Docking a boat can be tricky. Docking a boat in windy weather can be real tricky. Docking a boat that is 10 feet to big for the slip in windy weather…well, got see what went wrong with that yesterday.
I don’t profess to be very good at docking a boat. Getting it safely in and out of slip, dealing with currents, winds, people laughing at you and shouting stuff, takes some practice. It’s especially nerve racking when you are dealing with and in and around other boats that are way more expensive than what you can afford to replace. Which is why I have a very small boat and rarely take it anywhere. For others, there are times when you have to move.
I’m currently on the end of a tee dock. That means I have the dock on one side, and the channel on the other through which all other boats must pass to get in and out. It can get a little choppy sometimes when boaters don’t pay attention to their wakes or where they are going, and there has been a near miss or two, but overall, I’m happy where the Free Spirit is currently tied up. Inside are regular slips with docks on three sides, a large wooden piling, and lots of cleats to tie off too. There are also boats directly beside each other in such an arrangement. The slips beside me are built to hold up to a 30′ vessel with a beam, that is the width, no more than 12′. The boat that came in yesterday was about 38 ft long, and 11 feet wide. The slip he was coming into was right across the dock from me. It was a tight squeeze and not without some excitement.
The boat came in and had to wait as a dinghy needed to be moved out of the way. It was windy and the tide was coming in. The guy and his mate pulled up to the fuel dock to wait until the dinghy was moved. The mate did not show any indication that he knew what the hell he was doing. Finally, with the dinghy out of the way, the mate remained on the dock whilst the captain maneuvered his large and ungainly sport fisherman that sat real high in the water over to the slip. Being such a tall boat the wind caught it and blew him around a bit as he vainly tried to keep the vessel under control. He got up to the slip but the mate neglected to grab a bow line and while the captain left the helm to get said line, the boat began drifting backwards along the line of other, very expensive boats moored in other slips.
He realized he was in trouble when the stern was almost ready to hit the dock and managed to throw the engine into gear but by then it was too late. The prow of the last boat in the line with a large anchor was not going to move. His boat, now at the mercy of the wind and moving forward slid into the prow and the anchor…at window level. The boat again drifted backwards with the prow and anchor now sticking through the open window into the cabin. As the boat went backwards the prow took out the window and most of the frame, spreading broken safety glass all over the place. The anchor managed to get entangled with one of the lines. I was at the other end of the dock on a neighbor’s boat with a boathook to grab lines and keep him from colliding with anyone else. They finally managed to get the boats untangled and he made another try overshooting the dock and heading straight for…you guessed it, my boat.
At least this time disaster was averted, although a collision would have solved a lot of issues for me, provided I could have evacuated the cats out before the boat sank. But the clueless mate finally got a clue and kept the boats from colliding. With four of us working the lines, we finally managed to squeeze the damn thing into the slip and tie it off. He went in bow first, not the best idea but considering the conditions, take what you can get. The prow on his boat sticks out over the dock by a few feet and at head level and I know it’s just a matter of time before somebody walks into it. If it happens to be me, I will cut every fucking line on that scow and send it adrift. One other neighbor, who frequently comes back drunk every night will probably run into it. I tried to explain to the guy but he was too pissed off about the window to care. He’ll care when somebody bangs their head on it. In the meantime, the ass end of his boat is sticking out quite a ways into the side channel. The whole set up is just a disaster in waiting. And since the boat is a deep sea fishing boat, I suspect this scenario will play itself out again.
As I said, I don’t profess to be able to dock a boat any better than this guy did. But I do know my limitations. He is in a slip that is way too small for the size boat he has, his mate had no clue as to what to do, and it was windy and in a tight spot. I’ve seen some captain slip their boats into little slips like they were parallel parking a small car. Others had to have 10 people to help. This guy is going to make everyone on the dock nervous every time he goes out and comes back in. Docking a boat, any boat takes some skill and practice. Any number of things can throw you off course and into disaster. By the way, the prow on the other boat got scratched a bit but no other damage. But I never saw the guy try to find out who owned the boat nor report it to the marina. The owners are up north but the guy who takes care of the boat lives next door.
Driving a car is one thing. A boat, is very different. Winds, currents, tides, other boats, all conspire to make things interesting. If you are going to get into boating, take some time and learn the basics like how to maneuver in tight places and how to dock. Learn how to use docking lines and always be aware of the other, more expensive boats around you, even the cheap crappy ones. Boat owners don’t take kindly to collisions and tend to get right damn irritable when their vessels are struck by a clueless operator and go to the bottom. At least for the time, this guy got off easy. He’ll be paying to replace an expensive window and frame, but at least nobody was hurt.
I just hope I’m around when he goes out and comes back. So I at least have time to grab the cats and abandon ship.