• Boat Skills,  Marina

    Take Care of Your Bow

    Docking Lesson No 1: When maneuvering your boat in strong winds, always be aware of your bow. It is the lightest part of your boat and is usually the furthest point from you and easily forgotten when looking for your slip or trying to set up your dock lines. Like the children’s song says, “When the wind blows, the bow will break,” (I know – it’s bough) and before you know it, the mad scramble begins to try to regain control of it and ultimately your boat.

    On Sunday our neighbour went out in his beautiful (and new) Delphia 33. Beautiful boat! The sun was shinning, the wind was blowing a good 20 knots – basically a great day for a sail. Getting back into his slip became the tricky part. His plan was to back into his slip with the wind blowing straight down the slip. His initial approach was perfect – he came slightly past his slip, jammed it into reverse and with the wind blowing the bow to line up the boat began to back in. This is where he made his first mistake – he had the wheel turned the wrong way which made his boat go sideways instead of backwards. Back into gear and pull forward – no problem yet. Then he made his 2nd mistake (and the more costly one) instead of turning straight out into the channel and realigning the boat to back up for another approach, he just went forward a short distance and then tried to reverse back into the slip again. Only now because of the wind, prop-walk and momentum he was no longer lined up with his slip. Back into forward again, but now it was too late. The wind had caught his bow and swung him straight out, so that when he went into forward he was going straight at the boats in their slips on the dock across the channel. He tried to correct with hard port rudder and more gas but the bow was too far gone. CRASH. After unhooking himself from the boat anchor that he was hung up on, he went down the channel a ways and then reversed into his slip perfectly.

    However, the damage was already done.

    Delphia Damage

    Bow Damage

    Some tips when working in a wind:

    • Use the wind to your advantage. Be aware of exactly where the wind is coming from. Use your experience to know what that wind is going to do to your boat and then use the wind to your best advantage.
    • Sometimes when the wind is blowing, it is easier to just go in bow first rather than losing your momentum and stability in the wind by going into reverse. It is far more fun coming back tomorrow to switch your boat around than doing repairs (and paying for other boat repairs.)
    • When trying to dock directly into the wind, reverse might be the best option. Your bow will simply follow where you go – the wind will keep it in line – you don’t have to hardly even think about it anymore.
    • When everything goes to crap – simply pull out – go down the channel a ways – catch your breath, and then get everything lined up for another shot. The reverse – CRAP … forward hard – reverse again – AH NOOOO … forward will full gas scenario is not what you want. If you bung it up, start over.

    Maybe humming Rock-a-bye-baby will help you to Take Care of Your Bow.

    Rock-a-bye baby, in the water channel,
    When the wind blows, the boat will rock,
    When the bow breaks, the boat will crash,
    And down will go baby, bow and all.