented boats a couple of time in FL and never did get the hang of docking at the short slips with poles on both sides - wish someone was around at that time to explain how to do it.

Do any of you have your method of docking in long finger docks or the short stuff in FL?
 
Feb 26, 2004
21,950
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
Hi, Don. Interesting recurring subject. Like anything, docking requires practice, regardless of what method you use. Problem I see is most people do not practice. What do they expect when they only do it once every time they go out, and come back? If they only took an hour and left their slip and turned around and came back, they'd be able to practice maybe 10 times or more in that hour. But, noooo...

Here's my suggestions:

Single Handing 101.2 HOPPING OFF THE BOAT IS UNNECESSARY
Single handing & Bull Rails
 
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Jun 21, 2004
1,883
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Here's my suggestions:
Single Handing 101.2 HOPPING OFF THE BOAT IS UNNECESSARY
Stu,
Definitely agree with your method. Jumping onto the dock is unnecessary and possibly dangerous.
I use a mid ship aft spring line too and approach to the windward finger pier in my slip. After the spring is attached to the midship cleat, gently throttle up until the spring is taught, then power up while turning the wheel away from the windward finger pier. The boat can't go forward and will walk up to the windward pier. After all the windward dock lines and forward spring is attached, shift to neutral and let the boat drift to the middle of the slip, then pick up the leeward lines. Really the only reason for me to get off the boat, at that point in time, is to turn on the dock circuit breaker for AC power.
 

Dr. D

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Nov 3, 2018
211
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 Herrington Harbour North
Agreed. If a crew must jump onto the dock to secure a line you fail. Practice in all sorts of approaches is essential.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,088
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
SO many ways available to handle a challenge. I like the Stern Bridle technique. I single hand most of the time.

Learn one real well. But learn a couple of other techniques just in case your go to, got up and went when you arrive.

I hate jumping to a dock. Even if I was young and care free. No reason to jump, slip and end up between a 9000lb plus boat and the piling.
 
Nov 10, 2009
19
Hunter 410 Rock Hall, MD
Most times I am able to back my boat into its slip while my crew merely holds the lines slack against the cleats. (My dock lines are left on the pilings and dock cleats when we leave.) The only exception is if there is a strong cross wind and in that case, I rely on my spring line to help me pivot against the wind. In general, docking (and sometime departing) requires an understanding of prop walk, prop wash, and the mechanics of how various dock lines will affect the motion of the boat when under tension. Regarding that last point, it additionally requires teaching the crew when to NOT yank, pull, or otherwise snub a dock line during close quarters maneuvering.
 
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Jan 18, 2016
679
Catalina 387 Dana Point
Slips are floating, fingers both sides. So no hitting any other boats unless I miss the slip entirely.

Old slip: upwind. Old boat: C-30 with an A4 (garbage reverse). Turn down fairway in neutral, maybe 1.5 kts. Spin into the slip (in neutral). With typical wind the boat will be stopped by the time I stepped onto the dock steps and hooked on a line. (Not a jump, just walk off the boat) No wind a bit of reverse did the trick. Left the lines on the dock when leaving. The C-30 would spin on a dime at a very slow speed (< 1kt)

New Slip: downwind. C-387. No longer can spin on a dime, thing just has too much mass. Same deal although the spin into the slip often needs to be in fwd idle to get a better response for turning and is more of a turn than a spin. Reverse to stop. Step off onto the steps and hook up a mid spring first (it's nearest the steps). Sometimes a bit of reverse during the turn also helps because propwalk is to my favor at that point.

Never have rammed the front of the slip with either boat. if the 387 lost reverse that would be an issue, but I'm pretty sure I never need more than 1500 rpm or so to kill the momentum. I could grab the lines off the dock with a boathook rather than stepping off, but stepping (not jumping) is easy. Boat isn't moving. It's stuck in a slip. Walk off and tie up.

Side ties (like fuel docks, pumpouts, etc) singlehandled I'll generally have a long midship spring rigged and boathook/lasso a cleat with it. Then a bit of fwd and rudder away from the dock and the boat just snugs itself against the dock. With crew I have the crew lasso the dock. No biggie doing a go-around if we miss.
 
May 17, 2004
2,030
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
I like the bridle method for a long dock when single handed because when you leave the boat you've lost some control but the boat isn't going anywhere because I have the dock line in my hand and the bow line is within easy reach but I can visualize where it could turn into a Chinese fire drill. I lived in S0 Ca from the early 70's to 2000 and the only time I docked at a long dock was to obtain fuel (there was a fuel guy there to help dock) or pump the head so it wasn't something I did all the time.

I've Emailed the young couple in So Ca and asked them to check out this topic for more docking ideas..

Let me describe the slips at Shoreline Marina and Los Alamitos. The slips consist of 2 finger piers that are tailored to the length of your boat and they are somewhat snug. Once you enter the slip your boat isn't going anywhere. I almost don't need the dock line as I'm snug up to the finger dock. I can visualize the bridle method working there especially with my cleat 6' from the end.

The problem with any procedure involved with boating from sail trim to docking is you almost have to learn it by yourself. As in "who taught you how to dock?". Trial and error is a crappy learning method but eventually you get somewhere with something that works -- for you - and you stick with it until something better comes along such as this discussion, which is the beauty of the sail trim forum. It becomes your plan and it's better than nothing - the young couple, like many sailors, had no plan. How many times have you seen sailors trying to hold the boat by the stanchion or "doing the splits" between the dock and the boat?

When I set up for docking by opening the safety line and rigging the short dock I've also rigged the bow line to hang on the safety line stanchion. With the boat snugged up to the finger pier if I wanted to I could step off onto my boarding step on the dock, NOT JUMP, with both lines in my hand but I don't need the bow line just yet. I had the "whole secure the boat thing" down to a dance step and I did it the exact same way every time in less than 30 seconds in all kinds of weather/wind conditions-- I'm too old to change.

