Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Docking Like A Pro When You're Not

 For a new boater, docking is perhaps the most stressful part of a day on the water. Time and again we see boaters struggle with control of their boat as they put on a show for bystanders and boaters alike. But it doesn't need to be that way!

The first thing to do is consider the environment around the dock you are approaching. You can do this before you get there. You absolutely don't want to be repositioning fenders and dock lines as you are on the final approach to your mooring point. 

"Prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance." Expand your time available for the docking maneuver by thinking ahead!

Is there a tide running? (crab trap floats?) Is the wind blowing? (flags?) Which of these two forces is having the greatest effect on your vessel? If you know how your destination dock is oriented you can plan to put your fenders and lines on the side that allows you to make your approach INTO the current or wind, whichever is stronger. It's a very good practice to stop your boat well away from the dock, pointed at it. Observe what the wind and current are doing to you. Now verify or place your fenders and lines.

Current isn't something to be afraid of, it's something to work with. If you are working against a current as you approach a dock, it's very easy to get rid of headway; just go to neutral with your shifter! Come to think of it, when you are approaching a dock, neutral is your friend. Only use as much time in gear as absolutely needed to maintain control of the boat.

Think of balancing a baseball bat that is standing upright on your palm; as long as you keep your hand under the bat, you can do it. If you let the bat get too far off-center, it's going to fall. When you have your boat's bow into a strong current, the current is like the gravity that works on the bat, and the motor is like your palm that must stay under the bat. Don't let it get away from you. Easy with the power and steering...

Never make an approach to a corner of a dock! (read that again!) Your fenders will protect the side of your boat as you make contact with a flat dock face. But a corner will hole your boat!

One sure sign of a boater in a panic is loud bursts of full power near a dock. This often ends badly. Think ahead, take the easiest option available and take your time. If you don't like how the maneuver is going, break off the approach, go away from the dock, and collect yourself. Relax, calm down, and try it again. Slow and steady, friend!

Keep your dock lines clear of knots and snags. You may need that line to slide
smoothly from around the horn of a cleat someday.


If the wind is blowing onto the dock, and you have a spot to go to on the outer face, all you need to do is make your approach slowly and under control (use short pulses of power by putting the motor just in gear for a couple of seconds, then back to neutral). You can make a shallow angle approach or even an approach parallel to the dock. When you are abeam your spot, stop and let the wind do the work of moving you sideways.

If a strong wind is blowing OFF the dock, make your approach angle steeper. Position an assistant near the bow (or ask for help on the dock) to place a bow line around a cleat. (Keep fingers from between cleat and line). With the front of the boat attached to the dock, turn the wheel toward the dock and place the engine just in reverse (minimal power). The engine will pull the rear of the boat into the dock. The fenders will cushion the contact. And you can then fasten a stern line to a cleat. 

Warn your passengers to keep feet and hands inside the boat during docking. Fiberglass is cheaper than fingers. They should stay seated and still while you are working the boat to the dock. 

Make sure that boat is secured to the dock at both ends and protected by fenders before leaving. You might need to adjust lines more than once. If you need to move the fenders, do so. Take the time to do this right. Make it look like a pro did it!



Wrong!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Pie of Knowledge


 With the exception of a few years early on, my entire adult working life has been focused on moving people and cargo from one place to another. I spent 12 years flying the massive CH- and MH-47 Chinook Helicopter, carrying soldiers on the inside and 18000-pound howitzers slung underneath. 

In Honduras, I took doctors and veterinarians on "MEDRETS" to assist rural villages located far from any modern anything. I flew tons upon tons food to starving people in the interior. In Liberia, I flew men, women, and children who were at risk of being brutally murdered to safety.

At the end of my military career, I flew special forces operators who drove their inflatable boats straight into the back of my helicopter while we hovered with our cabin partially submerged. 

As an avid boater, it was only natural that I would come to move people by boat. I mean, what a great place to work! Mike Neal, the owner of Bull River Cruises, gave me my break into commercial boating and has counseled me every step of the way. He also recently hooked me up with one of the greatest adventures of my life, an eleven-day boating marathon that had us working on the water from first light to twilight. It was epic.

A production company is in town filming the "Devotion" movie. As much of this film involves aircraft flying over water, safety boats were needed in case an aircraft was forced to ditch. Divers stood on standby, ready to go into the water and extract pilots. They did this on a boat that I captained. Fun? You betcha.

Offshore and on duty. Ready to respond. Captain Mike Neal.

Savannah Firefighter, USCG officer, and rescue-diver Scott
speaks with stunt-man and rescue-diver David as we depart a
new Savannah Boathouse Marina in the 28'.

I put this route into the 28's SIMRAD EVO3 in order to help
with exiting the Wilmington River. There are numerous bars
and breakers off our barrier islands, and "you must follow a
channel or you risk losing the boat." (Cpt. Scott) Our track
lines tell a story.

Our boat for this multi-day lifeguard mission was the 28' NauticStar owned by Tommy McCarthy and Savannah's Freedom Boat Club. A special lease agreement was reached with the understanding that I would operate the boat. #winning

I ran her 829 miles and burned 457 gallons in 11 days.
I'd start again tomorrow.

Good Morning!



Our days started early and ended late, and often I ran home solo, alone with my thoughts but certainly not lonely. The 28' proved herself to be a fine friend. The 600 horses helped.


Rescue divers have a lot of gear. And David brought the snacks too.
I had my first ever "Clif Bar" but not my last.
Movie people don't go hungry.

Wyatt; an actor, stunt-man, former USCG member, and current
rescue diver. He was a constant source of laughter and fun, as indicated
by the look on Mike's face. Hey, I thought it was funny!


So did Wyatt...


One thing about boating; the more you do it, the more you learn. Scott mentioned something he has become aware of as a platform instructor for both fire-service-related and maritime-related topics. 

"If you consider knowledge as a pie, there's a little sliver that constitutes what you know. Then there's another little slice that's the stuff you know you don't know. But the vast majority of that pie-of-knowledge? That's all the stuff that you are simply unaware of. You don't even know all the stuff you don't know. So never stop digging and learning." (Captain Scott Boyd)

Ignorance is no excuse for damaging equipment or hurting someone. If you don't know what you are doing on the water, don't do it. Ask for help. If you don't know how to dock a boat, get some instruction. The fact that the government lets you take to the water without a clue is no reason to do this. Take a class (the one from Boat US is F.R.E.E.). Click here to see for yourself.




As for me, I'm 64 years old and have been boating my whole life. I know a lot about operating a boat. And then again I don't know crap. So I took full advantage of the experience around me on those eleven days and asked a thousand questions; continuously eating from the pie of knowledge.

"Clutch In!"





It Was Almost a Disaster!

I was conducting new boater training yesterday for a couple of young guys, and I wanted to show them the importance of understanding the dif...