Anyone have any tricks for docking?
I am in tidal water and haven't had too much trouble
but I have always had at least one other person on board. I would like to
go out alone, to get more sailing in, but after entering the marina I
need to make a 90 degree turn to enter my lane then a 90 degree turn to enter
my slip. The trouble is getting the boat secure before hitting the bow
against the dock. I go in bow first. There is another boat next to me.
Normally, I have the tiller and control the speed of
the motor and I do use reverse on occasion (If I am going too fast or tides
pulling me to the dock). The other person grabs the dock cleat with a
boat hook or puts a line around it.
Any ideas on how I could do these tasks alone?
Yamaha 9.9 experiences--I am on a large lake, but the winds can easily be
steady at 25-30 miles per hour, winds howling through the spars and
rigging of the boats tied at dock, with heavier gusts, blowing onshore towards a
rocky coast just about two boat lengths past my slip as I have to return
by making a 90-degree sharp turn to port into a narrow slip (10 feet wide,
probably, no more), when the "alley way" down between the boats before I
make my turn is no more than about two boat lengths. I have to alternate
between forward (at minimum idle speed) and neutral (mostly neutral) not
to be coming in too fast, and then have to alternate forward, neutral and
reverse just to kick the stern around and turn sharply enough into the
Leaving the dock to go out on the lake can be the reverse of this
situation. In the summers, the wind blows offshore, and everything is easier.
My experience with the Yamaha 9.9 over the past year and one-half has been
that it can maneuver successfully the above challenges (when the gears and
throttle don't jam as they did in November, first into reverse rocketing
towards the sterns and motors of the boats behind me after I had almost
made it into my slip but had to reverse due to being blown too much to
starboard to enter the slip properly), and in the nick of time forceably hitting
forward and rocketing into the concrete and steel part of the dock between
the inner-most slip and the rocky shore). However, no outboard motor on a
sailboat, set off as it is to one side of the rudder, seems to give the
steering maneuverabilty for tight turns of a motor boat or a larger
sailboat with an inboard motor. Of course in no wind or very light winds,
I can go in and out perfectly and think I finally have the technique figured
out. Even in stronger winds, if not blowing directly onshore, docking sometimes
works out just right, as if I were a skilled master at this. But some
owners tell me that they will not take their boats out at all if there is
a strong onshore wind--and I may listen to them next time.
I don't get the full benefit of the 9.9 heading out of close quarters into
open waters, where I could open to full throttle. This is because I don't
feel that the steering is stable enough at full speed using the R22 tiller
linkage. The motor is at that time either connected to the tiller, which
doubles the turning torque (sailboat rudder plus motor steering) or, more
normally, is disconnected by removing the pin to let the tiller do all the
steering but relying on the motor to stay put by itself in a straight
position (requiring proper advance adjustment of a screw to control effort
needed to turn the motor). To avoid sudden swerving one way or the other,
I slow down to, say, half throttle or less anyway, where everything is fine.
So I am not ever using the full power of the 9.9. In theory, though, it
could come in handy in a bad storm.
If I were doing everything again, I would buy a motor of half the power
but try to connect it to the tiller and move the controls there--like Stan's
9.9 setup--because, although I have not tried the other way, it just seems
safer and more efficient to have control in one place and be able to look
forward under motor instead of fooling around bent over the stern and trying to
figure out what to do as between the motor steering and the tiller/rudder
steering. Having said that, I would have been a lot better off in November
if I had direct controls on the motor that I could get to, rather than
jammed controls connected by cable on the tiller. While the fault may
have been with the motor, if I were guessing, I would think that I increased
speed too much in reverse trying to avoid hitting the dock on the
starboard side of my slip, and almost immediately had to (in high wind)
avoid a collision to stern with boats behind. I probably (but this is just a
guess--it all happened so fast) tried to force the gear shift into forward
while still not having slowed the throttle to neutral. There is probably
a safety feature preventing switching gears except at idle or low speed. By
forcing the motor into forward I probably jammed or bent cable connectors
where they enter the gear area on the motor. Once that happened, I was
stuck in forward and at high speed. Welcome to the dock ahead.
