9.7 Choosing a Slip: On Port or Starboard? And Going In Pointy End First...

Late in 1997 I received an email from Ted Grave as follows:

>Just picked up ( last week ) a 32' Grand Banks. Previous biggest boat
>was 24' I/O. Only had time for two marina approaches. No dents,
>deaths, or injuries, but certainly not elegant!
>I believe I have a choice in slips next year, and would welcome your
>input. I have a LEFT rotating prop, so she will pull to starboard in
>reverse. It seems to me that, for a beginner, I will be better off
>having my slip to my right as I pull into the marina. That way I can
>pull up slightly past my slip, and the starboard prop walk will help
>spin me around as I back into the slip.
>Your thoughts and recommendation would be greatly appreciated.
>P.S. I don't have a bow thruster.

I agree. We also back to starboard so I prefer a slip to starboard if we're backing in -- for two reasons -- the starboard propwalk turns you in naturally as you back, AND the starboard propwalk makes it easy to "snuggle" up to the far piling to slip a springline on to make the turn even easier -- especially if the slipway is narrow and theres a stiff breeze or current (see my Website for more on this). If you want to try it without a springline, come in close to the slips on the starboard and then make a turn to port (it will take some practice to figure out when to start making this turn). Do the "backing and filling" as necessary to complete most of the 90-degree turn, leaving enough undone so that the final backing toward the slip will straighten you out the rest of the way. The trick is to get the BOW lined up with the slip (you can always move the stern around with prop thrust). If all fails and the bow ends up too far off to the side, practice "backing and filling" to complete a 180 and go out and try again.

BTW, the "free turn" will take a lot of practice, whereas the springline technique will work perfectly the first time and every time. The first time we did it (and it was with the K 42), our slipmates all came rushing out to fend off and pass lines and so on. We did it with such grace that they all felt rather foolish, I'm afraid. Later, one commented that it looked like we'd been doing that all our lives. I tried to be gentle when I said it was our first attempt. From then on they never even looked up.

BTW, I say all this not to claim we're all that good, it's just that spring lines make just about EVERY docking situation look easy. Whenever we approach a dock (especially with a brisk wind or current coming from the dock) the after spring line is the FIRST line to go on (my first mate uses a clip arrangement on a long boathook to put it on without having to get onto the dock). After it's on, I idle forward with the helm turned hard away from the dock (to hold the stern in tight), and when we're snuggled up against the dock, I get off and handle the dock end of the other lines while my wife handles the boat end (or vice versa). Oh yes, always try to approach a dock starboard side to -- that's because reversing will pull the stern closer to the dock.

On the other hand, if you're planning to come in to your slip "pointy end first," I'd rather have the slip on the port side, again, especially if the slipway is narrow. That's the configuration I currently have. The slipway is so narrow that on approaching the slip I can only turn about 45 degrees to port before I run out of room and have to stop. When I put her in reverse (with a goose) to stop, the propwalk continues the turn to about 70 degrees or so. When I go back into forward (with a goose), I get the rest of the way around to 90 degrees and then straighten the helm to go straight in (which is the REALLY tense part, since we only have about 8" on either side in the slip and the boat is too wide to see the separation -- my first mate stands on the side and "calls" the distance in inches to help my know where I am). Now the REAL trick is to stop in the slip without bumping on the starboard quarter because of the propwalk -- here I try to reverse gently and if I get too close anyway (the wind always seems to push us that way to boot), I turn hard to starboard and give her a tiny goose to get the stern away from the pilings on the starboard side. The trick again is to move the stern without moving forward -- tough with only inches to spare. This is where your rub rail is MOST useful! (;^)