Coming Alongside (Docking)—The Final Approach

In this chapter I'm going to focus on the final few boat lengths of the approach to a wharf or floating dock. This is perhaps the most important part of the whole operation and where we see the most SNAFUS, usually because the boat does something the helmsperson did not expect in the final few seconds of the approach, often when he or she applies reverse to stop.

The key point being that if we are going to be happy boat handlers we must understand and anticipate how the boat will react.

And this vital understanding lies in the things we learnt in the last chapter. Once moving slowly or stopped:

  • In reverse the stern will react to prop walk.
  • In forward the stern will react to prop wash over the rudder.

To make our approaches easy and trouble free, all we need to do is set up and execute the approach so that these fundamentals work for, not against, us.

Let's get our boat alongside so that the deckhand can step (never jump) ashore and get the required lines on without fuss or shouting.

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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