Neal C.

Docking/Undocking tips when boating alone...

19 posts in this topic

Okay, I've been boating only a few months, as you all know I got my 210ssi last fall. Had it out a few times before hibernation, then a few times so far this year. The hardest part of this whole deal surrounds the dock! :) As I predominately boat solo this seems to complicate matters ten fold. I have to put the boat in close to the dock so I can obviously get from the boat to dock (vice-versa) which sometimes involved jumping or modest gymnast activity. At the ripe old age of 45 this is not the same as my aerobatic skills of 20 years ago.

A few weeks ago at Lake Anna it was me vs. the dock getting the boat on the trailer again having to be close enough to the dock that I could jump to the dock to get in the car to pull the boat out. This caused some additional art work on the side of the boat, no big deal, but it always seems to be something. Yesterday on the James River (Dutch Gap) seemed to be yet another challenging day, and there's always something every day of boating, I dang near kissed a pole with the right front of the Honda while trying to back the trailer in near the dock. Thankfully someone shouted for me to stop as I was inches from adding yellow paint to my right front quarter panel.

Anyways, I don't have a ladder to go off the front of the boat, sure wish I did and that would simplify matters so I could at least repel into knee deep water. So after about a dozen times out on my "new to me" boat, and I love her, she's perfect, what advice, tips, and techniques do you have for someone that always seems to be the circus act at the pier? :) I'm sure in a few more years I'll get this down pat, but if you can lend any tips or advice on boating alone and how to do this respectably, I'd appeciate it. And that wonderful algae slime on the ramp that is more slippery than motor oil makes it all the more enjoyable. :)

Thanks!!! :)

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Neal,

Haven't you taught the dog to drive yet? Great looking dog by the way. Your subject is near and dear to me as I have had this issue for a long time. Even is I have my three ladies with me (Admiral and two ensigns), the most I can expect from them is sitting in the boat while it is at a dock! So I have to plan my outings with this in mind. Understanding that nobody wants to be the joke of the day at the boat ramp, the best thing to do is to be cool and calm during the process. Hurrying, will only cause mistakes and thus slow the process.

First, I always pick a launch site that has more than one ramp. That allows other launchers access without waiting for me.

Secondly, I try to make sure ramps have floating docks or low docks so that my 65 year old body doesn't have to do what you object to at 45. That way I avoid the "long jump" or the "high Jump" just to get off the boat. This also aids the Admiral in debarking as well.

When I launch, I first make sure the boat is ready to go, with all the ties downs released, plug in, bumpers in place etc. No prep work should have to be done while on the ramp as it just adds unnecessary time to the process and keeps others waiting longer. I then back the trailer down until deep enough to drive the boat off the trailer. To get on the boat, I simply step on the winch and then onto the bow. I start it up drive it off and immediately take it to the dock and secure it.

Then I go park the trailer and then I am done. If the Admiral is with me, she usually can park the trailer without a problem just as long as she doesn't have to back it up!

When returning, again I secure the boat to the dock, then go get the trailer. Once the trailer is in the water I drive the boat up on the trailer all the way to the bow stop. I then reach over the bow, secure the strap and safety chain. Then step off the bows and back onto the trailer and down. I get in the vehicle and drive it up and away from other ramp traffic to get it ready for the trip home. The whole process doesn't take more than five minutes in or out.

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Neal,

Haven't you taught the dog to drive yet? Great looking dog by the way. Your subject is near and dear to me as I have had this issue for a long time. Even is I have my three ladies with me (Admiral and two ensigns), the most I can expect from them is sitting in the boat while it is at a dock! So I have to plan my outings with this in mind. Understanding that nobody wants to be the joke of the day at the boat ramp, the best thing to do is to be cool and calm during the process. Hurrying, will only cause mistakes and thus slow the process.

First, I always pick a launch site that has more than one ramp. That allows other launchers access without waiting for me.

Secondly, I try to make sure ramps have floating docks or low docks so that my 65 year old body doesn't have to do what you object to at 45. That way I avoid the "long jump" or the "high Jump" just to get off the boat. This also aids the Admiral in debarking as well.

When I launch, I first make sure the boat is ready to go, with all the ties downs released, plug in, bumpers in place etc. No prep work should have to be done while on the ramp as it just adds unnecessary time to the process and keeps others waiting longer. I then back the trailer down until deep enough to drive the boat off the trailer. To get on the boat, I simply step on the winch and then onto the bow. I start it up drive it off and immediately take it to the dock and secure it.

Then I go park the trailer and then I am done. If the Admiral is with me, she usually can park the trailer without a problem just as long as she doesn't have to back it up!

When returning, again I secure the boat to the dock, then go get the trailer. Once the trailer is in the water I drive the boat up on the trailer all the way to the bow stop. I then reach over the bow, secure the strap and safety chain. Then step off the bows and back onto the trailer and down. I get in the vehicle and drive it up and away from other ramp traffic to get it ready for the trip home. The whole process doesn't take more than five minutes in or out.

