Backing into a slip is indeed an art form. But once you learn it you’ll be proud of it and your crew will be impressed.
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Here is a situation that comes up when needing to make a tight turn into the slip. During the turn, your boat gathers angular momentum. Meaning once it starts the turn it wants to continue the turn and it will ding you into the slip sides, and at a minimum, chip your gorgeous gel coat and develop gnarly scratches.
Watch the animation below.
The best way to experience this is to take the NauticEd Maneuvering Under Power course. It leads you through dozens of real exercises on the water so that you can gain experience perfectly maneuvering your boat.
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Docking a boat on to an end-tie or tee head with a strong wind blowing you off requires some knowledge on how to do it and it’s one of those things that you SHOULD practice for WHEN the time comes.
Trying to just sidle up along side like you might do in a no wind condition or where wind is blowing you on to the dock is just not going to work.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways of doing it.
(1) Motoring forward up to the tee head directly into the wind.
Have dock lines prepared and cleated to the forward and aft dock side of the boat.
NOTE: Make sure that the dock lines are run outwards underneath the life lines first then back onboard over the top of the line lines. This ensures that when the line is deployed, it will be clear of the life lines. Since this is usually a crew member doing this, it pays to physically show the crew member when you are out away from the marina if you’re not sure they will do it correctly. Running them inboard and over the lifelines can create a huge havoc at the wrong and crucial time.
Approach the tee head near perpendicular but at an angle so that it makes it as simple as possible for the crew member to step off the boat as far forward as possible. As you reach the tee head the crew member will have to step off the boat and onto the dock. This requires a little dexterity on the crew member’s behalf and good throttle work on your behalf to not hit the dock yet get the crew member close enough with out jumping. Since you’re headed directly almost into wind, you’ll have afforded some time with the bow at the dock so that the crew member can take their time carefully stepping off the boat and onto the dock.
The crew member now cleats the dock line to the dock cleat in the direction of where the aft of the boat will sit using about ¼ of the boat length of line between the two cleats.
Now comes your part. Turn the wheel all the way to the stops to the non-dockside side of the boat (tiller to dockside side) and engage forward gear. This creates a sideways force on the rudder and will push the stern of the boat to the dock. Adjust the throttle to over come the windage force on the boat.
DOCKING A SAILBOAT INTO THE WIND
(2) Motoring in reverse up to the tee head directly into the wind.
This method works especially well when the boat has a swim platform and walk through transom.
As above, have dock lines prepared. Then back up to the tee head.
NOTE: You’ll learn in the NauticEd Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power online sailing course that a boat’s stern facing the wind is an extremely stable position and you will not get bullied around by the wind. You’ll also learn that backing into the wind is extremely easy. If you haven’t already, take the NauticEd Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power online sailing course.
The crew member steps off the boat holding the aft dock line when the stern is close enough and cleats the dock line to a dock cleat that lies in a direction more aft of the boat in its final resting position. Again about ¼ of the boat length of dock line should be allowed between the aft cleat and dock cleat.
Turn the wheel all the way to the stops towards the dock (tiller pointing away) and engage forward. This will swing the bow of the boat in towards the dock against the wind. Another crew member can toss the forward dock line to the crew member on the dock to aid. Or if the 1st crew member is able they should take a long forward dock line with them when they stepped off the boat originally.
DOCKING A SAILBOAT INTO THE WIND
Either of these methods can get you docked safely. And, practiced, a day skipper could do all the above solo.
Practice both of these a few times and when the real moment comes, you’ll be looking like a pro. Rather than a…
This docking a sailing boat tip was written by Grant Headifen , Director of NauticEd. NauticEd offers an excellent Maneuvering a Sailboat Under Power online sailing course as well as many courses on how to sail a boat.