So, being as though my MOCC certification test is this week I felt as though I should do this blog as a review for myself and just because I think that it would be fun. If and WHEN I pass the certification test, I'll be certified within the National Park Service to operate a vessel on my own. Big things.
First thing I would say about docking a boat is that it is all about momentum, wind direction, and wind velocity or speed. It makes a huge difference how much momentum you have when you are approaching a dock. Because if you have too much, you'll end up hitting the dock and end up chipping a piece off of the boat. But, if you have too little, you'll be too far from the dock to properly secure your vessel and tie your lines.
Now, lets go over wind direction. The direction that the wind is going at the time of you docking your boat can either be the greatest God sent gift to you or it can act as the spawn of the devil himself. If the wind is blowing to the dock, that is a very good thing. The reason for that is that you honestly don't have to do any work. You don't need any throttle so long as you are steering the boat correctly. All you have do is make sure that the boat is perpendicular to the dock and secure the lines once you get close enough. Let the wind do the work for you. If you don't straighten the boat out while the wind is blowing you into the dock, you'll eventually end up hitting the dock. That's a no no.
Now, the opposite can happen as well. The wind will have it's days where it doesn't want to cooperate and blow you away from the dock. I've had the fortune this summer that my supervisor was a Captain for years so he has a lot of tips and tricks that he taught me. So a few things you want to do if you are trying to dock with the wind against you. If you are operating a vessel with two engines, you always want to have one of them in gear. The reason for this is because you always want to have control over your vessel. If the engines are in neutral, there is nothing controlling the boat but the wind that is going to blow you away from your objective. If you are trying to dock on your port side, keep the port engine in gear. If you are trying to dock on your starboard side, leave your starboard engine in gear when approaching the dock. If it is just a single engine vessel, then obviously leave the engine in gear when approaching the dock. Know where the wind is coming from and then adjust accordingly. This is something I still have some challenges doing and it only gets better through doing it repetitively.
Wind speed is also something to pay attention too. Wind speed will tell you how much throttle you need or don't need when approaching the dock. Light winds won't affect you. Heavy winds will affect you.When you drive a car on land you are able to stop when you want because of the brakes. When operating a boat, you don't have that luxury. You are on water so it is imperative to be a good judge of how much momentum you need to get close enough, how much throttle you think is necessary based on your current momentum and proximity to the dock, and steering the boat correctly for positioning in order to properly stop it. I thought it was so complicated until I got it. Like everything else, once you get the basics down, you just need to touch up a few things for more efficiency.