Email This Page to a FriendOutboard Powerboat Handling, Part 1 – How to Dock A Boat
August 29, 2014
Learn how to dock a boat from a veteran. Avoid the mishaps and dock in style with this safe and reliable docking method. Don’t forget dock lines and fenders!
You can see more about ABACO in the video Brilliant Designs - Small Power Boats.
With larger outboards like ABACO's 115 HP Yamaha 4 stroke, hydraulic steering makes maneuvering easy- especially when paired with a good wheel and a spinner (a.k.a. PowerKnob). Ben thinks the comfort grip steering wheel from Edson Marine is great.
ABACO is a 20' outboard runabout designed and built by Willard Albury on Man-O-War Cay. Plans for ABACO have been drawn up by Off Center Harbor Guide Doug Hylan and are available from The WoodenBoat Store.
– [Narrator] Boats with outboard engines are great. They’re agile, easy to work on and fun to operate. Knowing how to handle them is the difference between a good day on the water and an insurance claim. We wanted to get some pointers from someone with a lifetime of hands-on experience, so we went to Off Center Harbor co-founder Ben Mendlowitz. Ben has been maneuvering outboards through mooring fields, marinas, and rocky coastlines for over 30-years, while shooting photos of the finest boats in the world for magazines, books and his calender of wooden boats. In this series, Ben will show us how to handle our boats safely and gracefully under power.
– Yeah, so you know one of the things that we all do with these boats is come and go from a deck, if you get fuel, you’re coming up to a fuel dock or a float of some kind, pickin’ up people at a dock. And there’s a sort of classic way to do it which is coming on, bough in a little bit and then kicking the stern around. Now the wind is side on to the dock, so not sure what the current’s gonna do to me, but I know the wind element anyway will push me onto the dock, so I don’t wanna come in too tight because then I’ll be right on the dock. So, start my turn maybe a little bit earlier out here a little bit. It’s a nice big fender on this dock, so if we do mess up it’s not gonna be a disaster. So, you don’t need to be goin’ too fast, in at a little angle like that, then spin the engine hard over to starboard and give yourself some reverse and pull the stern in just like that. And here we are align parallel to dock. That’s the safe way to do it. Don’t be deceived by some people who come in really fast and give it a good shot of reverse. It’s a technique that really experienced boaters will use, but there are two things you have to understand, they have incredible confidence that they’re gonna get reverse when they ask for it and if there’s any chance at all that your engine’s gonna stall, you’re gonna be in big trouble. The other thing is they have a huge amount of experience, you’ll see lobstermen do it. They’re doing it every day, 10 times a day. But it sure makes me nervous ’cause I’ve seen this engine not, you know, stall on the way from forward to reverse and then you’re in big trouble, but we’ll see if I can demonstrate it without hittin’ too hard. So that’s a little faster version of the same maneuver. But again, just because you see people do that, don’t think that’s necessarily the proper way. It takes a lot of experience and practice. We’re gonna come up to a dock and you know, stay for a few minutes, so we probably wanna tie up and just maybe a two-line tie up system, no spring lines required I don’t think here. So I’m gonna rig a bow line. These great rugged windshields are good for holdin’ on when you have to climb forward. If I know I’m gonna be coming to a dock, I’ll rig a bow line and the smart thing to do is don’t leave it up on deck, but carry it around, lay it around the windshield and make sure it’s not in the water ’cause you don’t want it to end up in your prop. But, right there, it’ll be easy at hand. This dock has got pretty good fenders, but I think it’s good practice to put your fender on as well. And, this will give you a little more protection. So I usually rig a fender about here, just above the water. So we got a stern line, we got a bow line ready to go and we’ve got a fender. So I’m gonna bring her back in to our float. The fender now the bow’s startin’ to pull off, but no problem I can grab the bow line, grab my stern line right here and have both lines to pull now. If the wind was blowing off shore, I’d have control of the boat. I usually like to tie the stern in pretty tight. Since I’m using a single fender system, she’ll ride right there on this fender and then not too tight on the bow line. You know, one of the most common problems you have when coming to a dock is throwing a line to an inexperienced person and having them pulling the bow in too tightly. You don’t want that bow line ever to be tightened up until you’re ready to secure the boat. So I’d rather handle the lines myself unless I really know who’s on the dock. You know, we’re not gonna be here overnight, we’re just here for get some gas or pick up some people, so we don’t need to tie her off for the big hurricane or anything, we just need to tie her so she’ll be secure for 10 or 15 minutes. I’m gonna snug this up just a little bit. I’ve got a good half oval here, so I don’t have to worry about this corner of the boat coming in and hitting the dock. So with a tight stern line, it’s actually also acting as a spring line. It’s preventing it from going back very far, you know, maybe half a foot or a foot. Then she just takes up right tight or going forward, it’s also springin’ her, so she can’t go too far forward, so it’s all happening with this stern line here and my bow line I’m leaving pretty loose. The bow line is just holding the boat in position parallel to the dock, so that single fender does its job. When you leave the dock, it’s kind of the opposite order of things. I always take the bow line off first, even if there’s an off shore wind, the worst that can happen is the bow will blow off a little bit and you kind of want it to blow off because you’re headin’ off. So take the bow line off, I’ll reach in and usually start the engine up and then take my stern line off. And with a good push off. And make sure you get all your lines inboard, so nothing’s gonna drag in the water and foul your prop. And certainly don’t forget your fender, ’cause once you’re clear of the dock you don’t need your fender anymore, you wanna get it inboard. Nothing says you don’t know what you’re doing like driving around with the fenders hanging over the side.
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