The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

14 Tips for Coming Alongside Single-handed—Part 1

Four years ago we published a twelve-chapter Online Book on how to come alongside easily, based on the things Phyllis and I learned over 25 years of doing just that with our 56-foot boat with no bow thruster.

When writing said book I assumed a crew of two. But what happens if you are alone and need to get alongside? Good question but one I have never got around to answering, despite many requests.

Time to fix that, particularly since, even if you sail as a couple, there may be a time when one of you is disabled and getting alongside safely could be vital.

Also, even for couples like Phyllis and me who sail together most of the time, knowing how to get alongside alone can be very useful. For example, I do this at least a dozen times a summer on trips to and from the boatyard and to bring the boat in from the mooring.

And, finally, being able to handle our boats by ourselves is kind of freeing. For example, I did a bunch of very satisfying and fun voyages by myself BP (before Phyllis) that would just not have happened if I had been scared of handling my boat alone and so waited around for crew to join me.

And I’m expecting to single-hand our new boat quite a bit since Phyllis is finding new and interesting things that will keep her ashore at least some of the time.

A few things before we dig in:

  • I’m only going to cover add-ons and modifications for single-handers to the core information on docking in this Online Book, so if you have never read it or it’s been a while, please do so now, otherwise what follows will make no sense at all.
  • I’m assuming no thrusters, bow or stern, both because I think that the techniques in this book make them unnecessary for most boat sizes and types, and because it’s a good idea to at least know how to manage without them.
  • I’m not going to cover my ass by telling you obvious stuff like wear a lifejacket when docking single-handed—I’m assuming that, like all AAC members, you are smart enough to make those sorts of decisions for yourself.
  • As with the rest of this book, most everything will be of use to both sail and motorboats.

OK, all done reading the rest of the book? Great, let’s do it, starting off with boat and skipper preparation tips: