Docking a Boat Secrets – How to Undock Your Boat Like a Pro

Imagine that your small cruising boat lies moored between two million dollar yachts, with only 12″ to spare at the bow and stern? You need to undock your boat in a high, gusty wind blowing onto the dock. It’s your call, skipper! Use the same principals for undocking as you would for docking a boat with these secrets from the pros.

Determine the stronger element direction

Decide on which element will be stronger–wind or current. Pick which of these four situations match your situation. Let’s say you are tied up in a marina with a stronger wind than current. Is the wind blowing…

* off the dock?

* onto the dock?

* from ahead of the boat?

* from astern of the boat?

Based on your answer, follow one of these methods to undock your boat:

* Wind (or current) off the dock or from ahead

1. Make up a long spring line equal to 1 1/2 times the total length of your cruising boat. Attach one end of the spring to a cleat on the quarter (aft corner).

2. Lead the bitter end to a forward marina dock cleat or piling. Loop it around the dock fitting, bring it back to boat, and cleat it off to the quarter cleat.

3. Start your engine. Assign one person to use a roving fender at the stern to protect the boat. Place your wheel or sailboat tiller amidships (in the center).

4. Cast off all lines except the forward quarter spring line. Shift the engine clutch astern at idle speed. Keep tension on the quarter spring and watch the bow move away from the dock.

5. Wait for the bow to clear the vessel ahead. Take the engine out of gear just long enough to ease tension on the quarter spring line. Remove the spring from the cleat and pull it aboard fast. As soon as it’s aboard, shift the engine clutch ahead at idle speed to move out into the channel.

* Wind (or current) onto the dock or from astern

1. Make up a long spring line equal to 1 1/2 times the total length of your cruising boat. Attach one end to a boat cleat between the bow and beam.

2. Lead the bitter to an aft dock cleat or piling. Loop it around the dock fitting, bring it back to boat, and cleat it off to the bow spring cleat.

3. Start your engine. Assign one person to use a roving fender at the bow to cushion the boat. Turn your wheel toward the dock. Push a sailboat tiller away from the dock. Keep the rudder in this position throughout the maneuver.

4. Cast off all lines except the bow spring line. Shift the engine clutch ahead at idle speed. Keep tension on the bow spring. Turn so that you can watch the stern move away from the dock.

5. Wait for the stern to clear the vessel astern. Take the engine out of gear just long enough to ease tension on the bow spring. Remove the spring line from the cleat and pull it aboard fast. As soon as it’s aboard, clutch the engine astern at idle speed to back clear of the moored yachts and into the channel.

Success in undocking or docking a boat depends on good preparation, positive boat control, and crystal clear communications. Use these tips and you will be undocking your small cruising boat like a pro in no time!

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