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Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out

Keelboat Docking - Part 3 - Planning a Bail-Out

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating.  This series of blogs is intended to give you a conceptual framework for doing it. With that framework and a lot of practice, you'll acquire this important skill.

For simplicity, we're talking about a "normal" upwind docking into a CSC slip, where the true wind is out of the West or South-West, but not too far South.

Here is a map of the Marina with the standard docking approach:

Berkeley Marina

And here's the blow-up of the turning basin and our docks, assuming a normal West or South-West wind:

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Launching and docking in an East wind

Launching and docking in an East wind

Winter is a time of interesting and fun winds.  We're pretty spoiled most of the year with wind pretty consistently out of the West/South-West.  In the Winter an East wind is fairly common.  When the wind is out of the East you cannot dock on the normal side of the dock with your main up, as it is now a downwind docking and you'll just run into it full speed (yes, skippers do this surprisingly often). 

For your first Winter sailing, this will be a new and unique experience.  Here are some tips for when the wind is blowing from the East:
 
For departure, after putting the boat in the water like normal, walk it all the way down the dock and push it around to the other side (by the pilings).
 
 dropping boat
 
You'll have to use your foot a lot to keep it from banging/scraping as the wind wants to push it into the dock.  Once it's around the other side you'll need to take the bow painter in your left hand and hug each piling so you can hand it off to your right hand so you can get the boat around them.  Tie the boat off and from there everything is normal, including the push-off/backwards sailing away from the dock.
 
For returning, if you're coming towards the dock and you're on a starboard tack, you won't be able to depower if you try to dock on the normal side, but you should be able to slow sail up to the pilings side.
 
docking boat
 
Check your slow sailing course and take a couple passes if you need to.  It's a new docking experience so nothing wrong with circling around a couple times until you feel like you've got it.  Bailing out of a docking when something doesn't feel right is a good show of seamanship, and if anyone on the bench makes fun of you for taking 3 tries to successfully dock feel free to throw them over the sea wall.
 
The other option for docking is to sail upwind, which would be past the Cal Adventures dock, towards the 3rd dock, drop the main, and sail jib alone back downwind.  Furl or blow the jib early to give the boat time to slow down (it will take longer to slow than you think when going downwind, even with no sails out) and you should easily and gently reach the dock.
 
Another option, if you get between the docks and realize the wind is wrong, is to dock on the West side of the Cal Adventures dock, drop your sails, and bare poles or go jib-alone over to our dock.  When single handing this may be easier than trying to drop the main while sailing.
 
As a general rule, regardless of the way the wind is blowing: If your main isn't luffing, abort the docking attempt and reevaluate the conditions.  Do not dock!
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Keelboat Docking - Part 2 - Space is Time

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating. This series of blogs is intended to give you a conceptual framework for doing it. With that framework and a lot of practice, you'll acquire this important skill.

For simplicity, we're talking about a "normal" upwind docking into a CSC slip, where the true wind is out of the West or South-West, but not too far South.

Here is a map of the south-east part of the Berkeley Marina, where J-Dock is, assuming a normal West or South-West wind:

And here's the blow-up of the turning basin and our docks:

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Timothy Quick
Love this. Great work, very informative. Thanks!
Thursday, 29 November 2018 11:39
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Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Keelboat Docking - Part 1 - Planning and Preparation

Introduction to the Blog Series

Docking our keelboats under sail is one of the most difficult skills required for the Senior Rating. You have to be able to do it in all wind directions and in several boat types that handle very differently. It takes a huge time investment and a lot of commitment and practice to make the grade.

Everything you've learned on dinghies applies to keelboats, and on dinghies you establish a solid basis of sailing skills. This is why we require a Junior rating to take keelboat lessons, and why it's important to get your Senior Dinghy test passed before getting serious on keelboats.

But the transition from a dinghy to a Pearson Commander is not easy, as the latter has a large mass and a full keel, so it handles very differently from a dinghy. It does everything slowly, including stopping, but also powering up. If you get below the critical speed for steering it, it can take 8 or 9 seconds for the keel to power up, and in that period you're being pushed sideways. You could end up pressed against a downwind piling or boat.

Our keelboat slips are faced approximately west, so normally into the wind, just like our dinghy dock in the South Sailing Basin. So in a "normal" west or south-west wind, you dock pretty much the same way. Slow sail on a close reach into the dock/slip. But the boats are very different, so the procedure becomes more challenging on a keelboat, not to mention the damage you can do if you screw up.

This is the first in a series of blogs on keelboat docking to help you understand the differences between dinghy and keelboat and the additional factors that become important with the latter. I will assume a "normal" west or south-west wind, as this is what you'll be dealing with 80% of the time, at least. And initially, I'll be assuming relatively constant wind, although later in the series I'll talk about wind shifts and how to deal with them. I'm also assuming that you're planning to go into one of CSC's docks with a reasonable amount of time to prepare and plan. As you get more advanced, you will be required to do very quick impromptu dockings, but that comes much later.

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Ryan Alder
Great post! Looking forward to the series. I wanted to reiterate this part: "Finally, you can swing the boat in the turning bas... Read More
Thursday, 20 September 2018 15:53
John Bongiovanni
Excellent point, Ryan. I think that why this isn't so much a problem in dinghies is that they're usually going slower when they do... Read More
Friday, 21 September 2018 01:49
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Docking Like a Pro

Docking

There are a couple ways to come into the dock. The method new skippers gravitate towards at first, because it's easier, is to come in with plenty of speed and do a final turn up into the wind at the end to avoid banging into the dock. Or they don't even do the turn and just bang into the dock... I guess this would be a 3rd way, but highly undesirable.

The preferred method more properly utilizes slow sailing. Docking and COB are the main reasons we teach slow sailing. When you have a firm grasp on slow sailing, you will be able to come to a stop 1" from the dock as your crew casually steps off the bow.

Here are the steps for docking like a pro:
(Credit where credit is due, I've had this best explained to me by Robert O. Come work the keelboat dock during open house sometime and watch Robert dock a keelboat singlehanded to get an idea of the ideal you're shooting for.)

- When you're coming in to the docks watch the wind socks to get an idea of the wind direction at the dock, which may be different than it was when you were out sailing.  

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Greg Sweriduk
I would just add that if you have a choice, and assuming the usual SW wind shown, go in and tack near the sea wall and approach th... Read More
Wednesday, 15 August 2018 15:06
Gary Prost
How do you "backwind the main," and can you do it when the jib is furled? If you do it by pushing the sail away, won't it turn the... Read More
Thursday, 16 August 2018 10:13
Ryan Alder
Gary, good questions. You do back the main by pushing the boom all the way out/forward. The jib being furled or not doesn't real... Read More
Friday, 17 August 2018 12:40
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