10 Jan 2003
Sorry to say this, but it sounds to me like your docking technique may have
contributed to your engine failure. Repeatedly shifting from
forward-reverse-forward is very hard on an engine. It's also a very
difficult way to turn a boat around, sort of the technique of last resort.
However, it sounds like you have one of the most docking difficult
situations; strong wind astern, right hand prop, & tight turn to port into a
narrow slip - YUCK! Dynamic Equilibrium can make this turn under these
conditions in about 1.5 - 2 boatlengths by putting the rudder tiller hard
over to starboard & the engine tiller hard over to port with the engine at
full throttle in reverse. Please note that you will have to disconnect your
rudder to motor steering linkage in order to perform this maneuver. The
boat would need to be traveling at a starting velocity of about 3 knots
forward in order to pull this maneuver off. So, your situation sounds like
it's right on the ragged edge of the performance envelope. Before you try
this, make sure you have done everything possible to reduce your windage,
particularly at the bow. Remember that you must maintain forward velocity
in order to have any steering control. Although it can be daunting in a
crowded marina with the wind howling, if you are going to attempt this kind
of turn; then, this is not the time to be timid. I think I would setup some
fenders for marker buoys out in open water & practice this maneuver before
trying it in the marina. I know this manuever sounds radical, but try it.
You may get to like it & it will be a whole lot easier on your engine.
You might consider finding a different slip for next season. For example, a
slip right across from you would be better. A tight turn to starboard in
this situation is much easier than to port.
If it were my boat & I were being more cautious, I think I would pull up to
the end of the finger pier, port side to the pier. I would either put out
fenders on the port side amidships or mount a suitable bumper on the corner
of my pier. I would loosely tie off amidships & use a bow line to warp the
bow around into the slip. No muss - no fuss.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
10 Jan 2003
I may not be following you correctly, but if I did this, my rudder would
get hit by the motor prop blade and chewed up. What am I missing?
(Thought I'd ask in case I ever find myself in this situation.)
I ditto you in docking the boat with lines instead of the motor.
10 Jan 2003
As long as the kick-up rudder blade is fully down, you should be able to put
the rudder tiller over to full lock in one direction & the outboard motor
tiller to full lock in the other direction without any interference between
the rudder blade & the prop. At least I can do this on Dynamic Equilbrium.
I would be very surprised if all R-22's were not setup this way because, if
there was potential interference with the rudder blade in its normal fully
down position; then, that would be a hidden disaster just waiting to happen.
Interference could damage the rudder blade & cause the shear pin on the prop
to fail, probably just at the worst possible moment. This would be a real
design flaw because both mechanisms are moving within their normal range of
travel & are not interlocked to prevent this reverse movement. Thus, it
would be considered a major engineering design mistake if it were possible
to have interference. NOTE: If the kick-up rudder blade is not fully down;
then, there is most definitely a full lock interference problem between the
rudder blade & the prop.
By the way, you may want to kneel on the cockpit seat & hang onto something
the 1st time you try this manuever. The boat will turn as fast as a
dodge-em car at the carnival & you need to be prepared to straighten out the
tiller & motor & shift into neutral at the completion of the turn.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
10 Jan 2003
All boats have a point along both sides, usually just aft of amidships,
wherein a single dock line will cause the boat to stop parallel to a dock.
To find this point, pick a place along the side. It's helpful to use the
sliding cars on the genoa tracks for this purpose. Attach a mooring line
to this point & pull on it from behind. If the bow pulls towards you faster
than the stern, then slide the attachment point aft. If the stern is
favored, then move the attachment point forward. When the boat crabs
sideways towards you, then you have found the approximate sweet spot. The
actual sweet spot will shift slightly when the boat has forward momentum.
However, this approximate location will be sufficiently close to allow you
to go out & try to pull up to a dock with a single line. Try to stop the
boat with a single mooring line using your approximate sweet spot. If the
bow or stern tend to crab towards the dock faster, then adjust the
position of the line fore or aft as before & try again. When you have
found the correct location, you should at least mark it. You may even
wish to install permanent mooring cleats there port & starboard.
