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This is the continuing NauticEd Staff and friends Thailand Sailing trip with The Moorings on a Catamaran 4600.
Last night we slept anchored up next to the beautiful Rai Leh beach which was an excellent stop.
Our Anchorage at Rai Leh beach
This morning we set sail (actually motored because there was no wind) south in search of a good snorkeling spot on the way to Ko Phi Phi.
Note that I am taking these chart pics off the Navionics Asia App which we used exclusively through out the trip. We did not use the onboard Chart Plotter. The iPad app is so much friendlier.
South From Rai Leh Beach to Ko Phi Phi
First stop was Ko Dam Khwang. On the way is Koh Dam Hok with its unique chicken head rock
Ko Dam Hok Chicken Head rock
We stopped on the north side where other tourists were also snorkeling. Actually compared to our next stop at Ko Mai Phai it wasn’t that great just to be honest. A few of us got nailed by jelly fish and the tide stream was flowing pretty hard so we elected to move on in search of the perfect snorkeling spot. But we did have some fun in the dinghy. Notice the expert foot steering whilst I held the GoPro.
Fun snorkeling with the dinghy
But just before we left Koh Dam Khwang we went off the back of the boat with a few pieces of bread. Awesome colored fish were everywhere.
Fish at Ko Dam Khwang
Next stop was Ko Mai Phai where the ultimate reward was awaiting us. We anchored in the sand so as not to damage the reef and swam to the reef. The snorkeling was spectacular with Sea Anemones complete with Clown fish and clams, fish
Ko Mai Phai Snorkeling Was Awesome
The snorkeling was spectacular with Sea Anemones complete with Clown fish, clams and tons of fish.
Posted Day 3 of our sailing trip to Thailand at http://www.nauticed.org/sailing-blog/sailing-in-thailand-day-3/
Back on the boat and the wind started to build. Wow – yah finally. Hoist up the John B’s sails (Beach Boys)!
We set sail on a close haul for Ko Phi Phi but we were enjoying the sailing so much we purposefully overshot the island by 5 miles just for fun. We tacked over and did a nice reach onto the southern bay of Ko Phi Phi. We motored right up to the water dock in about the position marked. Water tank fill up was 1500 bhat (kinda expensive $us40) but it was well worth it. The girls were starting to complain (not really).
Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi is a very alive town with tons of tourists (tons). But with that goes lots of good thai food and lots of night life.
Returning back to the yacht, again we experienced the large tides. We had left the dinghy high and dry on the beach with the fore thought to tie it carefully to the rock wall. When we returned later it was happily floating in 2 feet of water. Thanks to our handy tide app we knew at all times what was happening tide wise.
We had to anchor out quite a way because of all the yachts in the bay. 15 meters would mean a little over 3 scope on the all chain anchor. I checked our pocketGRIB wind App and saw no wind coming over night so anchoring deep wasn’t a concern and by now we were pretty confident that the Bruce anchor was holding very well in mud.
If you’re thinking that taking a sailing vacation is pretty cool, NauticEd is a world expert. We’ve been just about everywhere and can help you select the best place to go – the best charter company and make a no cost to you reservation.
Over the next two months Yachting Education have 3 offshore Sailing opportunities between Bahamas, Ft Lauderdale & Annapolis.
Here are the some brief details;
1. May 18-23 Marsh Harbor to Ft Lauderdale via “Atlantis”
On board Sunday night 17th for sunset cocktails and am departure. Voyage will head south from Abaco Isands, overnight ocean passage to Eleuthera and a visit to Spanish Wells. Nassau & Atlantis on Paradise Island for a round or two at the casino or a visit to the waterpark & aquarium are must sees. Berry islands on our port heading to Bimini to clear customs & immigration then our second overnight passage will have us crossing the Gulf stream and arriving in Ft Lauderdale early afternoon on Friday 22nd. $2250 per person ( max 5 students )
2. May 25 to June 1st
Depart Marsh Harbour to Annapolis MD USA. Eight (8) Day Ocean sailing delivery opportunity. Bring your sense of adventure, sea legs and fishing gear as we head north to USA. We will be at sea for at least 4 days so for those considering a life of cruising, this is a GREAT way to safely taste the ocean life. $2500 per person ( max 5 students )
3. June 6-14
Depart Ft Lauderdale to Annapolis MD. Nine (9) days onboard combining Offshore passages along Florida, Georgia & Carolina coasts before traversing the ICW from Beaufort NC to Hampton VA then up the Chesapeake to Annapolis MD. A fabulous diversity of navigational challenges, port entry planning and scenic beauty….oh and bring your fishing tackle!
$2500 per person ( max 5 students )
A single berth premium is available upon request
Voyage lengths will vary however students looking for offshore blue water sailing experience will benefit from these unique mile-building voyages. Students will have the potential to gain NauticEd & RYA coastal skipper certifications, including ICC endorsement.
All passages are under supervision of RYA Yachtmaster Instructor and Yachting Education Principal instructor Mark Thompson.
Trip includes all meals, snacks and soft beverages, shared accommodations, linens, towels, safety equipment and course materials. Students will be required to participate in all aspects of the day to day running of the yacht, including meal preparation, navigation, stand day and night watches, and be suitably experienced and qualified to undertake such a voyage.
This will not be suitable for beginner sailors or sailors not familiar with or able to undertake offshore conditions. Dates, vessel and voyage particulars are subject to change.
This is Day 2 of our Sailing trip with the Moorings in Thailand.
What a great evening that was last night – anchored up completely remotely next to Ko Ku Du Yai with the delicious dinner of shrimp from the local fishermen. Here are our crew boys peeling the shrimp.
Peeling the Shrimp last night
Here is today’s charted itinerary
Sailing in Thailand -Day 2 Itinerary
In the morning, we headed south weaving through the spectacular islands.
Spectacular Islands of Thailand
First stop was Ko Phak Bia for a snorkelling stop and where I snapped this great shot of a typical longtail boat used extensively by the Thai for fishing, lugging tourists and anything on the water. The boat has a car engine mounted on a balance with a direct-drive long (long) drive shaft coming out the back. You can see the saltwater cooling lines out the back into the water. To steer, the driver pushes down on his balance handle lifting the spinning proper out of the water, he then swivels the entire engine and drive shaft and places the proper back in the water. The sight of a spinning proper waving through the air makes you want to stay very clear away. This type of boat is used extensively throughout Asia. The efficiency lies in the ease of maintenance. Car engines are relatively cheap and easy to mount. I imagine the Mercury dealership has a difficult time penetrating the market.
Thai Long Tail boat
Then further south down to the very impressive (2nd) Ko Hong. At high to mid tide, this hong is filled with water and you can dinghy in and have a delightful swim inside the impressive hong approximately 300 m in diameter. We had to anchor outside the hong in fairly deep 20 meters of water with a falling tide. The boat had 50 meters of chain so we let it all out. The winds were extremely light and so I felt safe with a 3 to 1 scope. Would have preferred 4 to 1 with all chain.
Three of the female crew abandoned us and headed off on the kayak into the hong.
Paddling into the Hong
Then we headed off in the dinghy. This is the entrance.
Ko Hong entrance
And this is inside.
Inside Ko Hong
We moved on to the famous Rai Leh Beach which is renown strangely enough for rock climbing. But also the Thai version of food trucks. Below, all the boats park up on the beach and serve up delicious Thai food albeit, I did notice a few hamburgers scattered in the menus. A pleasant walk from the beach cuts you past the peninsula headland taking you the other side to a long row of very nice resorts and restaurants. This place is a good stop.
This photo of Phra Nang Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor
We anchored in 2 meters of water at low tide being careful to let out enough chain to accommodate the 5 meters of depth sometime in the night. The cliff behind our anchoring point was incredibly impressive with 10meter long stalactites.
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Course to Steer Calculation
Given the last Rate and Direction problem, now calculate the CTS (Course to Steer) to go to the safe water mark RW “NH” and the TTD (Time to Destionation)?
Answer is posted below. BUT please give it a go first to test your current knowledge.and post your answer to our
Here is the Answer plot (no cheating – give it a go first) (no really) (oh come on really – give it a go first)
CTS and TTD plot
In this answer plot we used 1/2 hour for the time frame. Thus with current flowing at 1.8 knots in 1/2 hour the distance the current will push you off course is 0.9 nm at 17 deg T. Your speed is 5 knots through the water so in 1/2 hour you would travel 2.5 nm.
In the answer plot I have done it two ways. Both work equally as well. First I drew the desired track from the eFix through the buoy RW “NH”. The first vector I plotted was from the eFix to Point A using the current vector (0.9 nm at 17 deg T). Then from Point A, I scribed a 2.5 nm arc to cross the desired track. This gives me position C. I drew a line from Point A to Point C. This gives me what is called a water track. Designated by 1 arrow (mnemonic “water has one”). I measured this direction which is 118 deg T. This is the CTS (Course to Steer). It means if your boat heading is 118 T then your ground track will be from the eFix position towards point C AND towards the Buoy RW “NH” since it lies on the same line.
The distance from the eFix Position to Point C is 2.5 nm. Since you will travel at 5 knots this will take you 30 minutes. NOTE: it is just by pure coincidence that this is the same speed as the boat through the water in this case. i.e. the way you find the boat speed over ground is to measure the distance from the eFix to point C and divide by the time. In this case it just so happened that the distance from eFix to Point C is the same distance as Point A to Point C. You can imagine it would be totally different if the current direction was 30 deg T instead of 17 deg T.
NOTE: also I have solved the problem using the vectors in a different manner. First I scribed an arc 2.5 nm out from the eFix Position. Then I brought in the current vector so that the end was touching the desired track line and moved it until the start touched the scribed arc. This result satisfies the condition that the boat must move 2.5 nm whilst the current brings the boat back to the desired track. The start of the current vector creates Point B. Then I drew a line from eFix to B to create the water track. The water track is the heading of the boat. The heading is (and must be) exactly the same as before at 118 deg T.
This second method, just to me, seems to make more sense of a vector triangle because I can see the boat starting from the eFix and heading out at 118 and getting dragged back to the desired track line. Maybe it’s just me. In any case the triangles are exactly the same. I believe however, that using the first triangle method may be more accurate in real live plotting because you draw the lines from exact points. In the second method, you’re moving that current line to satisfy the two conditions. My brain however, thinks the first method looks weird. i.e. the current drags you all the way out and you have to crawl back. In either case this is not reality. In reality, your boat just follows the desired track. If your mind can handle the first method do it that way.
Next part of the problem is to calculate TTD – the time it takes to get to the buoy.
That’s easy – the distance is 3.2 nm. At 5 knots this will take 0.64 hours = 38.4 minutes.
Now could you solve this problem if the was ALSO 10 degrees of leeway with the wind out of the North?
Permission for a rant? (if you know me, I break out in rants every now and then. It’s a collection of thoughts and I tell you its a rant so as not to offend – ie don’t read this if you’re sensitive)
This problem should be second nature to you. In reality, you’re probably not solving these problems everyday whilst sailing and it’s why some people think they can get away without knowing this stuff. However, this is fundamental to sailing and I think it is irresponsible (strong word – I said it was a rant) to not be able to lay out the method to solve this problem. Laying out the method means you grasp the concept which is the most important to understanding and keeping you out of trouble.
Example: Last year whilst sailing from St. Lucia south to St. Vincent we saw a sailboat way to the west almost on the horizon about half way across. He had left St Lucia and held a compass heading towards St. Vincent. In the meantime, we calculated a CTS and sailed in a straight line over ground to St. Vincent. His path was a complete arc which took him miles off course. Our path was the shortest distance between two points ( a straight line). I’d call this guy a crappy sailor – I know this because of another rant that I wrote about the same guy when it comes to a crossing and give way situation later on as we approached our bay on St. Vincent [see that blog article and story].
Don’t be a crappy sailor – sail with knowledge. It might seem like a selfish rant to get you to buy more courses – maybe or maybe it is and an attempt to reduce the number of crappy sailors out there. NauticEd courses are ridiculously amazing value and after taking at least our Bareboat Charter Master Bundle of courses, I guarantee you will not be on Neptune’s naughty list.
Personally, I’m impressed with the European community and requiring the ICC for all sailors. The ICC requires the above type knowledge. When you’re sailing in Croatia, Greece, France etc, on a Bareboat Charter, you’re nervous enough. You don’t want all the other charter skippers having limited sailing knowledge. If you know they all have the ICC, you’re going to be a lot more comfortable in a crossing situation.
NauticEd has taken it a step further by not only providing the ICC but offering the Bareboat Charter Master bundle of courses. These courses really ready you for a proper safe Bareboat Chartering Experience.
Do you have you United Nations Sailing License (the ICC) yet?
If you’re looking for the ICC license, visit NauticEd and take the RYA Day Skipper Course.
Ok, raise your right hand and repeat after me “I promise to go sailing in Thailand before I kick the bucket”.
The NauticEd team has just completed a familiarization trip in the Phuket Thailand cruising area. The only complaint that we had was the same one we always have – why did we do only 7 days? 10 days I think is a minimum required amount 2 weeks even better.
Phuket Sailing Area
We chartered a 46 ft catamaran from the Moorings. The 4600 has 4 cabins and 4 heads and thus 8 of us went. It has plenty of room with a huge covered outdoors back deck and dining area and huge front trampoline area. Myself, I’m very partial to catamarans for such an adventure trip as you always have plenty of room to stretch out and find your own space even with 8 people on board. And because the daytime living area is all one upper level, you never have to spend anytime overheating below decks. My opinion, sail a mono hull at home and at your local yacht club, but sail a Catamaran on a vacation. Side note, if you’re intimidated by a Catamaran, no worries, NauticEd has a Catamaran conversion course that will fill you with confidence.
NauticEd Crew and friends
The Phuket area is a real gem cruising ground on this planet and is not to be missed. Of particular note is the distinct Tower Karst type islands. One such was made famous by the James Bond movie “The Man With The Golden Gun”. The island Khao Phing Kan, is part of a small island cluster about 13 nautical miles NNE of The Moorings charter base. Such spectacular island shapes are formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone. And in fact, the whole area is loaded with these crazy shaped islands. Many islands also have a hollowed out center that you can access by swimming in, by dinghy or by walking through a cave entrance. The hollowed out area is called a Hong and they are truly spectacular to see.
Moorings Base to James Bond Island
Our itinerary was a quick 7 day sailing trip around the area stopping to document, photograph and report back. Much of our downtime was also spent cooling off in the delightful 88 deg F water and sampling the scrumptious local Thai food.
Check in time at the base on the northeast side of the Phuket island is 4 pm. Thus we elected to leave from our Kata Beach jet lag recovery base in the south of the island at noon in a large taxi van who took us to the Big C Supermarket first where we bought provisions for the boat (Important Note: You can not buy booze between 2pm and 5pm in Thailand so take this into account when shopping).We arrived at the base at 3:30 whereby Jeff, The Moorings Base Manager announced our boat was ready. The crew split into two with half stocking the provisions and the other half doing a local area chart briefing. Jeff then did a boat briefing. Whilst I’m very familiar with the Moorings 4600 catamaran, it is still prudent to take the proper time to go through the boat noting locations of everything like windlass reset switches and water tank switch over valves plus learning any special nuances of this particular boat. (I will never fathom why boat manufacturers hide the windlass rest switch – go figure!)
By the time we were finished, we still had a small amount of time to set off to a nearby island. However, we all elected to not rush ourselves and instead properly set the crew into vacation mode. Too many times on boating trips like this I’ve been in situations whereby things got rushed which usually ended in detrimental results – even if is a slightly stressed attitude artificially created by the need to hurry. Instead, we decide to have a really nice Thai dinner at a local restaurant a few hundred meters from The Moorings base which was a culinary delight. Possibly one of the best Thai meals I’ve ever had actually in a really nice covered open air tastefully decorated restaurant. One thing to note in Thailand, you never have to be concerned with the cost of eating out. Dinners usually cost around $us5-7.
In the morning, we told the crew to have big long showers since it was to be the last long wasteful shower for a week. We then refilled the water tanks and headed out for our visually enlightening adventure.
First stop Koh Hong about 10 miles north. In Thai, Koh means island. So this was an island with a Hong in the middle. We got out and did a little sea Kayak around this.
Next stop “James Bond” island – you go there to get the picture and get out quick because there is literally 500 tourists all on the island at one time. Since James Bond island is at the top of the bay where several rivers drain, the water there is slightly murky from silk. The crystal clear waters which thoughts of Thailand conjure up begin about 20nm further south. Thus, again, get in, get the picture and get out.
The Man with the Golden Gun
Of note also, that when sailing in Thailand you have to be especially aware of the tides. There is a 3.5 meter tide (depending on the moon phase), but no worries, we had the World Tides 2015 App which allowed us to be constantly vigilant of the tide cycle. This level of tidal range means that as Captain you have to know at all times what the tide is doing especially when anchoring and when beaching the dinghy ashore. At James Bond Island, to be safe I snorkel dived the keel to ensure that The Moorings had set the offset on the depth meter accurately. During the boat briefing, they had told me that the offset was set to the bottom of the keel but you never know what the last charterer has done to the electronics, so it is prudent to check. The offset was indeed the keel bottom and so a mental note was made, zero means ZERO.
When anchoring at James Bond island the tide was dropping with about 1 meter in the cycle to go and so we had to anchor about 1 km out and dinghy in. But the stop is worth it at least for the photo and the “I’ve been there” bucket list checkmark
Speaking of tides, what goes with big tides is tidal stream currents. Thus, care needs to be taken when swimming in areas prone to current like close to islands and between islands and shallower areas. Also of note was that navigation is affected by tidal flow. There was a distinct difference at times between COG (Course Over Ground) and Heading.
Once the requisite pic was accomplished we headed southeast for a quick stop at Koh Roi where we randomly discovered a dried hong accessed via walking through a cave hole in the 100m high rock walls. Inside the hong, we discovered a camp of fruit bats (yes “camp” is technically correct when referring to bats) hanging upside down in the trees. This was pretty cool but got slightly eerie when they started getting a little upset at our presence – time to leave them to their uninhabited and peaceful island. What an awesome experience that was.
Inside the hong, we discovered a camp of fruit bats (yes “camp” is technically correct when referring to bats) hanging upside down in the trees. This was pretty cool but got slightly eerie when they started getting a little upset at our presence – time to leave them to their uninhabited and peaceful island. What an awesome experience that was.
Ko Roi and Ko Ku Du Yai
Next door is another island called Ko Ku Du Yai where there is a designated overnight anchorage area. The anchorage is in a channel between Ko Ku Du Yai and another close small island. There was a decent amount of current between the islands so initially I was concerned.
I turns out that entire area in the north of the bay has a mud bottom and thus The Moorings base has installed “Bruce” type anchors on their fleet of Thai based boats. Good choice as the Bruce is well suited for mud (see the NauticEd Anchoring a Sailboat course).
One of the competent crew elected to stay aboard to handle any anchor dragging issues due to the current whilst the rest of us dinghied to the island’s hong then did a little circumnavigation where we google eyed all the impressive lime stone stalactites on the cliffs. Right after sunset we were treated by an impressive show of a cloud of thousands of fruit bats coming out to hunt.
For dinner we had fresh (fresh fresh) shrimp that we had expertly caught through out the day (actually purchased from local fishermen who would chase us down in their longtail boats), chicken bbq’d on the back deck grill and a delightful salad.
Fishermen selling shrimp
That was it for Day 1. It was a lot of fun.
Are you confident that you could do this – take a sailing trip in an unfamiliar location like this? The NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Rank is 100% designed for exactly this. Once you get through the courses, have logged the appropriate amount of practical time and are awarded the Rank of Bareboat Charter Master we believe and Yacht charter Companies also beleive that you will be confident and competent to do such a trip.
It’s one day out before we leave for Phuket, Thailand. We’re going to be bareboat chartering a Cat 4600 from the Moorings. Today I’m doing some final prep work. I have downloaded the World Tides 2015 App for $2.99. When I arrive and during the trip I want to be on top of the tides (pun intended).
Here is a screen shot directly from the App for the day we head out from the Moorings Base.
So looks like we are going to be dealing with some pretty hefty tides and we need to take care. Notice here also the pic of the moon showing it is new thus we should expect even higher and lower tides a few days later with a spring tide. Potentially we’re looking at 3 meters. That’s a lot. With such tides we also need to be thinking about currents. (No we are not heading out at 3am – that’s just in the middle of the screen shot. We’ll plan on an early departure as soon as our eyes open and 2 cups of fresh coffee and fresh fruit are in the tummy)
Particular attention needs to be taken when anchoring. And this may mean an adjustment of the anchor rode length during the night. With this App onboard it’s going to be pretty convenient. We’ll know exactly what phase of the tide we’re in at anchoring time and can plan accordingly around the depth. This makes me feel very confident that we’ll not have any issues with tides. Even little things like beaching the dinghy we’ll know how far up the beach to pull it. What about tying the dinghy to the pier? Don’t forget about that one?
Do you really understand Tides? Are you CONFIDENT AND COMPETENT? You should take our Coastal Navigation Course. We talk all about tides and predictions and what to do – and we talk about currents and how to calculate courses based on known currents etc etc.
In the USA, the terms “set and drift” are often used when it comes to specifying current flow. It is found that this is confusing to many students and in the rest of the world the terms rate and direction are used. At NauticEd, we adopt the term “rate and direction” in favor of the student.
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RATE AND DIRECTION
Rate is the flow rate or speed of the current in knots aka “drift” in the USA
Direction is the direction the current is flowing towards expressed in True degrees aka “set” in the USA
Here is a simple problem to calculate Rate and Direction based on how a vessel went off course over a period of time.
Print out the PDF provided below or if you are a NauticEd Coastal Navigation student you can use your Chart 12354.
Your motor vessel has cleared out of the Channel and an electronic GPS fix at 1020 places your position east of the mark G “1” Fl G 2.5s at 41 deg 9.4 min N and 73 deg 5min E. You are making way at 5 knots towards the safe water mark RW “NH” approx SSE of the outer channel marks from at New Haven. At 1120 you take another electronic fix and you find your position to be 41 deg 12.7 min N and 72 deg 58 min W. What is the rate and direction of the current?
You’ll need a set of dividers and a protractor and a calculator.
Click to download
Before you look ahead to the answer, give it a go – it’s actually pretty easy.
It is pretty amazing – you can now see the content of all your sailing courses in your curriculum offline AND take the tests offline. Once you reconnect, the test results are sent up to the cloud. i.e. it does not matter where you take the test – on iOS or on online on your computer.
NauticEd Sailing App
It is pretty amazing – you can now see the content of all your sailing courses in your curriculum offline AND take the tests offline. Once you reconnect, the test results are sent up to the cloud. i.e. it does not matter where you take the test – on iOS or on online on your computer.
Right now it’s for iOS – an Android version is coming.
Also in the App, is the ability to add to your new style logbook (launched in 2014). So on the dock after a day of sailing, just right there – add the day and it will show up in your sailing resume.
A really amazing feature is that you now carry your sailing resume and certificate with you on your phone at all times and can email it in an instant to anyone.
Here’s a couple of good docking stories and also see below for a great animation on how to dock a sailboat in a tight space in the marina.
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How to Successfully Dock a Sailboat
Yesterday I was out at the marina and decided to do a pump out of the holding tank. I was on the boat by myself. The pump out dock was at the south end of the marina on a tee head and the wind was blowing stiffly out of the north. This means that the boat would be pushed away from the dock so that docking by myself would be a challenge. A challenge in the sense that while it’s easy to get up next to the dock, getting off the boat and getting her tied up was the hard part. A plan was needed – see below for how this incident turned out.
In St. Lucia, the Caribbean, last year I witnessed the worst docking of my life performed by a self-proclaimed experienced sailor. A sailor that claimed he sailed from the channel from Martinique to St. Lucia every weekend bar two the previous year. Well maybe he was a good sailing sailor – but the worst docker of all time – and so that makes him a poor sailor. I mean a really bad one.
Here’s what happen in St. Lucia. This boat with 6 crew and the skipper was wanting to come up to the fuel dock. There was plenty of room – maybe 3 boat lengths. It was a similar situation whereby the wind was blowing off the dock. It’s hard to describe the tangle he put himself into but it involved having to push him away from hitting the two boats (one mine) at the dock. Everyone on the docked boats were pulling out fenders trying to stop this guy from banging everyone up. The guy had no plan and no idea what to do – proof was that none of the crew even had a line in their hand. When I asked him to organize a shore-line to toss to us, he himself left the helm and pulled an old doused tangled spinnaker halyard out of a bucket which was badly coiled and now full of knots in his panic. One crew member scrabbled around eventually and found a line tied it on with a knot I’d never seen before and tossed it. Unfortunately, it was only 6 feet long and barely made the dangle into the water.
On shore, we all grabbed our own supply of dock lines to toss. When we tossed them to the boat still about 20 feet out (which was as close as the skipper could get the boat to the dock without serious damage) the crew just hung on to the lines and expected to be able to hold the boat against the wind rather than cleating them down so that the lines could be cinched up.
You know, at NauticEd we are glad that people need training – that’s our business and we are good at it. But this guy was in serious need of training WITH A BOAT, was a self-proclaimed sailor and was crossing 30 mile channels with inexperienced crew in the ocean – you know that dangerous non-breathable media called water.
After the calamity, I walked over and offered my hand – expecting a few thanks at least for the help and directing an onshore crew to help. Instead, I got a talk about how he is the master of the area and felt like the docking was successful. Steam was pouring out of the other boat’s crews. I gave him my card and even an offer of a free Maneuvering Under Power course and I offered it in the nicest mild mannered way possible. I even used third party sales technique so that it would not be an affront to him personally like “You know it looks like your crew could use a few tips – look this course over for free and if it’s appropriate we can sort something out for them”. Till now I have never seen him sign into our system. This guy is going to continue to embarrass himself (albeit unknowingly) and endanger his boat his crew and others and there is going to be a lot of gel coat on harbor bottoms throughout the Caribbean. What went wrong? There was no plan!
So what does a good plan entail? It should involve a thorough preparation for the maneuver AND all other possible issues.
Miles out from the harbor, when you have plenty of time, use the local marina guidebook to study the harbor. Study the layout, the depths throughout, the tide height, the entrance, the approach buoys (are you IALA-A or IALA-B), the docks. Where is the customs office, water dock, fuel dock, grocery store and restaurants etc? Learn the harbor masters VHF channel if it is offered.
Discuss with the crew the needs for the boat and make a marina visitation plan – e.g. length of stay, who goes to the grocery store, who stays with the boat to help fuel-up water-up who takes out the trash yakety yak. Are we staying for lunch etc.
Side note: You are the facilitator of the crew having a good time on THEIR vacation – you are NOT the boat nazi with a need for an ego stroke. People follow a good leader and a good plan. See our Bareboat Charter Course on being a good leader.
Call the harbor master on VHF and announce your desire and plans – e.g. Would like to check into customs, visit the fuel and water dock, then dock up for 3 hour stay. Listen to the harbor masters instructions.
Often times you don’t have the luxury of a nice friendly harbor master to give easy instructions and you have to make it up. But at least you are armed with a previously studied layout of the harbor.
Discuss a docking plan with the crew. This involves lines and fenders. It’s important to get lines tied on both sides of the boat as a contingency plan. The last thing you want is a line scramble at the last minute in a tight windy marina with a flustered crew who tend to tie bad knots whilst in a panic. Use long lines as dock lines – obvious, see below.
Fenders – the crew needs to know the appropriate fender knot (usually a clove hitch). Before you get to the dock, you don’t know the height of the dock relative to the boat so the fenders will need to be adjusted before the final “kiss”. Or it’s even possible that they may need to be moved to the other side at the last minute. There should be at least one (or two) roving fender with a crew member assigned to manage it. A roving fender is a loose fender with a line to be used should there be close quarters, the fender can be used to protect both boats. BIG POINT – make sure all crew (including kids who are desperate at all times to help) that arms and legs are NOT to be used to push the boat away from other boats or docks. A boat-boat crunch is better that a boat-arm-boat crunch.
