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Docking

Spring Lines

Here are some examples, all involving "spring" lines, a
much-misunderstood term that simply means lines
against which the boat can "work," thus ending up in the
right position:

You are heading for a fuel dock consisting of a bulkhead
of pilings and rip-rap. The problem is, you have to hit a gap between a 32' power cruiser and a 20' sailboat that are
already tied up. And, to complicate matters, there's a
15-knot wind blowing directly off the shore.

The dock attendant is on hand and looking nervous
because you aren't going to have more than 8' of clearance
fore and aft. Don't worry! Ask one of your crew to throw him a line that is already cleated and coiled at the port rail forward, (preparation is 75% of the battle). As the dock attendant grabs the tag end of your line, ask him to attach it to a piling or cleat aft of the space into which you must fit.

Now, with the line secured at the dock and your wheel turned hard away from the dock (to starboard in this example), just put your boat in forward gear, at idle speed.

Miracle upon miracles, your boat will start moving sideways, into the allotted space! If you're working against current
or wind and your progress is too slow, just advance the throttle slightly. You can also make small adjustments in
your approach angle and speed by turning the wheel slowly one way or the other.

And, if it looks as if you're going to be too far forward of "the slot," momentarily shift into neutral, take up the slack that will immediately develop in the spring line, recleat the line again, and put the engine into reverse once more. If you're too close at the stern, carry out the same maneuver, but slack off the spring line.

Now, suppose there has been a 90 to 180 degree wind shift while you fueled up and went for groceries at the store down the block from the marina. When you get back to the boat, there's a 15-knot wind blowing directly down the dock.

You can't go ahead or astern very far because of the boat behind you and the one ahead of you.
How are you going to get out of this fix? Again, spring lines are the answer.

If circumstances favor your pulling out and moving ahead, run a long spring line from a cleat on your port rail astern
to a piling or cleat on the fuel dock well forward of your position.

Let go your bow and stern lines. Now, with your wheel hard to port, put the engine in reverse and back the boat down. Like magic, your bow will swing out to starboard, clearing the boat ahead (you may need additional throttle if you're battling wind and current). You - perhaps aided by the dock attendant and/
or a crew member-can now release the spring line and
proceed out into the harbor.

When, on the other hand, circumstances favor your backing
out of your spot, the spring line should be run from your bow
to a piling or cleat well aft of your position.

In this case, let go the dock lines, turn the wheel hard to port
(the side against the dock), put the idling engine into forward gear, and watch as your stern swings miraculously out of
harm's way.

When it clears the boat behind you, momentarily shift into neutral, release the spring line (or ask that the dock
attendant free it), shift into reverse, and back away smartly. Again, the peanut gallery will be very impressed.