With a single mooring line, simply motor up to the dock, slip your loop
over the piling near the end of the dock, & shift into neutral. The mooring
line attached to the sweet spot will snub the boat's forward momentum & the
boat will almost magically "crab" sideways up against the dock. This sideways
crabbing involves a tremendous amount of drag, which uses up the boat's
forward momentum in a matter of inches, thus making it almost impossible
to hit the dock. The boat will stop at a convenient distance away from the
dock for you to go around attaching your bow & stern lines at your
leisure. Try this technique. I guarantee it will make you look like a boat
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
08 JUl 2002
Roger, thanks for your expertise and advice. The idea of docking with lines
rather than the motor should have occurred to me but did not. I will still
have to think about how to do this in my situation. We don't have poles or
pilings, like in a bay or lake with only tidal movements. Because Lake
Travis's height fluctuates with the Lower Colorado River Authority's release
of waters for downstream rice farming and other property-owner use, as well
as recent rains or dry weather, the water heights can vary by about 70 feet.
Thus, all the docks are floating ones. At the end of the finger piers (or
any where else), there are no poles or any type of piling to toss a line
onto or, more likely, use a boat hook to fetch a line off of. There is a
small turning wheel--small enough that I wouldn't want to hit it or rely on
it--at the edge of the port finger pier (first side coming in on the hard
turn to port), and I do put out fenders in advance. So the thing to
practice, it seems, is (first in calm weather) to leave a coiled line
sitting on the port finger pier of the floating dock, one end cleated and
the other end probably hanging somewhat off of the pier, in such a position
as to be reasonably accessible to a crew member with a boat hook. All this
supposes that I have a crew member who is reasonably agile (as I did the day
of the accident). I often take the boat out alone, or with my wife who is
not athletic (or skilled in steering in these conditions in while I would go
forward) and who could not reliably do what needs to be done regarding
fetching and securing the dock line.
Another challenge is that, once secured to a docking line but not yet into
the slip, if the boat is pushed by the wind towards the one remaining slip
downwind from me (my neighbor), his motor protrudes astern of his boat, and
the next emergency would be to avoid having the starboard side be pushed
into his motor. But, notwithstanding the challenges, docking with lines
sounds like the way to go, with motor maneuvering only as the fall-back.
Another possibility is to try coming into dock in reverse--easy in light
weather (when there would be no need for this maneuver) but perhaps even
more difficult in heavy weather with the wind catching the bow and then the
windward side during the turn into the slip. At least, if I were alone, I
would use the motor to get into the slip with my being in position to use
the boat hook myself, if necessary. My slip doesn't really fit when the
boat is backed in, due to the combination of dock control winching equipment
and the configuration of "sissy lines" normally keeping the bow from
drifting into that equipment. But, temporarily, a stern-first approach can
be tied into place until weather or help permits re-docking. However, I
would still have the problem of staying away from collision into my
neighbor's motor if I am not in my slip but only secured by the line at the
edge of the finger pier. So approaching in reverse does not seem to be a
I also like your suggestion about getting "on the list" waiting for a slip
on the opposite side, requiring a hard right turn, rather than a hard left
turn. I had not focused until recently on the difference in turning
capabilities (right vs. left) when a sailboat's outboard motor is mounted on
the port side of the rudder. I will have to wait for a different pier (down
a different alley way between boats)--the ones opposite me are generally
about 35 feet long and have larger slips--all the more reason not to crash
Discussing this situation with the marina staff, I also have found another
suggestion that might be relevant to other members on this list who
occasionally have to dock after (presumably--some of us go out in this
weather in the first place!) the development of heavy weather. Most marinas
have a ramp or other area where there is more space between piers or other
obstacles, plus a stretch of dock where there are no slips (so that boats
set down the ramp can be temporarily tied broadside to the dock) and
protected with fenders. For whatever reason, there may be an area in a
marina that permits more maneuvering--such as coming in wind astern and then
coming about upwind and alongside a dock. Then you can tie up temporarily
and wait for better weather to motor out, around, and into your slip.