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I fly solo quite often in my 256. My best advice: practice, practice, practice. I bring the boat in slowly with fenders out, lay in softly, then jump off. On the ramp, I climb down from the bow and step on my spare tire. I always chock my truck tires too! I have it pretty well mastered unless I get a windy day that can make it quite challenging. But just keep practicing and always go slow.

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be willing to allow others to help..... but give good specific direction on what they can do to help. I always try and lend a hand to single boater or anybody having problems. A good boat hook can be your friend. I try not to go any faster then I'm willing to allow the boat to hit something. Slow and steady wins the race.

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Thanks all, sounds like I'm doing the right things. While there is certainly pressure to clear the ramp, especially last night with everyone coming back around 6'ish, but I still take my time the best I can. Both in launching and recovering I did have several ask at times if I wanted help but I really wasn't sure what they could help me with. I'm not willing to let someone drive my Honda and back the trailer down the ramp so that eliminates the fix for allowing me to stay on the boat, I guess if it was someone I knew well enough I would let them pull me out which would save me one jump out. I did appreciate all the requests for help, again, just wasn't sure what they could do to really help in the situation. There is a dock that's a little farther, about 15 minutes more drive which I do usually go to as it has 6 piers and it's out of the river current as well so it does make it a better place for a newbie.

I agree with the practice...it just seems like this is hard to gain proficiency with! I don't think I've had a trip out without something new occurring, always learning! But my confidence was so razzled yesterday I even wore my horse collar life preserver which I did initially, then stopped, but just wanted to play it safe.

I do love the boating and even cleaning it which I wonder how long that will last! Speaking of which, I have both the cockpit/bow cover that came with the boat and a mooring cover I bought last fall (sunbrella), while the cockpit/bow are easier to manage I can see after just 2 weeks how the grime shows around what wasn't covered and it didn't wash off this morning so I'll have to use a wax again. I guess I'll wax again in a week or two but I'm using only the mooring cover from now on. I also get these streaks from this material that Chap used on these covers, quite annoying that the fabric (or coloring) would streak like this.

Well, back to the boat cleaning. Have a great weekend and thanks again for the tips.

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Patience. Also... Develop a system or sequence. Do it all the same exact way every time. After a while it will all be automatic; muscle memory. Don't let others get you frazzled, especially when launching. When you get in a hurry, you'll forget something important like the plug or transom straps.

Dock rash is a given... I've dinged mine plenty. As far as giving orders to others.... You could just simply ask them to help keep the boat off dock.

I thought I had the whole dock thing down. Now I'm trying to teach myself how to back in to the slip with another boat right beside me. It's like starting all over again.

Good luck.. Don't let the hard knocks steal your joy.

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43629-2.jpg

Had a friend with one of these. It made getting on and off the boat easy. Boating Trailer Service, Norfolk VA. 757 857 8087

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Neal, you are doing all the right things, by taking it slow, deciding on your course of action, and going with it. Every day is a new day, and what you did yesterday will be totally different from what happens tomorrow. And I totally concur with Firemedic, make a routine and stick with it. Even if it means someone has to wait an extra two minutes on you, you will know that everything is as it should be. Being rushed, frazzled, and feeling like you have to get out of everyone else's way only leads to mistakes, and then accidents. As someone who has boated for most of his life, I can tell you there will always be challenges. Even once you have done things for so long and are comfortable with, one day it just doesn't go right and you feel so frustrated. It happens to all of us, but you just stop, take a breath, and collect your thoughts and try again. I will give you an example, I just moved into a new slip with our new boat. This slip has a pole that separates the two slips. While I have been pulling in and out of my old slip for the last three years with no problems, even with another boat right next to me; for the life of me i couldn't manage to dock this time, cause of the stupid pole. I just couldn't seem to line up properly to back in, or I as rubbing up against it, or I was over correcting and knocking into the finger pier. Just one of those days, even though I have been in and out slips hundreds of times. So it just goes to show, each day is a new challenge. But with challenge comes great fun and enjoyment of being out on the water and enjoying the boat. There is no other freedom and enjoyment quite like it. So keep doing what you are doing, stay positive, and always enjoy being a boat owner!

