Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Simple Lessons I've Learned

By Kerry Christianson

So last week we got away from our home dock and went wandering a bit.  We stayed on a friend's mooring buoy one night, but otherwise chose to stay in marinas, including Bell Harbor, Port Ludlow, and Blake Island.  We had great experiences in all three, but as I watched other boaters coming and going around us, I realized I have learned lessons that seem obvious to me now, but somehow aren't always practiced by others.

When I was on my trip a couple of years ago with Linda Lewis from Blind Channel to Anacortes on her 45 foot trawler, she taught me many things about safe practices arriving at and leaving from a dock.  One thing she taught is that the person handling the lines should never have to "jump" off the boat.  The person at the helm should be able to get the boat close enough for the line handler to step off the boat safely.  Then, once I'm off, I can starting tying up the boat based on wind, current, etc., as the Skipper and I have discussed beforehand.  It can be fun to experiment with tying down lines in such a way that allows the skipper to use the line(s) to snug the boat into the slip.  Then once you're secured well enough, you both can adjust and add lines as needed to get fully settled in.

Last Sunday, as I made my way back from the shower in Port Ludlow, I noticed a large powerboat had its engine on and the Skipper was taking his place at the helm.  As I passed their finger pier, I noticed the bow line was off and thrown up onto the boat, and two women were still on the dock.  One was starting to climb aboard, and the other was finishing up by removing the remaining two dock lines from the cleats.  Meanwhile the Skipper shouts that everyone should be aboard, once, twice, and three times before she was able to actually get on board.  The wind was blowing the boat (gently) off the dock and she just about tripped on a cleat as she headed for the boat ladder to climb aboard.  Internally I just shook my head.  This is such an easy thing to avoid.

When preparing to leave the dock, remove all additional dock lines that aren't needed to hold the boat steady for the last few minutes while you prepare to depart.  Then the two (or three) lines that are still attached (usually bow and stern) should be run from the boat, down to the dock cleat or bull rail and *back* to the boat.  This allows for all crew to be on board the boat before leaving.  Now the Skipper and crew will determine which line to release first, based on current and wind conditions.  Once that line has been pulled back into the boat, proceed to the final line to bring it aboard also.  No one needs to be standing on the dock to release the lines!  Easy, huh?  After that I stand at the ready with a boat hook, just in case.  Once we're safely out of the dock area, I start putting away fenders and lines.  I wish more people would think through these things - it makes it all safer and easier for everyone.  Thank you Linda, for being my teacher - hopefully I'll be able to pass along a few pearls of your wisdom.