10 Jan 2003
Another approach is to move your rudder to a nearly horizontal position just
before coming into your final approach. The rudder has a lot of control in
this position when moving slowly. It can also be used for "sculling". It
will be above your engine's propeller so you can turn your engine any way
Try it in open water first--the feel is a lot different.
With regard to single handed docking, I do this all the time, although my
dock is not nearly as challenging as yours. In addition to fenders (I use
5) I have a long bow line, attached to the bow cleat, led outboard, through
the bow rail and around the shrouds back to the cockpit; and a shorter stern
line led outboard around the stern rail and back to the cockpit in the same
place. The excess of both lines is coiled and hung from a soft sided cup
holder hanging on the port stern rail, so I can quickly grab both lines,
step ashore, and control the boat using lines and dock cleats. (I almost
always dock on the port side.) With a little practice this works every
I have both wind and current issues when I dock. At times when I must go
faster than I like in order to maintain steerage, or when the wind is
hitting me broadside as I come in, I will frequently slam the fenders into
the dock to absorb the excess energy I must use to position myself properly.
I then calmly step off the boat, position the boat with the 2 lines, and
cleat it. The Rhodes has no problem with this aggressive docking procedure
as long as you hit the fenders and not the gel coat. If in doubt, get
11 Jan 2003
I pasted your questions in below & added my comments:
"Interestingly, much larger sailboats in the larger slips opposite me (the
ones I back toward as I back out of my slip) seem to have no problem, at
least when I seen them come and go on normal days. One skipper with two
small sons repeatedly brings his 35-foot sailboat to a dead stop centered in
his slip with no lines whatsoever. The only differences I can see are:"
"(i)they are headed towards a larger opening"
The degree of difficulty (DoD) of entering a given slip can be thought of in
terms of the ratio of the
slip width/max boat beam. If your slip is only 10' wide & your R-22 has an
8' beam; then, your
DoD = 10/8 = 1.25 That 35' LOA sailboat probably has a 12' beam. If his
slip is 50% wider than yours,
or 15'; then your friend faces a challenge of: DoD = 15/12 = 1.25 or
proportionately the same as you. On the Great Lakes, where boats tend to be
larger, slips in recreational marinas are rarely more than 20' wide. I know
this max slip dimension from sailing on my friend's 42' sailing catamaran,
which has a 23' beam - we anchor out a lot. But, on a small inland lake
like yours, a 15' wide slip wouldn't surprise me, especially if the rest of
the marina is laid out small & cramped as per your description.
"(ii) they are turning to starboard, if that makes any difference--is that
what people talk about when they refer
to a right-hand prop?"
Prop side thrust or "prop walk" is caused because the prop is operating in
water that is less dense on the top of the prop vs. the bottom of the prop
because of the weight of the water above the prop. A right handed prop has
the blades arranged such that; when viewed from astern, the prop rotates
clockwise when generating forward thrust. The density difference of the
water across the vertical diameter of the prop causes a side thrust to be
created. In the case of a right handed prop, this side thrust is directed
to starboard. A side thrust to starboard at the stern of the boat causes
the stern of the boat to be pushed to starboard. Pushing the stern to
starboard causes the boat to rotate about its CR in a counterclockwise
direction - in other words it turns to port. Large diameter, slow turning
props tend to produce proportionately more side thrust vs. small diameter,
fast turning props. For a left handed prop, all of the above arguments are
reversed. In reverse gear, the right handed prop turns counterclockwise,
the stern of the boat is pushed to port, & the boat tends to turn to
"(iii) their prop is inboard and at the centerline of their boat, giving
better steering control."
On an R-22, having the prop mounted to port of the boat's centerline
generates a torque about the CR in forward gear that tends to rotate the
boat in a clockwise direction. In other words, in forward gear, the port
offset location of the prop tends to make the boat turn to starboard. In
reverse gear, the offset thrust tends to make the boat turn to port. Note
that this has nothing to do with whether the prop is right handed or left
handed. This phenomenon is simply a side-effect of mounting the prop off
the boat's centerline.
So why is it so hard to turn sharply to port with a strong wind from astern?