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I never realized how much help my 14 yr old son was until he cut his leg and got stitches and could not help me with the boat. I usually put the plug in and jump in the boat he backs me in or when we are pulling out i hold the boat at the dock while he backs the trailer in.i had to pull the boat out before i went offshore he wasn't there to help. I struggled a little but i got it. im kinda a newbie. I have learned patience over the years in any situation is better than being frustrated or aggravated so as a fellow boater take as much time as you need to get your boat in the water and out safely and where you feel comfortable with what you are doing and someone having to wait an extra 5 or 10 min isn't going to ruin there day on the water

good luck and enjoy your boat

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I have been boating for 20 yrs now and this weekend, I took my 2 daughters out, 3 & 7. Well I was so focused on them, I forgot to take off my transom straps and I backed the boat into the water. Jumped out and was about to climb on the boat when I remembered the straps! Had to pull back up the ramp and feel like an idiot!!! So like everyone says, stick to your routine and stay focused.:)

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Neal,

Haven't you taught the dog to drive yet? Great looking dog by the way. Your subject is near and dear to me as I have had this issue for a long time. Even is I have my three ladies with me (Admiral and two ensigns), the most I can expect from them is sitting in the boat while it is at a dock! So I have to plan my outings with this in mind. Understanding that nobody wants to be the joke of the day at the boat ramp, the best thing to do is to be cool and calm during the process. Hurrying, will only cause mistakes and thus slow the process.

First, I always pick a launch site that has more than one ramp. That allows other launchers access without waiting for me.

Secondly, I try to make sure ramps have floating docks or low docks so that my 65 year old body doesn't have to do what you object to at 45. That way I avoid the "long jump" or the "high Jump" just to get off the boat. This also aids the Admiral in debarking as well.

When I launch, I first make sure the boat is ready to go, with all the ties downs released, plug in, bumpers in place etc. No prep work should have to be done while on the ramp as it just adds unnecessary time to the process and keeps others waiting longer. I then back the trailer down until deep enough to drive the boat off the trailer. To get on the boat, I simply step on the winch and then onto the bow. I start it up drive it off and immediately take it to the dock and secure it.

Then I go park the trailer and then I am done. If the Admiral is with me, she usually can park the trailer without a problem just as long as she doesn't have to back it up!

When returning, again I secure the boat to the dock, then go get the trailer. Once the trailer is in the water I drive the boat up on the trailer all the way to the bow stop. I then reach over the bow, secure the strap and safety chain. Then step off the bows and back onto the trailer and down. I get in the vehicle and drive it up and away from other ramp traffic to get it ready for the trip home. The whole process doesn't take more than five minutes in or out.

I've gotten my dog to drive the boat still working on the car.

Lola.jpg

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I find docking by myself almost as easy as when the Admiral is with me. The key is to plan and practice. Before I go to the gas dock or the pumpout dock I put out the fenders so that the boat is protected from dock rash. I also get out the dock lines and have those in place. If you do not have a boat hook, get one. Then it is just a matter of coming in nice and slow. When I first got the boat I did a lot of practice backing and and controlling the boat out in the open lake. I have had several cruisers and they all handle different. Once I felt good with her, then I would take it over and practice around the pumpout dock, with no one watching. It is all about planning and practice.

Also goes for the backing of a trailer. Find a nice empty parking lot and practice backing it into a parking space.

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like the others have said, go slow. prior to approaching the dock have a plan, know which way the wind is blowing. if the wind will blow your boat away fromt the dock approach at an angle and use the wind to push the bow and drift into the dock. have your bumpers ready and when by yourself have a line ready on the mid cleat, if by yourself try to dock on the starboard side.

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I launch and retrieve solo quite often. Just develop a routine that works and stick with it. It will become second nature in no time. On retrieval, I dock the boat. Go get the truck, lower the lift gate, back it down (don't have to worry about being close to the dock as I drive the boat on), when the trailer is in the water, get out of the truck, get the boat, idle it on to the trailer. When it's on, lean over the bow, attach the strap, go back to the helm, shut her down, raise the drive, climb over the bow, walk the tongue, turn around, sit on the lift gate, winch the boat up, climb out of the bed, get into the truck and pull her out. I am usually faster than most others - even those with help - because of "practice" and sticking to the routine. Feet don't get wet and, I am soon to be 59 and have a really bad back. Good luck!

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Not sure what they are called, I call them trailer guide posts. They come in real handy in a crosswind when pulling the boat out to keep the stern lined up on the trailer if thats a problem for you, it is with my boat.

Here's a link.

http://www.google.com/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=trailer+guide+posts&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&channel=suggest#q=trailer+guide+posts&hl=en&client=opera&hs=ZaH&rls=en&channel=suggest&prmd=imvns&source=univ&tbm=shop&tbo=u&sa=X&ei=8DXUT7DzJ6eL2AWKquS1Dw&ved=0CN4BEK0E&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=7e72ea4e30a2ada5&biw=1408&bih=981

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I saw a thread here suggesting a "boat hook"; I bought one for the boat and love it.

Really helps with moving the boat around the dock, and controlling the boat before tying off.

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In my experience, it helps when docking alone to have your fenders set before approach; tie off your dock lines before approach and have them ready to be in hand when you step off. Also helpful to eyeball the dock cleats/rings you're gonna use before docking.

When possible, it's generally easiest to line it in (toss someone a line on the dock).

As for loading alone, that's a circus act that demands a routine and patience (as stated).

All boaters shoud be as conscientious as you are . . . hat's off

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