Docking For the Double-Handed! 
By Trish Lambert

Perfecting your teamwork while docking has so many benefits: Not only will connecting the boat to terra firma be a safe maneuver, but you will look good doing it.

The physics of successful securing your boat to the dock depends on the kind of vessel you have, the type of tie up you need to make, and prevailing environmental conditions. The practices of successfully mooring on the other hand, are about the people doing the job, and are pretty much the same from boat to boat.

Docking a Team Sport!

Docking is a team sport, and each member of the team has a specific role. In the case of a couple, the two roles are "helmsperson" and "linesperson." Each of these roles is important for a safe and snag-free tie up.

The helmsperson manages the physics I mentioned above; he or she needs to know how the boat will behave in different conditions and boat speeds, in forward and reverse gears.

The lines person handles the lines, fenders, and boat hook and ensures that the boat gets tied safely to the dock.

Three Basic Keys!

The three basic keys to safe docking for two are communication, planning, and safety.

As far as communication goes, I'm not sure that there is such as thing as "too much." In the beginning, in fact, you may need to talk a lot before, during, and after the docking.

After you get the routine down, many things will become automatic for you, but you will still need to keep each other informed about what's happening at your end of the boat.

Come up with hand signals or simple words that will let each other know when things are working and when they aren't, and use them every time.

Wind, Wave and Currents! 

Start thinking about the docking well in advance and plan how you will approach it. Check out wind, wave, and current conditions and figure out how to compensate for them.

Pre-rig dock lines and fenders according to the planned approach. If you are in a new location or have unfamiliar conditions, you might want to do a first (or even second) pass to scope out the situation and then agree on rigging and approach before going in for the final landing.

Safety First!

Safety of person is first, followed by boat safety. Stay calm, and concentrate on being safe rather than on how you look to bystanders.

If things aren't working for one of you for any reason, abort the attempt, regroup, and try again. If you are handling lines, wear gloves and have the boat hook handy. Keep yourself from trying to make huge leaps onto the dock; instead, wait until you can comfortably step off.

When on the helm, slow is best in most conditions. If you are unable to get the boat close enough to allow the lines person to get onto the dock safely, abort and try again.

These three keys are part of every docking procedure and should become part of "business as usual" for you. In order to master good docking practices, there is one other thing to do when first starting out: practice.

Spend time mastering all aspects of docking. Practice going in and out of your slip, snagging pilings, "parallel parking" to a dock, tying off lines. Do this first when conditions are ideal, then go on to rehearse in as many different conditions as possible.

Get your communication system down, figure out what approaches work best in different scenarios, and get comfortable with managing everything safely.

Attaching your boat to solid items is part of any on-the-water experience. Do it as a couple, and do it well, and your docking activities will be one more enjoyably shared cruising experience.


Trish Lambert's shortest bio is on Twitter, where she is billed as "Fervent champion of solo biz owners who want to stay solo and successful, woman of high, unmodulated energy, sometime couch potato." 

Article Source:  Ezine Article by Trish Lambert


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