“Spring lines cure a lot of evils.” When coaching docking, I say this often. I confess the phrase has a loose sense of meaning. Better said, spring lines can save the day. A sail boater can arrive at a pier “way screwed up”. But, once a spring line aft is set, all is right with the world. Spring lines work best at a wharf slip. Although, sometimes I like this technique in a slip, especially if the winds are howling. Anyway, when arriving alongside a wharf slip, I prefer the first line off the boat to be an aft spring line. The further aft off the boat, the better. On our boat, the amidships cleat is forward and the beam is wide. Therefore, our boat doesn’t spring well using the amidships cleat. So, I use the aft spring line off our winch. So, when tying to a wharf slip, get an aft spring off the boat. Yes, easier said than done. How? I put the eye end of the line on the boat cleat. Then, using a long boat pole, I take a wrap around the first piling I can reach. The bitter end of the line comes back aboard the boat. The piling is wrapped by the spring. Take up tension to stop the boat from moving forward. Be careful. Don’t “bounce” the boat against the spring line. Bouncing the boat against a tensioned spring might slam the bow into the pier. Gently, idle forward (transmission/throttle) with the wheel turned outboard. The boat will snug over against the pier. The wheel controls the alignment of the hull with the pier and the throttle controls rate of closure with the pier. If the boat is moving too quickly against the pier, reduce the throttle; maybe neutral for a couple of “potatoes” then back into idle forward. If windy/current, more throttle may be required to snug the boat against the pier. Once against, leave the boat in gear to keep it pinned. Make fast the remaining lines. Once you’re pleased with all the lines, neutral on the transmission. I’m convinced this is the best way onto a wharf slip, especially into a tight spot. When parking between two boats, angle into your intended spot. Get an aft spring off the boat (dockhands can assist). Remember, the further aft the spring runs the better. Take up tension when your stern clears the boat behind. Once clear, it’s the same technique. Use the minimum throttle required, motoring forward against the aft spring to get the boat moving toward the pier. Remember, the throttle controls rate of closure. The wheel controls alignment. Keep an eye on the boat forward. Some reverse and re-tensioning of the aft spring may be required to keep your boat centered in its spot. Magic!
When given the choice, choose the downwind/down current side. Spring lines can also get you out of a tight spot. Motoring aft against a spring line forward will swing the bow out. Good also when you’re pinned against a wharf by wind. Fenders on the stern please! In summary, a little practice with an aft spring will give you another docking technique that transforms your arrival into a very boring non-event! Practice makes perfect.
Fair Winds, Captain John