Appoint crew members to each dock station, forward and aft. Ensure those crew members know how to coil and throw a line – obvious but not many people know how to properly and effectively do this. As a docking helms person, you cringe when you need that line ashore and you see it thrown poorly missing the mark. These skills are taught as a game whilst under sail out in the ocean.
Appoint an able bodied person to step ashore and take the lines. Explain the order of tying off. They need to know that trying to hold the boat against the wind is not possible. If you’re coming in forwards then usually you want the forward line tied first to a dock cleat aft of the bow. This help stop the boat and can save you from exchanging $100 for gel coat repairs to the forward boat. Thus explain this carefully and clearly. “The first thing to do when you get off is to catch the forward line and get it cleated as fast as possible to the dock at a position backward from the bow of the boat to stop the boat moving forward. Then get the aft line cleated. Don’t worry too much about getting it prefect just get them cleated. We can all tighten them up later but the priority is to get the boat cleated.”
Each docking maneuver requires a different plan. For example a Mediterranean mooring requires the boat back up to the dock. Different wind directions and force require a different order of things. The important thing to do is have a plan and have the crew understand the plan.
In your minds eye, visualize the whole maneuver way prior to starting it when you have no distractions. Think about each crew members abilities, the wind, current, what could go wrong. Visualize the lines being thrown and everything. Try to predict any weaknesses through your visualization.
So what happened with my docking maneuver yesterday?
I’m going to admit it. My plan had a flaw in it, and I initially failed, but I survived. The flaw was that I did not have long enough dock-lines. Being by myself, I needed to get off the boat with both forward and aft dock lines in hand so that I could control both ends of the boat at the same time.
Here’s how it worked the second time – successfully. Away from the dock I cleated a long forward line and brought it back (outside of everything) to the cockpit. I cleated a long aft line and coiled it next to the forward line. I motored the boat at 45 degrees towards the dock at a place at where I wanted the stern to end up. About 5 feet out, I turned the boat sideways to the dock and engaged reverse to stop the boat. This bought the boat side to the dock nicely but I still had the wind to contend with blowing me away from the dock. The reason for the 45 degree point is that you get some dock-ways momentum which gets your final position closer to the dock. If you come in flat and parallel to the dock, by the time you get to your stopping position, you’ll always be too far away to step off because of the wind. After stopping, moving quickly, I stepped out of the cockpit with both forward and aft lines in hand. I stepped off the boat and went forward to cleat the front of the boat. The long aft line allowed me to keep the aft line in hand whilst I quickly cleated the forward line. By this time the stern had blown away a little but not much. I ran back and cleated the aft. I was able to just pull the stern around. Had the wind been higher or the boat bigger I would have been able to use a spring technique shown in the animation to bring in the stern with the engine. That’s why I put on the forward line first.
Pretty simple you might say but I wanted to point out that having a plan makes success. My first pretty poorly planned maneuver failed me. It came from having the luxury of a crew, once one variable changed the viable planned became a failure. I’d failed to visualize the whole maneuver. I’d not visualized how I would prevent the stern of the boat being blown downwind.
Docking is where ALL the damage happens. Become an excellent docker. Our Maneuvering Under Power course is probably the best course in the world on teaching how to effectively dock a boat.
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The Rule of Twelves Tide Plot Curve
Here is a tide curve plot for any tides that follow the rule of twelves (note that none do exactly but it can be a decent rough approximation for some semi-diurnal locations).
Tap on the image and you can download a PDF that you can print out, laminate and keep on your boat with erasable markers.
A rule of twelves tide plot
If you are going to use this you had better make sure that the tide at the location of interest actually approximates this curve. Too many sailing instructors and sailing associations teach that tides follow the rule of twelves. They DO NOT. It can be a decent approximation in some circumstances. You are far better off to use an actual plot for that location using real data.
Below are some good example problems with solutions to follow so that you understand exactly how to use a tide curve. The QR scan code will lead you to these problems as well. Thus, if you forget and you are on your boat, just scan the QR code with your mobile phone and the example problem will show. A QR code scanner is being embedded into the new NauticEd Sailing App .