Well, the hull presents much less surface area to the wind when it is
oriented stern-on vs. side-on to the wind. So, energy is required to turn
the hull from stern to the wind around to side to the wind. Energy is also
required to hold the hull in the side to the wind orientation as the wind
tends to rotate the hull back to the stern to the wind orientation. Where
does this energy come from? There are two potential sources, the kinetic
energy of the boat itself & from the motor. In a crowded marina situation,
the boat is going to be moving slowly. So, you don't have very much kinetic
energy to start off with. But, suppose you start the turn anyway? As the
boat turns, the viscous drag of the hull in the water + the windage work
together to use up your kinetic energy. You will likely end up turned
side-to-the-wind, but stopped dead in the water. When the water stops
flowing across the rudder blade, it stops generating any steering forces.
The wind keeps blowing. The boat is blown out of control back downwind &
tends to rotate back to the stern-to-the-wind orientation! So far, these
effects are pretty much the same for a port or a starboard turn. OK,
suppose we add some power from the port offset mounted prop? In forward
gear, even with the motor turned full lock to help the port turn, a
substantial fraction of the thrust is acting against the turn. This is the
difference between a port turn & a starboard turn. You can't use too much
throttle because a substantial fraction of the thrust is also pushing the
boat forward. Using too much throttle will result in the boat finishing the
turn & entering the slip going much too fast. Now, when you put the engine
into reverse & apply full throttle to stop, the prop side thrust tries to
turn you back in the direction you came from. Arggg! Overall, this
technique simply has everything working against it. It's a delicate
balancing act that requires good eye/hand coordination & a good sense of
speed & distance all performed in real time under stress with dire
consequences for failure!
But, if we put the engine into reverse, turn it to full lock in the opposite
direction, & now apply full throttle; everything is different. With reverse
thrust, the port offset engine location is tending to assist a port turn.
Full reverse throttle will tend to slow the boat down, not speed it up. So,
you get up a good velocity before starting the turn, use the reverse engine
thrust to spin you around + burn off your speed. With a little practice,
you will find you can pull a sharp 90 deg turn to port, finishing the turn
with the bow at the entrance to your slip, with the boat moving slowly
forward at just the right speed for docking. Then, you shift into neutral,
slip your single dock line over a piling or cleat, stop parallel to the
dock, quickly attach your bow line, & then your stern line. Then, briefly
stop to acknowledge the applause from your fellow boaters! I know this
technique sounds radical, but I guarantee it really really works.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
13 Jan 2003
Thanks, again! Your answers are always excellent. You have been
unbelievably helpful and instructive, with great experience.
Once I get my motor operative (with some solution to getting a motor handle)
and some repairs finished--this is a good time also to haul the boat and
check and probably repaint the bottom--I will let you know how some of this
works for me. Clearly, the procedures other than dock lines call for
practice out in open waters. Otherwise, the prospect is daunting of briskly
heading down the "alley" between the two lines of docked boats and getting
to the turning point at, say, 3 knots, with the rocks about two or three
boat lengths ahead and not many "second chances" if I find myself coming
straight at something in front having turned to port into the wrong place or
swinging the stern wide into the opposite line of boats while attempting a
sharp swing with the motor in reverse at full lock position opposite the
tiller direction. Perhaps instead of going down the alley 2/3 to 3/4 of the
way over towards the dock to starboard, to create a wider area for the port
turn, I will come in right down the middle or no more than 2/3 of the way
over towards the boats that will be at my stern during the port turn. I'll
get a better idea for this in practice.
