Docking & Communication

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to observe a skipper trying to dock a 30 to 35 foot sailboat. I say trying because it took 4 missed approaches before number 5 finally worked, and even that one required a bit of help from a stranger on the dock.  What was the problem?  From where I stood, it appeared that the skipper didn’t know where he was in relation to the dock.  The result was a some very colorful “sailor talk”.  There were a couple of passengers on board that boat, who looked to be novices.  I hope they had a great sail that day, because it was obvious they were not very comfortable with the end to the day.

On another note, over the past 10 years, I have spent a lot of time in airports, and flying. I am always amazed at how the pilots “park” those great big aircraft within inches of where it needs to be.  This is especially significant when you realize  the pilot can not see the spot on the ground being aimed for.  How do they do it?  Easy … they have ground marshals … using a few very simple hand signals … guiding them in.

So, how does this relate to docking a sailboat?  When coming into a dock or a slip, I can rarely see my “end point”.  However, it’s very simple to have someone on the bow (braced safely) using hand signals to guide me in.  For example:

  • Right arm up and down … turn to the right
  • Left arm up and down … turn to the left
  • Arms (and hands) closing together over the head … getting closer and closer
  • Arms crossed over the head … you are there

Use these, or set up some signals of your own ahead of time, and the next time you are coming into a dock or slip give it a try.  The end result is less stress for all concerned, and anything that reduces stress is worth it!

-Submitted by Tradewinds Instructor Don Gilzean

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2 Responses to Docking & Communication

  1. Karey Kumli says:

    I’d love it I’d love it if Tradewinds would support skill practice – perhaps by docking & anchoring competitions. Racing does indeed fine-tune sail trim, yet you always must dock or anchor at day’s end, or, when a momentary calamity occurs. I’ve sailed with so many skippers who want to simply get out on the water and admire the day. Why not take pride in building your docking skills? It’s a bit like dancing – awkward at first, then gloriously fun!

  2. Gene Stangel says:

    Ah Don,
    Watching dockings is a form of “spectator sports.” Who wants to see them all done “well”?! Ha Ha!!! Gene

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