Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Boat Docking For Dummies Guide

Disclaimer: You, yourself, are not a dummy. Know that.

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.

So finally, after all the things to pay attention too, here is how you dock a boat. First and foremost, when you are coming into the dock, you always want to make sure your fenders are out. The three fenders on a boat are usually located near the stern, middle, and bow points of your vessel. Fenders are for not making direct contact between your vessel and the dock.

Secondly, you'll want to approach the dock at an idle speed. An idle speed being the boat being in gear but, there is no throttle being used. Idle speed being enough to propel you forward but not revving the engine. You'll essentially want to float to the dock so when it comes time to reverse it, you won't have to counteract the momentum you have of going forward so much.

Third, when you get about 10 feet from the dock, you need to make neutral because you already have momentum propelling you forward and at this point will have no need for the engine to be in gear. After you make neutral, start to steer away from the dock. You are positioning the boat at this point to be perpendicular to the dock. So before steering, you were just floating to the dock with the bow of the boat forward facing the dock. You are now floating to the dock with the fenders facing it using the momentum .The bow, after steering it properly, should be right next to the dock rather than facing it.

Once you get about 5 feet or a little less from the dock, put one engine in reverse and steer the boat toward the dock. Steering the boat toward the dock will put the stern of the boat next to the dock. However, putting the stern toward the dock would mean the bow of the boat is going away from the dock so watch how much throttle is being used when you are reversing the boat. REMEMBER. It is all about momentum. You are using the throttle in reverse to propel the stern to the dock but, it isn't necessary to keep it in throttle for long because the water will carry you to where you want to be. Being a good judge of how much throttle you need or don't need is a huge part of docking.

After you position the boat right, you need to move swiftly to tie up your vessel especially if the wind is blowing against you. I recommend to tie the stern first since that is whats closest to the center console. Once that is tied, you can use the throttle to bring the bow back to the dock if it drifts away. Next, tie your bow lines then you have successfully docked a boat.

After that just some minor things to take care of. Turn the boat off and raise the engines out of the water. Record the mileage, gas, and oil levels. Remove the kill switch. Turn off the batteries. 

Hope everyone enjoyed this boring blog with no pictures at all. Adrian, let me know if I missed anything :)

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