Speaking of approaching the turn at about three knots (or some other rate of
speed to make the turn successful using your technique), in light weather I
have found that the idle speed on the Yamaha 9.9 is too fast for simply
going down the alley between the long lines of boats and turning 90 degrees
to port (not having learned about your technique). So what I have been
doing where wind is not a factor or is coming from a favorable direction
(given the absence of currents), is (once in the alley between the boats)
putting the motor at forward idle for a moment, then coasting in neutral
until the boat is going so slowly that it is about to lose its forward
momentum entirely with the loss of steering control, and then re-engaging
the motor at forward idle momentarily, and so on, until I am very, very
slowly approaching the slip and going through the turn. A short engagement
of the motor at forward idle in the middle of the turn might help to
complete it; rarely is reverse called for, but sometimes. Usually, I am
able to stop the boat right in the slip without bumping into anything in
these easy conditions--but sometimes the results are okay but not great. So
I will also practice to see if your suggested method is also helpful in easy
weather conditions, or whether it is primarily a tool for the challenging
conditions we have been talking about. In any event, using your single dock
line technique may be helpful irrespective of motor and steering techniques.
13 Jan 2003
Some one here on the list (I forgot who) posted this idea: Create a sort of
safety net at your slip for when you're coming in too fast. Fix a permanent
line from the left front corner of your slip to the right side of the slip
about half a boat length back. Then another line just the opposite, from
the right front corner to the left side. This makes the lines cross and
form a "V" several feet out from the middle of your finger peer in your
slip. Then you can come in a little faster (without losing steerage) and
use the "V" to "catch" you and stop you from hitting the dock.
13 Jan 2003
If you really want to perfect this meathod, Rig the V as slim said -
add a fender to the dock at the tip of the V (lines tend to strech when wet)
Keep you boat in foward gear idle then you can move the tiller and you
will bring the stern to one side. Tie up that side turn the tiller to the
other and it will move the stearn to the other side tie that up and shut of
the engine. I have seen this in action by a guy with a 30 foot hunter who
always single hands. He has his dock lines drapped around a pvc "shephard's
hook" looking thing so they are easy to grab from the cockpit. His slip was
V shaped to start with so he didnt have to mess with a rope barrier. I have
yet to see a rope barrier done to my satisfaction but I am sure it is
13 Jan 2003
Jim Harrison has this arrangement on his slip, and it works beautifully!
He demonstrated the system to me when he was kind enough to take me for a
sail in September. He does not have a floating dock, though, so I don't
know if the lines could be positioned high enough on David's dock to work
like Jim's. He could keep the forward momentum up so he had plenty of
steerage and just point the boat into the slip. The lines took over from
there guiding the boat to an easy stop exactly where he wanted it. Just tie
off and you're done. The only reason I'm not going to replicate the system
on my floating dock is I'm afraid of chafe ruining my nice new paint job.
I don't know it this is a legitimate concern or not.
Maybe Jim is lurking and will give a better description?
14 Jan 2003
You guys are working way too hard!
I have seen Jim's arrangement and it's cool.
For me I believe in the kiss principle. I run a line from the dock to the
outside pier which lives there for the season. When I come in we grab the
line with the boat hook and pull ourselves backwards in to the dock. This
line is then attached to the boat as a spring line. This allows for our
ten minute drill when we are escaping the teenagers looking for money.
14 Jan 2003
Yeah, too much boat speed @ idle is a problem for the 9.9 hp outboards. I
have a Honda 8 on Dynamic Equilibrium & it too idles along faster than I
would prefer. These engines are really too much motor & prop for the
application. But, the extra power is really nice when the weather is bad.
Do you have a folding boarding ladder built into your transom? If so, try
letting it trail behind you in the water. You will be surprised how much
drag a couple of ladder steps in the water will produce. Note that this is
also a good technique to slow the boat down while sailing, say to stay in
touch with a slower boat in other to have a conversation W/O dropping sail.
I have a friend with a MacGregor 25 & I must drag both my boarding ladder &
my outboard's lower unit in the water in order for me to stay even with
him - really pisses him off!
Otherwise, you have already found the prefered technique. Shift into
neutral when the boat is gathering too much speed & let it coast along,
steering with the rudder. Shift back into forward gear before the boat
slows down too much so that you do not lose steering control. Just remember
that engaging forward gear during the port turn is going to work against the
turn. It would probably be better to have sufficient initial speed to coast
thru the turn, engaging the engine upon completion of the turn.
Please let me know how my suggestions work out for you.
I hope you get your Yamaha 9.9 back from the shop soon.
S/V Dynamic Equilibrium
14 Jan 2003