Boat Parking

I may have mentioned previously that when we bought ‘Imi Loa we had zero “big” boat experience (we had been sailing a 14 foot Javelin for a few months but had no other boating experience) so we were completely new to boat handling, docking, etc. Although logically I know driving a boat is different from driving a car I somehow still expect it to be a similar experience. Needless to say it is not similar and can be very stressful. I think handling a boat is a little like driving in snow (with bald tires): you can’t make any quick changes in speed or direction, you have to plan maneuvers well ahead of time, the back of the car/boat tends to slide around curves instead of tracking with the front, and it always seems like you are on the verge of losing control.

The slip at our previous marina was tricky to get in and out of. There was a strong current perpendicular to the slip with a long dock behind the slip creating a concourse. To get into the slip required motoring upstream just past our slip, then turning across the current with enough speed to maintain forward progress while the current pulled the boat downstream. The amount of speed necessary to overcome the current meant it was difficult to approach the slip no faster than we wanted to hit it 🙂

Backing out of the slip was more interesting. As soon as the stern was out in the current it would get pulled downstream (opposite the direction we needed it to go), our prop walk also tended to push the stern downstream. The solution we came up with was to use a couple lines to control the boat as we backed out. We ran a floating line (about 75 feet long) from the stern cleat around the aftmost cleat at the upstream side of the slip and back to a cockpit winch.  Devon would keep tension on this line as we reversed out of the slip, thus pivoting the boat around the cleat on the dock and pulling the stern upstream. We ran another line between the cleats on the upstream finger of our slip, on this line was a double block like this one:

A third line ran from the bow cleat, through the block and back to the bow. I would stand on the bow holding this line to prevent the bow from drifting too far downstream (if we got too angled in the slip our bobstay would rub the edge of the slip and our bowsprit came pretty close to our neighbor).

As we backed out the block would slide along the line on the finger while I controlled bow drift by pulling in or letting out the bow line. Once the bow was clear of the slip I would walk back to the cockpit and retrieve the floating line while Devon steered the boat out of the marina.

Our new marina is much easier – we just back in 🙂

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