Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sailboat/Yacht Docking Made Easy with New Boathook

The safest place for any 'offshore' cruising sailor to be is exactly that - offshore! and as far from land as possible - fifty nautical miles from land as a minimum.

From here, the closer he sails to land the rate of potential misfortunes rises exponentially for every nautical mile he closes the coast. Floating hazards, detritus, increased shipping, fishing vessels, steeper seaway, reefs, rocks, buoys, unpredictable winds and of course these days, one has to consider pirates.

Too much time pondering on these possibilities could influence the decision as to whether a sailor should put to sea at all! Of course, we know that with the right preparation and good seamanship practices, the majority of these hazards are well manageable and the cruiser can press on enjoying his voyage.

When he does make landfall he faces another raft of possible dangers to run aground on. I won't go into a whole list here, but one of the trickiest and possibly the most embarrassing maneouvres if not carried out with aplomb is mooring and docking.

How many times have we all chuckled at watching some other poor boat and crew make a hash of this exercise? accompanied with much arm waving and bellowing from the skipper on the helm, usually to no avail. Retrieving the situation, mooring or docking, as best they can, the crew finally straighten and glance around to see what audience they had. The onlookers generally applaud or turn away, getting on with what they were doing and with the thought running through their head, '........there but for the grace of God go I'

Watch the video for some humourous ( and painful) boarding and docking incidents:

Now, here is an extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' of a docking incident I had in a marina in Papeete, Tahiti:

'Curving in nicely, her feathering propeller reversing thrust and way coming off, she nudges up to the rubber buffers and comes to halt precisely in position. Docking is a strange procedure in that as the vessel comes to rest and kisses the berth (both to be achieved at the same moment), there is a period of a second or two when everything is perfect to tie up and secure the ship. Crew are at the ready, usually standing on the toe rail outside of the guidelines, with line in one hand and forward enough to hold onto a shroud with the other, so that as that moment arrives they are able to skip lightly down onto the dock and slip their line seamanlike around the handily placed cleats, and or bollards.

Timed correctly and carried out with precision, this is an impressive manoeuvre, both for land based onlookers and other boat crews alike. Aspired to by all crews, much attention is paid to get it right, there being only the one short window. This is the captains’ job, and her captain, conveniently overlooking that she is tutoring him, thinks he is pretty smart putting her right there and feeling rather smug about his skills. As illustrated in an earlier episode, false pride always comes before a fall. A puff of wind pushes out her bow just as Anglo crew steps down. Instead of landing lightly on the dock, his left foot, followed by his leg, torso and right leg keep on going down, starfish like, into the ever widening gap created by our little ships’ side now being a metre off the dock. His entry into the water, large framed as he is, compares favourably to a whale broaching. Plunging in with all limbs ahoo, accompanied with the massive splash and curses, makes for quite a show. Brought up short by the line in his hand, Anglo crew pops up directly with a startled expression, only to see the rest of the crew, and onlookers, staring down at him, no less shocked than he. No time to dally watching however, as now our little ship is lying at a forty five degree angle the wrong way across the berth. Fortunately, there is no boat in the other half. Anglo crew splutters toward the dock ladder and like a great sea lion hauls himself out, muttering, water cascading from his body, glistening in the sunlight. She quickly backs out, realigns, and noses in again for Sibling crew to heave the line to the now wetly waiting Anglo crew.

‘Mon dieu! how they carry on when I look the other way for one moment!’. Our little ship resolves to watch them constantly in future to avoid these childlike hitches and embarrassing moments.

Rapidly repairing the situation as they have, is largely due to the feathering propeller. Yachts are notorious for poor manoeuvrability when going astern. Fitting a feathering propeller mostly overcomes this deficiency. The moment she is put into reverse the blades of the propeller instantly feather in the other direction and bite into the water, pulling her astern with eighty five percent of forward thrust. This is mightily ahead in pulling power of a normal fixed blade or folding propeller, which are largely ineffectual, and take a long time for the vessel to respond.

In our minor calamity, she is quickly put into reverse, straightening up as she goes out about one boat length only, into forward gear and entering again straightaway, straight as an arrow – situation normal and dignity preserved – nothing worse than having to make several attempts!'

Extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise'.

The Swedish marine company Robship have launched a clever device they call 'Hook and Moor' which will make coming alongside and docking much easier. It comes in three lengths and ranges in price from €120 to €170.

Robship 'Hook and Moor' boathook 
 Watch this video to see how it can be used for hooking onto a mooring, dock rings and bollards:

Go to Robship's website for further details on this product and their full product range.

Image courtesy Robship and videos courtesy YouTube

You can read many further adventures whilst cruising in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website and all good ebook retailers, Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble etc. 



1 comment:

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