So that's my way. Now, what is the procedure for the Fl docks with a short finger pier and 2 telephone poles? Actually, I was like the young So Ca couple - I didn't have a clue and most times I only secured one pole.
 
Jul 27, 2011
4,530
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
One basic rule is to not approach the dock or slip going faster than a speed at which you'd be willing to hit it! Compared to most of FL, docking in Long Beach should be straight-forward to learn b/c the wind is usually from the same one direction going into your slip. In FL it can be blowing from north, south, east, or west (or points between) on any given day, at any time of day, etc. Many marinas in FL the slips are double-wide which makes it tough when your "slip mate" is on your lee going in. That's where we boated for 11 yr; lots of practice in multiple situations. Have a light boat with a fin keel and spade rudder and it goes easier.

In any case, going into my slip at ABM with the wind astern or on the port quarter as per usual I'm in neutral by the time I'm maybe two boat lengths distant. Shift into idle reverse as I make the turn. The boat is carrying plenty of momentum. Once two-thirds inside I apply necessary reverse thrust to stop the boat, at which time it lays (on its fenders) against the starboard-side finger. I step off and apply dock lines which remain on the dock. No drama unless one of my dock neighbors or complete stranger runs up out of nowhere to "assist."

The only time I have a dock line in hand stepping off is when going into a slip not my own, or onto a long dock, etc. There, everything depends on wind speed and direction, and the amount of dock available. So it's as you go.
 
Last edited:
Oct 22, 2014
16,088
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Docking at your own slip is generally the easiest, as you do it every time you bring the boat back into the marina. You build up skills.

If you rely on the preset lines you left on the dock to safely control your boat you are going to be disappointed when you try to dock at a new place with just what you have on board.

Sometimes it might be good for your boat handling skills to try docking at your own marina slip as if the special lines were not there.

The use of a mid spring line, as in the stern bridle technique, or another method such as throwing a mid spring line with a loop over the cleat/bollard, will be valuable to have in your back pocket. The time to practice is when there is no wind (if there is no wind why go out in the bay to wait for the wind), and minimal or no current. Build your technique. Ask a fellow boater, one who appears to have the skills, to help you by demonstrating his/her skill.

I have pulled in, using the Stern Bridle technique, as a fellow boater is running over to help. When I execute the docking solo it is usually a "How did you do that?" moment. I am pleased to share and sometimes I even earn a beer. Usually it is the crew member who has to jump to the dock and try to stop the boat that suggest we have a beer together.
 
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DArcy

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Feb 11, 2017
1,249
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
One basic rule is to not approach the dock or slip going faster than a speed at which you'd be willing to hit it!
Ha, that's in my signature line :biggrin:

My new boat has lot more windage and momentum than my old boat. I have been using the bridle method for about a year now and I will never go back. It just works so well, it makes me look like I know what I'm doing ;)
My new slip is on the wrong side of the finger dock, downwind and down current. I've learned to head in towards the finger so that as I get in far enough to just reach the cleat with the bridle the boat is starting to fall away from the dock. I snug up the bridle then shift back into forward and have all the time I need to grab the mooring lines. It helps I have a bit of prop walk to port which pulls me into the dock as well.
 

Giro

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Jul 23, 2019
63
MacGregor MacGregor 25 Monterey
Unless I missed something, no one has mentioned anything about those of us unfortunates who share a slip with another boat. Talk about hard! At least for me it is. Any advise? We’re in Monterey Bay where there is always wind and current.
 

DArcy

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Feb 11, 2017
1,249
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
Unless I missed something, no one has mentioned anything about those of us unfortunates who share a slip with another boat. Talk about hard! At least for me it is. Any advise? We’re in Monterey Bay where there is always wind and current.
I share a slip, nothing but fenders between my neighbour and me. As long as there is a foot or so between the fenders I'm ok but timing is important and the mooring bridle helps since it is just one line to slip over a cleat.
 
Jan 7, 2011
2,911
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
I share a slip, nothing but fenders between my neighbour and me. As long as there is a foot or so between the fenders I'm ok but timing is important and the mooring bridle helps since it is just one line to slip over a cleat.
Yep…I share a slip…used to be a big power boat next to me. I put fenders out on the SBD side to make sure I didn’t do any damage to him if I had an issue getting in or out of my slip… one day, he was gone… over to another dock.

One of neighbors mentioned I could take my fenders down now…the power boat guy wouldn’t be hitting me any more…
I guess he (or she) was a new boat owner, and had no idea how to captain or dock a boat…and they used my boat with fenders out to keep them in the slip :huh:.

Good riddance…they are someone else’s problem now. I have a new slip-mate with a smaller sailboat…we should all be able to get along fine…

But the moral of the story is….fenders make good neighbors :beer:

Greg
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,088
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
no one has mentioned anything about those of us unfortunates who share a slip with another boat.
By share are we saying you are on the port side and the other boat is on the Starboard side of the slip?

This is the arrangement up here in the PacificNW.

This is why coming into the slip and quickly controlling the boats lateral movement is important. The Stern Bridle technique does just that. Either Port or Starboard side of the slip. You maneuver close to the dock and toss your line over the dock cleat. Tie of your boat to your cockpit cleat, put the boat in slow forward and the boat snuggles up against the dock safely not impacting your neighbor.
 
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Giro

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Jul 23, 2019
63
MacGregor MacGregor 25 Monterey
The other boat is at rest on our port side. Thanks for your input, DArsy. If the current would calm down it would make things a whole lot easier.
 
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